Book Talk: Writer completes Churchill bio for late friend

Thu Dec 13, 2012 5:10am EST
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By Bernard Vaughan

NEW YORK (Reuters) - In the late 1990s, Paul Reid, then a journalist with The Palm Beach Post, became close friends with acclaimed author and historian William Manchester after covering a reunion of Manchester's Marine friends from World War Two.

Manchester was struggling to get the third and final volume of his Winston Churchill biography off the ground. The first two installments, released in the 1980s and coming in at close to 1,000 pages each, were critical and commercial successes.

In 2003, Manchester who was in failing health, grappling with writer's block and unable to find a collaborator to his liking, gave Reid the toughest assignment of his life: write the final volume, with Manchester editing.

But less than a year later, Manchester died, leaving Reid with more than 5,000 pages of often opaque notes and an almost impossible legacy to fulfill.

Finally, on November 6 - almost 30 years after the first installment - the final volume was published, with Reid sharing credit on the book jacket with his late collaborator.

Reid, 63, spoke with Reuters about the book, "The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill, Defender of the Realm, 1940-1965":

Q: What did you think when Manchester asked you to write the final volume?

A: "I knew Bill for about five years and he had mentioned some people had auditioned ... he didn't like talking about it and I didn't push him. I just wanted to be a friend to an old ill man. I never saw it coming at all. When he asked me in October 2003, for a couple seconds I didn't know what he was talking about. I thought, 'Maybe he wants me to read (novelist) Elmore Leonard to him,' because he was reading (his book) 'Maximum Bob.' I was flabbergasted when he asked me."   Continued...