Member of the Family: My Story of Charles Manson


This book is a collaboration with the youngest member of the Manson Family cult, Dianne “Snake” Lake. It was an opportunity for me to use my skills as a lawyer/journalist to bring her story to life. The challenge was to gain the trust of the author and for both of us to feel our way into the deepest reaches of her memory. It was a journey we shared as when we began, she was disconnected from her trauma and had not made the connections as to why her path led to Manson. The reader is taken on the same journey from the mind of a child to the experience of a young woman who faces Manson in court. Although she faces the possibility of being an accessory after the fact even though she did not participate in the crimes, she must redeem her soul and integrity by telling the truth in court.

Dianne faced the danger of being sought after by remaining members of the “Family” who did not want her to turn against Manson. However, her bigger fear was that she would succumb to her own brainwashing in court. Dianne did not tell her story for over 47 years. Although her husband of 33 years knew of her past she had not told even her children that she was once a member of the most notorious cult of the 20th century. The book has several through-line themes; the keeping of secrets and coping with shame.

As a writer, this was a triumphant challenge as I had hoped for an opportunity like this from my earliest days in school. The best result was the bond created with the author, the friendship that remains, and the joy at seeing her now blossom into a happy woman with the past tucked securely where it belongs.

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