Posted Sunday, May 23, 2004


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Palm Beach Post

Friday May 21, 2004

Manchester's triology on Churchill to be completed

Palm Beach Post Staff Reports

WEST PALM BEACH -- After suffering two strokes, William Manchester declared in 2001 that he was unable to write the long-awaited third and final volume in his acclaimed biography of Winston Churchill, The Last Lion.

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David Irving comments:

GLAD to hear of this. My own third volume, "Churchill's War", vol. iii: "The Sundered Dream", will appear at the end of 2005, so perhaps these two authors will want to dip into its pages to top up their own. Mine is the product of forty years' work, virtually single-handed.
   Somehow fitting, though, that the life of one of the world's most ghost-written writers, -- Churchill employed armies of ghost-writers -- should now be finished off by a ghost-writer.

And the thought of handing off the task to another author was simply untenable.

"Nobody else can write it," the literary great said at the time. "Nobody has my style. Nobody could put it in context like I can. I'm the only person who can write that book."

But now the 82-year-old Manchester, whose other titles include The Death of a President (about the John F. Kennedy assassination) and Goodbye, Darkness (a World War II memoir), has found help to complete the Herculean task.

Paul Reid, a feature writer at The Palm Beach Post who's profiled Manchester several times, has been tapped for the assignment. The book is expected to be published in 2007, according to Little, Brown and Company, Manchester's publisher.

"Paul Reid is a gifted writer, first-rate, and we're lucky to have him," Manchester said in a statement. For his part, Reid, 54, expressed both joy and humility at his selection.

Manchester "has been a hero of mine for 40 years," Reid said. "I told him I won't let him down." This unlikely partnership between a world-renowned writer and historian and a Florida journalist developed through stories Reid has written since 1996 about Manchester, who lives in Connecticut, and a close-knit group of military comrades who served with him in World War II.

"We'd talk about the (Boston) Red Sox," said Reid, who grew up in the Boston area and shares a love with Manchester for the perennially suffering baseball team.

Completing the biography is one of the most talked-about projects in the literary world. The first two volumes sold a combined 750,000 copies. The anticipated third volume -- and Manchester's inability to complete it because of his failing health -- have been the subject of stories in The New York Times and elsewhere.

Little, Brown officials have said they receive several calls a month from eager readers about the status of the book, which is slated to focus on Churchill's World War II years and his life thereafter.

Manchester, who's been described as being severely weakened by the strokes, was urged to consider other writers to help him finish the project, but he resisted the idea. The only possibility he would allow was former New York Times columnist Russell Baker, who once worked with Manchester at the Baltimore Sun. But Baker turned it down, Manchester said in 2001, because he too "doesn't have the energy."

Michael Pietsch, publisher with Little, Brown, says the company wasn't necessarily looking for someone with a historian's credentials, especially since Manchester has already completed the research and written about a quarter of the lengthy manuscript. Rather, "the quality of the writing has always been a paramount concern," he said.

After reviewing Reid's work on a sample chapter, Pietsch said "it reads seamlessly with the work Manchester had already completed." Reid says he will try to keep Manchester's style.

"I'm trying to write in a narrative voice reminiscent of Bill Manchester," he said. "I can't imitate him. He's Bill Manchester because he's Bill Manchester, a true literary lion."

Reid came to The Post in 1996 after selling a steam-valve manufacturing business he owned and managed in Newtonville, Mass. He also was a regular contributor of opinion columns at The Boston Globe. He was named 1998 Cox Newspapers writer of the year and won the 1998 Paul Hansell award, given by the Florida Society of Newspaper Editors, for reporting and writing. He graduated from Harvard University in 1990 with a degree in history.

Reid, who is also The Post's restaurant critic, will continue to write reviews in Friday's TGIF section.


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