Book Review: Manson Exposed by Ivor Davis

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Manson Exposed: A Reporter’s 50-Year Journey into Madness and Murder 
Ivor Davis 
Cockney Kid Publishing, 2019

♦♦♦♦
4 Stars

 

Having literally written the definitive book on the murders orchestrated by Charles Manson (Five to Die) in 1970, Ivor Davis returns with Manson Exposed, an expanded, even more thorough examination of arguably the most notorious murder of the 20th century. With more than fifty years of experience covering Charles Manson and even more as a seasoned reporter, Davis is able to refresh our understanding of the case while adding personal reminiscence and fascinating detail. It is the kind of detail making the case more real and not just some historical happening. When it comes to true crime writing, readers are voracious. While many may feel they know all they need to about the Manson murders or that they have all the necessary information, Davis does more of a deep dive into the man, the cult, and the truly horror murders. Doing so provides readers with not just a refresher course but a more meaningful understanding of the psychology of the time. 

Davis also writes in an easy, warm tone not infrequently imbued with a sly humor and understatement making his more grim and serious scenes all the more weighty. We ought to expect this since as a foreign correspondent (Davis is English) he was immersed in a kind of practical investigative journalism rarely practiced these days. Before the 24-hour new cycle, journalists like Davis needed to be constantly writing getting new information while maintaining professional ethics avoiding mere sensationalism. A lesser reporter would have given into more base instincts when told by their editor “‘we’ll take everything you can give us. Your first-edition story runs to over seventy inches,” which Davis explains for those of us unfamiliar with physical newspapers “meant that my story was going to be three times the normal length of what I usually filed.” From the first, Davis has been able to craft vivid, visceral prose without ever exploiting or exaggerating the already cruel horror of the act.

Manson Exposed is the literary, investigative journalism equivalent of all of the true crime documentaries currently flooding steaming services like Netflix and HBO. What is perhaps most notable and interesting in the new book from Davis are the ripples circling out from the murder. He gives readers the personal stories of those directly involved and tangentially touch showing how such a cultural moment colors and clouds the lived experience of so many not just at the time but throughout history. Manson Exposed is fascinating and masterfully written making the subject new for those already familiar while enticing those only knowing the Manson murders as a distant cultural fiction. Ivor Davis once again does a stunning job of explaining the unexplainable with these utter horrific murders.

 

About the Author

IVOR DAVIS 72

London-born Ivor Davis first came to America in the early sixties and was appointed West Coast correspondent for the London Daily Express in 1963. His first big assignment came the following year: to hang out, travel with, and get to know the four members of a new pop group from Liverpool: the Beatles. He was the only British daily newspaper correspondent to cover the Fab Four’s first American tour from start to finish, given unparalleled access to John, Paul, George, and Ringo. Fifty years later, Davis wrote The Beatles and Me on Tour. 

Over more than five decades as a writer for the Express and the Times of London, Ivor covered major events in North America. He penned a weekly entertainment column for the New York Times Syndicate for over fifteen years, interviewing some of the biggest names in show business, from Cary Grant to Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton to Tom
Cruise and Muhammad Ali. 

In 1969 Davis co-wrote Five to Die, the first book ever published about the Sharon Tate—LaBianca murders and covered the trial for the Daily Express. As a foreign correspondent, he traveled throughout the western hemisphere covering riots, floods, earthquakes and politics. As Editor-at-Large for Los Angeles Magazine, he and his late wife, Sally Ogle Davis, wrote over 100 major magazine and cover stories

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