There's a new biography of Charles Manson out this month -- which seems like the last thing America needs, in light of the reams of print that have already been devoted to the wannabe pop star who led his "family" to commit nine murders in the summer of 1969, terrifying Los Angeles.
Manson learned his most effective techniques by studying Dale Carnegie. Carnegie, a salesman, had published How to Win Friends and Influence People in 1936, sharing his techniques for convincing others to do what you want. Good information for a salesman, yes, but supremely helpful for a con man.
After stealing a car in Ohio and driving it to L.A., where his mother was living, Manson was sent to prison in San Pedro -- and there he enrolled in a Carnegie course. It changed his life.
"Charlie had always evinced limited reading skills, but in this Carnegie class he proved that he could not only read but fully comprehend printed material if he was sufficiently engaged, and if instructors were helpful enough," Guinn writes. "Virtually every word in the Carnegie publications resonated with Charlie. For the first time in his life he was considered an outstanding pupil." How to Win Friends, Guinn reports, "seemed to formally codify all the ways Charlie had manipulated people since childhood." Acquaintances would later recall Manson using just those techniques on the young women in his "family."