Reid completes Manchester’s final volume

Published 10:52 pm Wednesday, December 12, 2012

During the eight months between the time Manchester asked him to work on the project and Manchester’s death, Reid completed his writing audition for publishers Little, Brown.

No time was left to go over with Manchester his 5,000 tattered pages of notes – 1,000 on 1941 alone – nor the legendary writer’s cryptic method of note taking.

“He wrote the notes – they were for himself. They spoke to him, but they didn’t speak to me,” Reid said.

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What they did though was give him perspective on they type of book Manchester intended to write. With 1,000 pages covering the span of only two months during the 1940s, Reid knew Manchester meant for this to be a long book.

So Reid scoured all the same sources Manchester referenced instead of trying to decipher Manchester’s notes little by little.

Reid got to work reading all of Manchester’s cited sources cover to cover for context. He read dozens of diaries and another dozen memoirs.

“His notes did serve a purpose – they were a launch pad for me. They pointed me in the direction I was supposed to go,” Reid said. “But notes don’t just turn into an engaging narrative. And if you stick too close to them [what you are writing] will turn into a high school chronology and that’s not what you want. You want to know what wine was he drinking, was it snowing outside? You want the details.”

Though both Churchill and Manchester loved metaphors and florid language, Reid knew he couldn’t attempt to copy Manchester’s style. He had to find a way to complete the volume in his own way but compliment the first two books that had been written three decades ago.

This would have been a monumental task for just about anyone, but Reid said he wasn’t intimidated.

“I told William Manchester I wouldn’t let him down. I told the publisher and I told myself I wouldn’t let the readers down,” Reid said. “If I didn’t let him down and I didn’t let readers down, then I feel good.”

And so far it appears he has not.

“The Last Lion” has spent four weeks on the New York Times Bestseller List and currently sits at No. 11.

Paul Reid
Reid didn’t imagine himself a writer early on in life. He instead spent stints as a bluegrass musician, a bartender, a taxi driver, and in the end as the owner of a manufacturing company.
“I always enjoyed business and had a head for numbers,” Reid said.
That’s where he thought he would be going as a little boy – to work in business keeping inventory. He followed this path and ended up with the opportunity to sell his business in his 40s.
A shift was taking place in his life then away from manufacturing, he said.
So, having no college education, Reid went back to school.
In the 90s his life led him to writing a twice-monthly column about politics for the Boston Globe. Reid said he had never written a single word for publication until then.
Both from New England originally, Reid and his wife, Barbara, moved to south Florida for a newspaper job. About the time their kids were grown they felt South Florida had grown too crowded and were ready to move on.
The Reids drove all through the south looking for a new place to settle and call home.
One trip took them to the Orchard Inn. Reid said they came back again and again as they fell in love with the area – it’s natural beauty and the people they met.
“We were ready for a change in several regards and it certainly was a nice place to write a book,” Reid said.
And that is about all Reid did for quite some time.
“I didn’t get out much – if I had gotten out more and done as much rafting on the Green River as I’d like to do and poked around the towns, then people would be mad at me because the book wouldn’t be finished,” he said. “So I think we were rather quiet neighbors.”
Reid now considers himself a “Polk County local.”
“I come downtown to Tryon because that is the closest and I love the coffee shop down the street – Bill and the folks there. I’m very proud to be able to go to the Book Shelf to do a signing or to Lanier Library. This is my home,” Reid said.
Reid is set to sign copies of “The Last Lion” at The Book Shelf in Tryon Thursday, Dec. 13 at 5 p.m.