Peter Clarke is a fine scholar and this is a good work, and with that said, it is not a casual read or designed for someone not already somewhat familiar with Churchill.
Of all the many books already written on every aspect of this man, any potential reader would ask why another? There are several good reasons, several very strong points of the book, and yet, for me, a flawed premise.
The author begins with one of the finest summaries of WSC growing up the son of Lord Randolph Churchill and his American wife, Jenny Jerome. Lord Randoloph was a brilliant politician in most respects, and became Chancellor of the Exchequer under Salisbury but it was short lived in that he submitted his resignation prior to submitting even his first budget and Salisbury took it and went on. WSC was neglected by both parents and yet idolized both. His father, quite simply, was an ass. Randolph died at an early age and what little there was in pensions or annuities was constantly devoured by his mother as quickly as it came due, so while WSC may have been of the upper crust, he, like many, were not endowed with cash, which may have been on his father's mind when he married Jenny Jerome, a daughter of a successful investment broker from New York.
Early on, in spite of the lack of a formal education (his father had no intention of spending the money required for a first rate education), WSC went to Sandhurst, was a calvary officer at a young age and devoured books while on duty in India. It was early in life that he started with magazine and newspaper articles and learned quickly that good writing would make good money.
One of the most important events in his early writing career was when he was captured in November 1899 by a Boer guerilla force and imprisoned for two months before he escaped and made a most interesting journey of good luck and daring back to British allies at Mozambique. This action and the subsequent story of his exploits made him renowned with the public and publishers. From there a long progression of politics and publishing helped him sustain an expensive lifestyle that was hardly augmented by his parents, who were hedonists and spent it faster than it came in.I was surprised that the author moved through this quickly and kept at the "Book That Defined the Special Relationship". There is a great deal of information about the genesis of this book and the final publication long years after the initial idea, but most students of Churchill will tell you that A History of the English-Speaking Peoples (The Birth of Britain / The New World / The Age of Revolution / The Great Democracies)is not his greatest work and somewhat his history of the things he wants to cover (which is very much like WSC). Much of the research was done by others, which WSC sorted through to tell his story, and indeed, it is a good story, but not anything like a comprehensive work. In fact, if there was a special relationship with America it was brought about because England was trying to survive a another world war, and the relationship was a trying one indeed. The British felt the Americans too steely in their demands for the rust bucket destroyers of Lend Lease and later in the war, there were great variances in military strategy, and finally, WSC in the later part of the war had to realize that the US and USSR were calling the shots, but all of this is not covered in the book and probably should have had an honorable mention if nothing else. But in returning to the book, it was not mentioned by the committee as the reason for the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1953 as I always thought, but considering his world fame, accomplished leadership during the war, and his massive list of publications long prior to this event, the award may reflect more on the man than on the work. The chicken, in effect, arrived long before the egg, much to the chagrin of Ernest Hemingway who was also a contender for the prize that year.
Regardless of this criticism there is a wealth of information here. The author shows how WSC was constantly leveraged, trying to keep up Chartwell, which appears to have been a money pit (that Clementine detested) pay for his wine and spirits expenses (he and guests could go through cases of expensive champagne during and after dinner),
cover his taxes, and try to come up with the next book deal that would bring a fat advance and/or royalties. He indeed was a word factory and Clarke shows how it was not only writing but production of words on a daily basis.
I would recommend the book and the insights it provides.