The author revisits the murder that spawned his best-known book, The Family (1971).
Before the Manson family murders, Sanders (Fug You: An Informal History of the Peace Eye Bookstore, the Fuck You Press, the Fugs, and Counterculture in the Lower East Side, 2011, etc.) was known primarily as the frontman for the Fugs. He was also a poet and political agitator. Yet his bestselling Manson book was a surprisingly straightforward work of first-rate journalism, and it enjoyed commercial success beyond anything he had previously done. As he explains in this decades-later follow-up, it was the release of a largely forgotten solo album, “Sanders Truckstop,” that brought him to Los Angeles in 1969 and placed him in the midst of the terror surrounding the ritualistic serial murders. The first part of this book is a standard movie-star bio, relating Tate’s ascent from beauty-contest queen to Hollywood sex symbol, with much of it featuring overly long synopses of films that don’t warrant them as well as career curiosities. Tate’s career arc intersects with that of Roman Polanski, soon to be her husband, and the series of strange films he had made or was considering. The book builds, as the author’s earlier one did, to the murders, with lots of warmed-over detail and rumors, reportage, and perspective from the four decades since. “In the over forty years since I first became involved in writing and researching this case, some things have never made sense,” writes the author, who admits that it remains “a lingering mystery” why Tate and the others were targeted. Speculation includes: she wasn’t supposed to be there, she was part of a satanic cult, she knew things she shouldn’t about Sirhan Sirhan, she was involved in a high-profile home pornography ring, and the murders were part of an attempt to cover up previous murders or a contract hit for a drug deal gone bad.
Readers are likely to finish the book more confused than illuminated by all the possibilities, theories, and potential co-conspirators.