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First published back in 1996, Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain’s Please Kill Me helped kick off a new trend in the world of music journalism, employing the oral history format to allow people—from all levels of fame and success—to tell their own stories about the wild punk scene of 1970s New York. McNeil and McCain have collaborated on other projects in the years since—including 2014's Dear Nobody—but they’ve also been quietly working on another project, one that’s now nearing completion: An oral history of Charles Manson and the Manson Family.

Obviously, the topic of Manson and the Tate-LaBianca murders has been in the news lately, inspired both by the 50th anniversary of the event, as well as Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon A Time…In Hollywood, which offers up its own take on the events surrounding the high-profile murders. Per a new interview with Rolling Stone, McNeil and McCain’s book intends to question some of the conventional wisdom about Manson—most notably the claim, put forward in the book Helter Skelter, that he was a preternatural mastermind attempting to engineer some kind of Beatles-inspired “race war.” Instead, the book sees the duo interview a large number of people who were teenage members of Manson’s group, settling on a conclusion that Manson was mostly just an angry idiot who made a lot of bad choices, and that “if you take 16, 17, 18-year-old kids and you give them a lot of acid, you can convince them of anything.” (Also, they contend that Manson was actually a pretty good musician, or at least not much less talented than his more stable contemporaries.) 

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