Thursday, December 6, 2012

Nick's Picks, the 100 Most Notable Books of 2012 - 86...

#86:  The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill, Volume 3:  Defender of the Realm, 1940-1965, by William Manchester and Paul Reid.

I was in high school when the first volume of the Last Lion was published.  I was stunned by its eloquence and cadence.  Mr. Manchester could write the pants off the historians I'd been forced to read in school.  Volume 2 - Alone - followed a few years later.  And then there was only the promise of Volume 3 - but Volume 3 was the good stuff!  The War! 

This was going to be:  "We shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender."

This was going to be:  "You ask, What is our policy? I will say; 'It is to wage war, by sea, land and air, with all our might and with all the strength that God can give us: to wage war against a monstrous tyranny, never surpassed in the dark lamentable catalogue of human crime. That is our policy.' You ask, What is our aim? I can answer with one word: Victory — victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory however long and hard the road may be; for without victory there is no survival."

Alas, it was not to be.  First, Mr. Manchester turned his talents to other books.  Then, he was quiet. And finally he admitted that he simply couldn't write the book.  Just before his death, he chose the journalist Paul Reid to do what he himself could not - finish the book.

What we have is Defender of the Realm.  Is it as astonishing as what Manchester could have done?  No.  But it's still damn good.

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