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Presidential biographer Edmund Morris discusses Teddy Roosevelt, Ronald Reagan, and more

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But, of course, it wasn’t to be. In the mid-1970s, Morris began dabbling with a screenplay about Roosevelt’s life. The exercise led to his first book, "The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt." It garnered rave reviews, thrilled a vast audience and won both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award

Several years later, Reagan made Morris his designated biographer, providing extensive White House access. After 14 years of work, the resulting biography, "Dutch," elicited harsh reviews and waves of media critiques. The chief complaint: Morris created a fictional version of himself as a major part of the narrative, an older Edmund Morris who witnesses key moments in the future president's life and interacts with Reagan throughout.

But Morris remains unrepentant and calls the book his best work. In conversation and on the page, Morris is opinionated, blunt and curious. And, at 72, he shows no signs of slowing down. He has already begun work on his next biography, an examination of Edison. 

During a recent interview from his Connecticut home, Morris discussed "This Living Hand," life with his favorite presidents and other topics. Following are excerpts from that conversation.

On what Barack Obama must do to cement his presidential legacy: "The challenges facing him are those of any second-term president. He has to make good on election promises and, if he does, he will retain the respect and support of the American people. If he doesn’t, he’ll be forgotten."

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