Reid completes Manchester’s final volume

Published 10:52 pm Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A 5-year-old Paul Reid stood in the kitchen of his family’s home in New England listening as his father recited Churchill and flipped flapjacks over the stove.

By age 10 he began devouring abridged biographies of men like Churchill and pouring over the World War II history books that filled his home.

The Last Lion currently on the New York Times Bestseller List

Yet, Reid said it would never have occurred to him that one day he’d be propelled into completing the final volume of “The Last Lion,” William Manchester’s biographies on Churchill.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

“It’s as if the most improbable string of dominoes fell one by one in different places and different times … and then here I am sitting in [Manchester’s] house in October 2003 and he’s just asked me to finish this book that I had been waiting [to read] too,” Reid said.

Reid can recall coming home to have dinner with his daughters in the 1980s, then pulling Manchester’s volumes from the shelves. It wouldn’t be until years later that the two men would meet.

While a feature writer for The Palm Beach Post, Reid began writing military features specifically on World War II vets. He’d write five to six vet stories a year and eventually this led to getting to know a core group of old marine pals who just happened to have served with Manchester in the war. The two men were introduced not long after Manchester suffered two strokes in 1998.

Manchester and Reid shared many commonalities – stints as feature writers, intense curiosities in history, fervor for the Boston Red Sox – the latter two of which brought them together.

In fact, Reid was watching the Red Sox with Manchester when the writer asked him to finish the final volume of Churchill’s biography.

Reid said Manchester, a former writer for The Baltimore Sun, wanted a newspaperman to finish his work.

“Bill Manchester could write a story and that’s what he wanted from me essentially,” Reid said. “I was just blockheaded enough not to feel a need to really examine this – I just said yes. Really, what are you going to say?”

The plan was originally for Reid to write the third volume of Churchill’s biography and Manchester to edit it. At the time Reid said he knew it was unlikely Manchester would have the strength to do much swiping of his red pen.

Manchester still suffered the affects of two strokes and by April of 2004 learned he had stomach cancer. He would pass away later that year in June.