The author discusses how he came to write the last volume of the trilogy – and his eight year struggle to complete it.
Author Paul Reid was interviewed recently on writing the third volume of William Manchester’s classic, The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill: Defender of the Realm, 1940-1965. The book was published last month by Little, Brown and Company.
The 26 November 2012 episode of The Diane Rehm show on the National Public Radio (NPR) at American University in Washington, D.C., featured an interview with Paul Reid on how he came to write the final volume of the work for historian William Manchester.
William Manchester was an enormously successful historian and biographer whose books include The Last Lion, Volumes 1 and 2, Goodbye Darkness, A World Lit Only by Fire, The Glory and the Dream, The Arms of Krupp, American Caesar, The Death of the President.
Reid, an award-winning journalist presents a revelatory portrait of Winston Churchill as a brilliant, flawed and dynamic leader in the last 25 years of his life, covering 1940 to 1965.
In the interview, Reid tells his personal account of how he came to write the final version of the trilogy of William Manchester’s The Last Lion. Having originally met through five of Manchester’s U.S. Marine Corps buddies in 1998, Reid and Manchester shared a passion for the Boston Red Sox baseball team.
On October 9th, 2003, over several drinks and with a Red Sox game on television, (Bill Scotch, Paul red wine) Manchester asked Reid to retrieve a suitcase and open it. Paul opened the case and the contents was revealed. It contained hundreds of pages of notes on pads… arranged somewhat chronologically in Manchester’s own hand.
Bill said to Paul, “I want you to finish the book.” He went on, “You write, I’ll edit. I have my red pencil sharpened and ready to go.”
Reid, at that moment, was not quite sure what it was that in the suitcase and thought that Bill, in his declining health, wanted Paul to read to him. A moment later it dawned on him as he realized the task that was being asked to set upon.
Listen to the entire interview here at NPR.
Paul wrote a sample chapter and they agreed to take on the project, but Manchester died shortly after they began working together.
Reid had an incredibly difficult time trying to decipher Manchester’s notes… and all of the codes that went along with them. The missing key to the set of symbols didn’t help matters any. After laboring over the notes for two years, Reid finally had to start over with his own research for the project. The research, witch included diaries, cabinet meeting minutes, speeches, Churhcill’s own writings and much more, was eventually organized by spreading it over five dining room tables.
Eight years later, after going through his advance, savings, and having to sell his home, he finally finished the massive undertaking.
The Boston Globe recenlty said in a reivew, “Masterful… [and] breathtaking….Reid…finished the race with agility, grace, and skill….This is a book that is brilliant and beautiful, evocative and enervating.”
They had known each other for just five years before Manchester died in 2004.