An uneven attempt to encapsulate a turbulent decade.

DEATH VALLEY '69

Charles Manson and his followers leave a trail of drugs, sex, and violence in this look at America’s 1960s counterculture.

The ’60s were a tumultuous era. From sexual liberation and rock ’n’ roll to the civil rights movement, the Apollo 11 landing, and the Vietnam War protests, a sense of unrest boiled up across the United States, including in California. Ristagno (Short Fuse, 2012) sets the stage for the Manson family’s birth with ample LSD and communal orgies. Wheeling from rock stars to starlets to the children of the nouveau riche, the work shows that many embraced the delirium of the times—and few were able to resist Manson’s charisma. Accompanied by the author’s garish color pencil-and-ink illustrations evoking a deformed, hallucinatory haze, figures like filmmaker Kenneth Anger and Beach Boy Dennis Wilson, along with a train of Manson family members—including Bobby Beausoleil and Tex Watson—briefly take the spotlight. In addition, Ristagno offers digressions that involve antiquated science (“As recently as 1842, England’s ‘Lunacy Act’ maintained that the madness attributed to the full moon was distinct from that of the incurably insane”), conspiracy theories (the moon landing was fake), and astrology (the number 9 is “mathematically fascinating” because of its connection to “the strangest cut” on the Beatles’ “White Album,” “Revolution 9,” which some think is a reference to the ninth plague of Egypt). Rather than following any chronological order, the volume pieces together the Manson story through loosely connected anecdotes and footnotes in an attempt to pack in as many details as possible. While many of these tidbits are intriguing, the lack of narrative cohesion ultimately causes the book to lose focus. An air of vagueness surrounds many of the characters and their actions. In addition, some sentences are written with such an unremitting sensationalism that they become melodramatic and kitschy: “Those shapely legs, having ridden so many (both man and beast), strode now encased in nylon (the effect was enchanting) beneath her martyr-pale face.” But Ristagno depicts the Manson family’s various grisly murders, including the killings of Gary Hinman and Rosemary LaBianca, with an unflinching control of suspense. These strong portions remain the highlight here. Unfortunately, this sense of buildup falls short in the rest of the work. Manson lurks at every corner and yet it feels as if he is lost in the haze—an ultimately forgotten premise.

An uneven attempt to encapsulate a turbulent decade.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: 978-0-692-83601-9

Page Count: 122

Publisher: Bombshell Publishing

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2018

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NUTCRACKER

This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996

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IN MY PLACE

From the national correspondent for PBS's MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour: a moving memoir of her youth in the Deep South and her role in desegregating the Univ. of Georgia. The eldest daughter of an army chaplain, Hunter-Gault was born in what she calls the ``first of many places that I would call `my place' ''—the small village of Due West, tucked away in a remote little corner of South Carolina. While her father served in Korea, Hunter-Gault and her mother moved first to Covington, Georgia, and then to Atlanta. In ``L.A.'' (lovely Atlanta), surrounded by her loving family and a close-knit black community, the author enjoyed a happy childhood participating in activities at church and at school, where her intellectual and leadership abilities soon were noticed by both faculty and peers. In high school, Hunter-Gault found herself studying the ``comic-strip character Brenda Starr as I might have studied a journalism textbook, had there been one.'' Determined to be a journalist, she applied to several colleges—all outside of Georgia, for ``to discourage the possibility that a black student would even think of applying to one of those white schools, the state provided money for black students'' to study out of state. Accepted at Michigan's Wayne State, the author was encouraged by local civil-rights leaders to apply, along with another classmate, to the Univ. of Georgia as well. Her application became a test of changing racial attitudes, as well as of the growing strength of the civil-rights movement in the South, and Gault became a national figure as she braved an onslaught of hostilities and harassment to become the first black woman to attend the university. A remarkably generous, fair-minded account of overcoming some of the biggest, and most intractable, obstacles ever deployed by southern racists. (Photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-374-17563-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1992

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