Excerpt from Battleborn by Claire Vaye Watkins, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Battleborn

Stories

by Claire Vaye Watkins

Battleborn by Claire Vaye Watkins
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Aug 2012, 304 pages
    Paperback:
    Aug 2013, 304 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Norah Piehl

Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt


In September, George reported discovering a tiny bleached skull in the hills above his cabin. “Bottles,” he wrote, “picked clean by coyotes.”

Or here. Begin here: When a group of about ten young people—most of them teenagers, one of them my father—arrived at the ranch in January of 1968, having hitchhiked from San Francisco, George was nearly blind. Surely he smelled them, though, as they approached his porch—sweat, gasoline, the thick semisweet guff of marijuana. The group offered to help George with chores and maintenance in exchange for permission to camp out in the empty facaded set buildings. Though he’d broken down and hired a hand a couple weeks earlier—a nice kid, a bit macho, went by “Shorty,” wanted to be, what else?, an actor—George agreed, perhaps because he wouldn’t have to pay them. Or perhaps because the group’s leader—a man named Charlie—offered to leave a young girl or two with George twenty-four-seven, to cook his meals, tidy the house, keep up with the laundry, and bed him whenever he wanted.

My father didn’t kill anyone. And he’s not a hero. It isn’t that kind of story.

Nearly everyone who spent time at Spahn’s that summer wrote a book after it was over, Bugliosi’s only the most lucrative. We know, from the books of those who noticed, that a baby was born at Spahn’s Ranch, likely April ninth, though accounts vary. In her version, Olivia Hall, who’d been a senior at Pacific Palisades High School and an occasional participant in group sex at the ranch, wrote of the birth: “The mother, splayed out on the wood floor of the jail, struggled in labor for nearly fourteen hours, through the night and into the early morning, then gave up.” In The Manson Murders: One Woman’s Escape, Carla Shapiro, now a mother of four boys, says the struggling girl “let her head roll back onto a sleeping bag and would not push. Then Manson took over.” My father’s book reads, “Charlie held a cigarette lighter under a razor blade until the blade was hot and sliced the girl from vagina to anus. ”The baby girl slipped out, wailing, into Charlie’s arms. My father: “The place was a mess. Blood and clothes everywhere. I don’t know where he found the razor blade.”

Charlie had a rule against couples. The group had nightly orgies at the ranch and before it in Topanga, Santa Barbara, Big Sur, Santa Cruz, Monterey, Oakland, San Francisco, the list goes on. You know this part, I’m sure. The drugs, the sex. People came and went. Tracing the child’s paternity was impossible, even if the group had been interested in that sort of thing. “There was a birth, I know that,” Tex Watson wrote to me from prison. “Hell, might’ve been mine. But we were all pretty gone, you know?”

Of the mother, the accounts mention only how young she was. No name, no explanation of how she came to the ranch. One calls her “dew-faced.” In his account my father admits to having sex with her on several occasions. He says, “She was a good kid.”

After police raided Spahn’s on August sixteenth, California Child Protective Services placed the baby with foster parents, Al and Vaye Orlando of Orlando’s Furniture Warehouse in Thousand Oaks. Vaye constantly fussed over the baby, worried at her calmness, what she called “a blankness in her face.” During the child’s first five years, Vaye had her examined for autism seven times, never trusting the results. She even hired a special nanny to play games with the child, encourage her cognitive development. Al thought this a waste of money.

Now the baby is a grown woman, forty. She is slender but not slight, and moves like liquid does. She has dark hair and the small brown eyes of a deer mouse. Not the eyes of those teenage girls my father met at Pali, the ones he invited to Spahn’s and introduced to Charlie, the ones, later, with crosses cut into their foreheads, arms linked, singing down hallways, smiling into the camera in archived footage. I’ve looked. These are my father’s brown eyes. Mine.

Excerpted from Battleborn by Claire Vaye Watkins. Copyright © 2012 by Claire Vaye Watkins. Excerpted by permission of Riverhead Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten!

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: The Dark Flood Rises
    The Dark Flood Rises
    by Margaret Drabble
    Margaret Drabble, the award-winning novelist and literary critic who is approaching eighty and ...
  • Book Jacket: All Our Wrong Todays
    All Our Wrong Todays
    by Elan Mastai
    You need a great deal of time to read All Our Wrong Todays, but don't let that put you off. ...
  • Book Jacket: Dadland
    Dadland
    by Keggie Carew
    In her notable debut, Keggie Carew examines the life of her father Tom, a decorated war hero whose ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
The Atomic Weight of Love
by Elizabeth J. Church

In the spirit of The Aviator's Wife, this resonant debut spans from World War II through the Vietnam War.

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    Our Short History
    by Lauren Grodstein

    Lauren Grodstein breaks your heart, then miraculously pieces it back together so it's stronger, than before.
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    Lola
    by Melissa Scrivner Love

    An astonishing debut crime thriller about an unforgettable woman.
    Reader Reviews

Who Said...

These are not books, lumps of lifeless paper, but minds alive on the shelves

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Word Play

Solve this clue:

O My D B

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.

 
Modal popup -