New Pictorial Biography Celebrates Churchill’s Life
Interview with MAX ARTHUR
Churchill—The Life is the official publication marking the life of Sir Winston Churchill in the fiftieth anniversary year of his death. The Chartwell Bulletin interviewed author and historian Max Arthur about this large and handsome book.
CB: How did you become interested in Winston Churchill?
MA: It started as a child. He was the most talked about giant in history. Everyone had an opinion of him.
CB: How did you come to produce this particular book?
MA: My agent Gordon Wise, Trevor Davies of Octopus Publishing Group, and myself discussed the idea for a photographic book at the Serpentine Gallery during the annual publisher’s party last year. I then sat about reading all I could find about Churchill. The fascination for me was finding accounts from his books and those of his contemporaries, which matched my choice of photographs.
CB: This is an “authorized pictorial biography.” What does that mean, and who benefits from the sale of the book?
MA: The book is “authorised” by Churchill Heritage Ltd., which look after the interests of the Churchill family and receives a portion of the proceeds along with the publisher and myself.
CB: In preparing this book did you discover anything about Churchill that surprised you or that you did not already know?
MA: I discovered interesting details about Churchill’s childhood and adolescence, which were new to me. It was a childhood that shaped his life. His painful pleading for his mother or father to visit him, even at the age of seventeen, make for raw reading and contrast completely with his confidence and belief in himself that sometime in the future he would not only save London, but the whole of Europe. It was also interesting to learn that his nanny, whom he adored, died in Crouch End, where I live.
CB: This book has large dimensions and many photographs. Do you see it as a “coffee-table” book?
MA: I frankly do not see this as a coffee table book any more than my last photographic book from the same publishers, Faces of the First World War. There is a storyline that is at times poignant and humorous, and I feel that the words and photographs capture the essence of this man.
CB: You were good friends with the late Sir Martin Gilbert, who was the Official Biographer of Churchill. What did you learn from him, and how did that friendship help guide you in putting together this book?
MA: I have dedicated this book to my dear friend and inspiration. Martin had a fund of rich anecdotes which enhanced the background details of the extraordinary life of Churchill. He had amazing recall and an encyclopedic knowledge of this man who dominated the British and world landscape for so many years. He always looked for facts to support his work. He might add some historical background, but he never put thoughts or words into the mouths of people, which could not be verified by research. I have no doubt in my mind that Martin should be seen as the foremost authority on the life of Churchill. It was a privilege to know him.
CB: This book is for general readers of all ages. What are the main things that you think people should know about Churchill especially younger generations?
MA: That irrespective of what hell you may go through, however many times you are rejected and abandoned, if you have faith in yourself even in your darkest days, you will come through. He had many very dark days and as a child felt that his parents were indifferent to him, but he understood that to get to the top you had to work hard and excel in what came naturally to you and not to worry about any weakness in academic subjects
Churchill—The Life is published in the United States by Firefly Books and in the United Kingdom by Cassell.