William Raymond Manchester (April 1, 1922 – June 1, 2004) was an American author, biographer, and historian. He was the author of 18 books which been translated into over 20 languages. He was awarded the National Humanities Medal and the Abraham Lincoln Literary Award. (No Picture available)
I've covered my favorite fiction writers so far. Asimov wrote non-fiction, Ellison wrote essays, McCullough used research for the setting of Rome to make it come alive, but Manchester is straight non-fiction. He is so easy to read on very different subjects. A true historian's historian. Not without much criticism, but that's to be expected with all writers fiction or not.
1973, the ten year anniversary of Kennedy's assassination. The summer before my sophomore year in college I pulled out a dusty copy of Death of a President. I was ten on that unforgettable day and remembered Mom and Dad reading the book when it came out. In the evenings in my parent's basement I read this book revisiting the horror of a dreadful week. It was an eye opener on the pettiness of politics, the squabble between Connelly and Johnson over who would be riding in the car. The book made everyone human. The timetable blow by blow was riveting. My roommate when I got back to Wayland was from Booker, Tx and we roomed together our freshman year on the road for the track team, he was a pole vaulter. We got along on just about everything, but when I mentioned reading this book I encountered a side to him I hadn't seen, a look of pure hate at just the mention of Kennedy ten years after his death. I see that look today at the mere mention of Obama by people I know who are reasonable and rational on just about everything else. The Kool-Aid of hate keeps getting passed around.
Other books I've found fascinating by Manchester:
Goodbye Darkness: an autobiography where Manchester revisited the islands in the Pacific twenty years after he fought on them during WWII.
American Caesar: Biography of Douglas MacArthur. The movie starring Gregory Peck relied heavily on this book. Dad and I discussed it at length after we both read it. He still believed some of the scuttlebutt that was said about him.
The Glory and the Dream: If there is any one book everyone should be reading today as we're going through a Great Recession it's the first half of this book when he covers the Great Depression. He covers both political parties, their ideas, what they stood for, and how it all played out. He also makes observations. Concerning the assassination of Huey P. Long of Louisiana, who was perceived as a threat to Roosevelt's re-election in 1936 he says that this was one death that influenced history more than any election in history, or something to that effect. In response to the constant Republican refusal to admit there was hunger in America from 1930 to 1934. He relates that in 1942 when men who were children during this time reported for duty to fight, 1/4 were unfit due to rickets or bowed legs (calcium deficiency) and poor eyesight (vitamin A deficiency) from malnutrition as children. He says if Hoover had been elected in 1932 and his policies continued the U.S. might not have been able to field an army in WWII.
WWII and the 50's are interesting. In the Sixties he covers civil rights and Vietnam ending the book with the resignation of Richard Nixon after a pretty good recap of Watergate.
The Arms of Krupp: Manchester covers the rise of Krupp works from the 1600's to post WWII. The majority of the book deals with Frederick Krupp developing the first breach loaded steel cannon and unleashing them on the French at the battle of the Sudan in the Franco-Prussian War. Gustov marrying Frederick's daughter Bertha, changing his name to Krupp instead of hers to his. Krupp Werks being in an ideal location in a valley with rich iron ore deposits on one mountain and coal on the other. One piece of information I found interesting. Krupp developed the firing mechanism for artillery shells holding its international patent. England and France couldn't develop one equal to it so they purchased the right to use the Krupp mechanism based on a few cents for every shell fired. After WWI the English arm's manufacturer didn't know how many shells were fired over the course of the war and they settled on paying a certain amount for every German killed during the war. Gustov Krupp who was an early Nazi supporter took the money and used it to develop the Tiger Tank and ME 109 fighter plane.
After the war Krupp began setting up steel mills in third world countries and I find it interesting that the elevator in my wife's office building has a manufactured by Krupp prominently displayed.
There are many more of his books I'd love to read, when checking up on him through Wikipedia I discovered he wrote a novel, maybe that will be next on the list, but A World Lit By Fire about the Middle Ages and Renaissance sounds fascinating too.