Editorial Review / Publisher's Information:
By the New York Times bestselling author of Manson, the comprehensive, authoritative, and tragic story of preacher Jim Jones, who was responsible for the Jonestown Massacre—the largest murder-suicide in American history.
In the 1950s, a young Indianapolis minister named Jim Jones preached a curious blend of the gospel and Marxism. His congregation was racially integrated, and he was a much-lauded leader in the contemporary civil rights movement. Eventually, Jones moved his church, Peoples Temple, to northern California. He became involved in electoral politics, and soon was a prominent Bay Area leader.
In this riveting narrative, Jeff Guinn examines Jones’s life, from his extramarital affairs, drug use, and fraudulent faith healing to the fraught decision to move almost a thousand of his followers to a settlement in the jungles of Guyana in South America. Guinn provides stunning new details of the events leading to the fatal day in November, 1978 when more than nine hundred people died—including almost three hundred infants and children—after being ordered to swallow a cyanide-laced drink.
Guinn examined thousands of pages of FBI files on the case, including material released during the course of his research. He traveled to Jones’s Indiana hometown, where he spoke to people never previously interviewed, and uncovered fresh information from Jonestown survivors. He even visited the Jonestown site with the same pilot who flew there the day that Congressman Leo Ryan was murdered on Jones’s orders. The Road to Jonestown is the definitive book about Jim Jones and the events that led to the tragedy at Jonestown.
An Amazon Best Book of April 2017: It’s interesting that the dust jacket for The Road to Jonestown, Jeff Guinn’s biography Jim Jones, features a photograph of the infamous preacher without his signature, nearly ubiquitous sunglasses. Despite the scale of the Jonestown tragedy – where more than 900 people died, willingly or not, on November 18, 1978 – the man behind the shades and his motivations have remained mysterious, in part because the event is simply hard to look at and difficult to comprehend. Longtime journalist Jeff Guinn, however, doesn’t mind an occasional walk on the wild side. In the same way that his 2013 biography of Charles Manson dug deep to uncover the pivotal moments of the psychopath’s past (it features a boyish, smiling proto-cult-mastermind on its own jacket), Guinn unmasks Jones through interviews with the people who themselves knew him, from townspeople to his parishioners to his the reverend’s own family. The result is a dense read and full of detail, but none superfluous. Images of a 12-year-old walking Indiana backroads - black suit-clad and a bible in hand – and conducting imaginary funeral services alone, in the woods, are weird and indelible. As we witness Jones’s ascent - driven by a blend of well-honed charisma and inclusive, Marxist ideals - then his fall into megalomania and madness, it all makes a little more sense – at least as much as monstrosity at such scale can. The jungles of Guyana may have reclaimed the site of one of the 20th century’s most notorious crime scenes, but The Road to Jonestown answers many of the questions that have persisted for almost 40 years, foremost: How did this happen? But another one remains: After Manson and Jones, where does Guinn go from here? --Jon Foro, The Amazon Book Review