TRANSITION

WILLIAM MANCHESTER, 82
Manchester was a great writer of narrative history cursed by his own talent. He wrote thrilling, moving, graceful portraits of great men, yet academics patronized him as a "popular historian," not a real one. Readers bought his books in huge numbers, but he never quite gained the professional respect he craved. A poor boy who graduated from the University of Massachusetts, Manchester saw horrific combat as a Marine in World War II, which he captured in his memoir "Goodbye, Darkness." He became a figure of controversy in 1966 after he was chosen to write the authorized account of JFK's assassination. When Jackie Kennedy decided his book, "The Death of a President," was too intimate and raw, the Kennedys tried to stop its serialization in Look magazine. Manchester went on to write magisterial biographies, among them "American Caesar," the life of Gen. Douglas MacArthur. He finished two volumes of a three-volume biography of Winston Churchill that won huge audiences and mixed reviews, and then became too sick to go on. Last week Manchester's publisher, Little, Brown, announced that a journalist, Paul Reid, had been chosen to complete the final volume.

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