Sunday, April 15, 2012
CHARLES MANSON AND ME AND SOME HAPPY CHIT-CHAT WITH THE WORLD'S MOST-STABBED INMATE IN U.S. HISTORY...
I thought you might be interested in a recent exchange I had with author Richard Godwin. Richard is interviewing me for his blog feature “Chin Wag at the Slaughterhouse.” It’s a fantastic feature, where he interviews authors and asks the most fascinating and “deepest” questions I’ve ever been asked by any interviewer. Richard is interviewing me at the suggestion of noir master, Paul D. Brazill, a mutual friend.
Here's the link to his blog and his interviews.
Richard conducts his interviews by posing one question at a time. Once you respond to that question, he sends you another. It’s an exhausting process but when we’re done, it’ll be the most comprehensive interview I’ve ever had the pleasure of participating in. I’ll be sure to let you know when it appears.
I had just sent him my reply to his second question and he sent me the third. When he emailed me, he asked me the question below and I thought you might be interested in the answer, since it’s about an old acquaintance, Charlie Manson, and I know there are people out there who are interested in Manson. (This isn’t the interview question—it’s just a personal question he asked in response to Paul Brazill’s suggestion that he do so as he knew the story and thought Richard might be interested.)
Be advised there are a few instances of strong language.
Here’s Richard Godwin’s question and my reply:
Paul (D. Brazill) suggested I ask you about Manson. I do not mean to put you on the spot, this is not part of the interview. My first novel Apostle Rising was mentioned by a few reviewers in the context of the Manson killings, as this review shows
All the best
Well, Charlie and I have a bit of a history.
About ten years ago or so, a professor at the University of Toledo—Dr. Russell Riesling--was writing a book about the drug experiences of famous people during their youth. He had folks like Big Brother of Big Brother and the Holding Company and some other folks. For some weird reason, he had a chapter on me. I’d done drugs but definitely wasn’t famous!
Anyway, Russ interviewed me for his book (which hasn’t been published yet, alas), and we became friends. I sent him a copy of my story collection, Monday’s Meal. About two weeks after I sent it, I got a phone call from him. Seems he’d been out to Corcoran Prison to visit with and interview Charles Manson (who also had a chapter), and during the visit, Charlie spotted the copy of Monday’s Meal that Russ had with him. He asked if he could “borrow it” and Russ loaned it to him. A few days later, he called Russ and was really excited (according to Russ). He said he’d read the book and loved it and that I was “the real deal” meaning a real-life outlaw, ex-con. He asked Russ if he’d ask me if I’d mind if he (Charlie) called me. I told Russ, sure, and thus began a series of phone calls from him to me.
Now, when I was in prison, we weren’t allowed to call folks. At all. One of the many things that have changed. Because of that, I wasn’t aware that all such phone calls are made collect. At the end of the month, after which he called 3-4 times a week, I got the bill and it was astronomical! My wife had a cow and I told Charlie we needed to dial it back a bit. (Pun intended…)
Mostly, Charlie talked and I listened. He’s not hard to figure out. He’s a nutcase, pure and simple. Knew lots of guys like him in the joint who just weren’t as famous. We swapped stories and he may have told me a few things he’d done that he hadn’t been nailed on and I may have returned in kind, but I won’t talk about that. Nothing incriminating on either of our part--they record these things! Anyway, I kind of got tired of talking to him—it was same-o, same-o all the time—and was about to disassociate myself, when he told me his cellmate, Roger Smith, really wanted to talk to me. I said okay and thus began a series of phone calls with Roger.
Roger bills himself as the “most-stabbed inmate in U.S. history—and he is. As of that time, he’d been shanked over 300 separate times. The reason he was Charlie’s cellmate was that both were in protective custody as there were hits out on both of them from just about everybody in Corcoran. Over the years, Roger had hired himself out as a hit man for every single gang in the joint and now all of them had a hit out on him. The reason he wanted to connect with me was that he thought I was a “great writer” (his words and they had little effect on me—I’ve been on the receiving end of a shuck job attempt more than once…), and he wanted me to write his life story. According to Roger, he’d had his “come to Jesus” moment and wanted to right all the wrongs in his life. He said he wanted his life story out there to help keep young kids from following in his footsteps. He’d been locked up ever since he was a juvie and all that. Grew up in one joint or another.
I had to laugh when he told me he was “saved.” He sounded contrite… but every other word out of his mouth with “fuck this” or “motherfucker that” and he didn’t sound much like the converts I’d met down at the First Baptist… But, I’ve been inside with a lot of guys who had these jailhouse conversions and he wasn’t unusual.
He told me Charlie was letting him use his personal secretary—some gal who lives in North or South Carolina (forget which) who has all of Charlie’s journals and communications and writings and such and who handles all his commercial business. He can’t profit by books and interviews but he does take checks from the networks and publishers and the proceeds all go to charity. Roger told me he’d kept journals from when he was a little tad tyro outlaw and they were with Charlie’s secretary and he said he’d have her send them to me—from what he said, a LOT of journals(!)--and that he’d answer any questions I asked.
I told him I was just too busy with my own work and really couldn’t do this project, but he wouldn’t take no for an answer. Called me incessantly, trying to persuade me to write his life history. Finally, one time, he said, “What’s the real reason you don’t want to write it, Les?” I asked him if he wanted the real reason and he said yeah, so I told him. “Roger,” I said, “you’re like a serial killer. In fact, you are a serial killer. Three hundred hits, dude.” “Yeah,” he said. “and why would that prevent you from writing my story?” To which I answered that serial killers just flat-out bored me (and they do). I told him serial killers just keep doing the same exact thing, over and over and over, ad nauseam. After about the third one, they’re just boring. And, I didn’t want to tie up a year of my life on writing about some boring-ass serial killer. I mean, how many ways can you write the same old scene?
There was a silence and then he exploded. Called me everything nasty he could think of. Sounded like he’d kind of backslid on the “saved” deal. Screamed that if he ever got out of Corcoran my house was the first place he was heading. I listened to him ranting and screaming at me and then said, “Roger?” He got quiet and then said, “Yeah?” I said, “Roger, you’re not ever getting out of there unless there’s a major earthquake and the walls fall down and that isn’t likely. But, if somehow you do get out, I’m aware that you prefer using a shank on your hits and if you come to my house to nail me, I won’t have a shank. It’ll be something that makes a louder noise. So, it’s been nice talking to you and have a nice life, loser.”
And that’s the last I’ve talked to either Roger to Charlie. But, for awhile we were all jam.
So that’s the story of me and Charlie Manson, Richard.
Hope you enjoyed this little anecdote, folks. And, if you haven’t read Richard Godwin’s books you really should. They’re fantastic.
Here’s a link to his latest, Mr. Glamour. I highly recommend it.
P.S. Voting still going on over at Spinetingler Magazine! Please cast your vote for THE BITCH in the Legends category if you haven't yet. And thanks to all who got a free copy of THE PERFECT CRIME. It ended up #1 in category downloads and #4 in overall sales of all books. Yay!