Winston Churchill biographer shares insight on writing acclaimed book

Paul Reid (right), co-author of the Winston Churchill biography “The Last Lion,” answers a question from National Churchill Museum director Rob Havers about taking on the challenge of finishing the book started by author William Manchester Sunday inside the Church of St. Mary Aldermanbury. Reid was the 2014 Kemper Lecture speaker and discussed his experience writing “The Last Lion” and shared his thoughts on Winston Churchill.

Paul Reid (right), co-author of the Winston Churchill biography “The Last Lion,” answers a question from National Churchill Museum director Rob Havers about taking on the challenge of finishing the book started by author William Manchester Sunday inside the Church of St. Mary Aldermanbury. Reid was the 2014 Kemper Lecture speaker and discussed his experience writing “The Last Lion” and shared his thoughts on Winston Churchill. Photo by Brittany Ruess.

As a journalist, Paul Reid was familiar with writing assignments.

In 2003, though, he was given an assignment from his friend and author William Manchester that would forever connect him with the man he says saved Western civilization — Winston Churchill.

Reid is the co-author along with the late Manchester of the Winston Churchill biographical book titled, “The Last Lion.” It was the third and last volume in Manchester’s series on the leader.

Reid and Manchester developed a friendship after the two met through one of Reid’s assignments.

When Manchester faced a serious case of writer’s block along with other illnesses, he requested Reid’s help in October 2003 to complete the series.

“He gave me a job to do,” Reid said Sunday inside the Church of St. Mary Aldermanbury.

Reid’s task of completing the book and diving into the life of Winston Churchill was the topic of the National Churchill Museum’s 2014 Kemper Lecture, which was Q&A style this year with the museum’s executive director, Rob Havers, asking the questions.

The annual lecture commemorates Churchill’s “Iron Curtain” speech which took place on the Westminster College campus on March 5, 1946. Churchill’s grand-children, Randolph Churchill and Jennie Churchill Repard, along with Randolph’s wife Catherine, were the guests of honor this year.

Along with a once-in-a-lifetime writing assignment, Manchester handed Reid a suitcase full of notes and excerpts from diaries and books. The suitcase was Reid’s invitation into Winston Churchill’s life through primary sources.

Armed with sharpened red pencils, Manchester told Reid: “You’ll write. I’ll edit.”

Before he could put those red pencils to use, Manchester died of cancer in June 2004.

“My friend died so I didn’t think in terms of where I was going with the book,” Reid said.

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