From a young age, Jim Jones was charismatic and obsessed with religion. His talent for making others hang on his every word served him well as a young pastor. But his conflicted and complex personality led to a sharp distinction between his public actions - he worked tirelessly for racial integration and the eradication of poverty - and his private, increasingly unhinged behavior. Guinn, with access to previously unknown documents, video, and interviews, gives an utterly compelling account of how so many people followed Jones into the jungle to “drink the Kool-Aid”.
- Cindy— From Cindy's Recs
2018 Edgar Award Finalist—Best Fact Crime
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.
About the Author
Jeff Guinn is an award-winning former investigative journalist and the bestselling author of numerous books, including Go Down Together: The True Untold Story of Bonnie and Clyde; The Last Gunfight: The Real Story of the Shootout at the OK Corral—And How It Changed the West; Manson: The Life and Times of Charles Manson; and The Road to Jonestown: Jim Jones and Peoples Temple. Guinn lives in Fort Worth, Texas.
“I have to say that it is weird to find out the background of things that I grew up hearing about around the dinner table. The level of research and detail in The Road to Jonestown is the best ever, and really lets readers understand not only what happened, but how and why. This book tells the Jim Jones story better than anything I have read to date.”
— Jim Jones, Jr.
“Jeff Guinn offers what might be the most complete picture to date of this tragic saga, and of the man who engineered it. . . . The result is a disturbing portrait of evil — and a compassionate memorial to those taken in by Jones’ malign charisma.”
— Kevin Canfield
"A thoroughly readable, thoroughly chilling account of a brilliant con man and his all-too vulnerable prey. . . . Generates a bizarre — dare I say Manson-like? — magnetic force that pulls the reader through its many pages. Noir thriller morphs into horror story."
— Dan Cryer
"Magisterial. . . . Guinn's exhaustive research, shrewd analysis, and engaging prose illuminate a monstrous yet tragic figure--and the motives of those who lost their souls to him."
— Publishers Weekly
“Guinn is a master storyteller with a unique expertise in murderous psychotics. The book reads like a thriller, each page forcing your attention to the next as the Peoples Temple slowly slides from groundbreaking progressivism toward madness.”
— Kevin J. Hamilton
"A vivid, fascinating revisitation of a time and series of episodes fast receding into history even as their forgotten survivors still walk among us."
— Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Guinn paints a fascinating and even-handed portrait of Jones.”
— Jill Johnson
"A powerful account of Jones's life. . . . Guinn's blow-by-blow account of Jonestown's final days in the book's last chapters is riveting."