Over 400 readers asked when we will see the third and final volume of William Manchester’s Churchill biography, The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill, Defender of the Realm 1940-1965. Answer: Amazon was shipping copies as of mid-October 2012—only twenty-four years since Volume II!
Mr. Reid kindly asked me to proof the manuscript for Volume III, as did Mr. Manchester for Volume II.
This will be good news to the many Manchester fans who have waited for years. Paul Reid’s volume is written in the Manchester style, as dramatic and gripping as the first two volumes. Read comments below for more details.
From a review by Warren Kimball:
Reid’s narrative skills are obvious. At his best he is succinct and enlightening; at his less than best, he rambles on about details that matter little to the big picture. Does naming British regiments (the King’s this or the Queen’s that or, even sillier, the 2nd Sherwood Foresters or various Hussars) really matter? Nazi reactions are exaggerated. Josef Goebbels’ diary seems quoted almost as often as Churchill’s war memoirs. Battle details are spelled out like case studies at Sandhurst or West Point. For the most part, this is a narrative about the Second World War—with Winston Churchill playing the lead role—a war that always threatens to overwhelm the narrative. Martin Gilbert has already given us a meticulous, good-to-the-last-detail chronology of Churchill during the Second World War (cited less frequently than I expected). We have a surfeit of broad surveys of the war viewed from the top. What does this book add?
Paul Reid has not written a biography, but rather an old-style “life & times” narrative with guns and bullets, political conniving, oft-repeated (but worth repeating) anecdotes, lovely touches of the personal, and the most important asset—a hero. It is a nice cruise down a rather lengthy river that you’ve sailed before. There is nothing new or exciting; it is reassuring rather than challenging. Still, it is a lovely and literate view of familiar territory that massages old stories, nurtures legends, and points gently to miscalculations and mistakes of the hero—who flawed though he was, remains is a hero.
Reid chose, or was forced, to pretend ignorance of the dogged efforts of a multitude of academics who, in the last four decades, pushed forward the frontiers of scholarship and intellectual inquiry into the history of the Second World War. Not only is his historical isolationism rude; it is a shame, particularly since he is a superb writer. He makes a familiar history come alive, though you’ll have to manage a huge cargo of extraneous material in a book this long (with strikingly narrow margins) that takes Churchill only from 1940 until his death.