I was pleased to learn that Manchester had read what ran in The New Yorker. He told me so during our only meeting, in the spring of 2002, just after he had been awarded a National Humanities Medal for his career as an historian. Manchester was in a wheelchair, two strokes having left him unable to finish the third volume of his biography of Winston Churchill. He spoke with difficulty, but managed to tell me one story that suggested the years of strain he endured while producing his flawed, distinguished, and essential book. In the summer of 1964, he explained, he had conducted two interviews with Oswald’s bizarre, money-mad mother, Marguerite, at her little house in Fort Worth, Texas. Despite her derangement, she surely sensed the level of his regard for her son. And as he left her for the last time, she uttered her defiant envoi: “You can’t say my son wasn’t a good shot!”

Manchester told me this story at a White House reception for the Humanities medalists, just down the hall from the East Room. 

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Thomas Mallon is a frequent contributor to The New Yorker, The Atlantic, and many other magazines, and the author of seven novels and six works of nonfiction.