November 13th, 2006


I just finished volume two of William Manchester's The Last Lion, a biography of Churchill. It was something like a horror novel, where you know something awful is going to happen and the characters don't understand it (Baldwin, Chamberlain, and others in power) or are powerless to prevent it until it's too late (Churchill). The descent of Europe into a second world war plays out over the entire second volume.

This book follows my reading of E.B. Potter's excellent biographies of admirals Chester Nimitz and Bull Halsey. Potter's admiration for the men shines through, but it's subtle and is a result of an accurate rendering of events, actions, and correspondence. The reader can draw conclusions from the facts about the subjects, not the personal feeling of the biographer.

Not so with Manchester. He is open with his worship of Churchill and his loathing for those who stood against him. It's understandable that he would have personal animosity towards those who helped throw Europe into chaos, but the facts would be damning enough without playing cute stylistic tricks with them.

manchester & amazon

Oh yeah. William Manchester died before completing the third and final volume of The Last Lion. I've read that another author is completing it from Manchester's manuscript and notes, but I have no idea when it will be available. Amazon used to have a feature where they would alert you when new works by a particular author came out, but I can't find the user interface for adding an alert anywhere. Did they discontinue the feature?