Writers tend to be the ultimate procrastinators, and Michael Sawyer always knew he could write — it was simply a matter of sitting down and actually doing it.
Over half a century after an English teacher told him of his writing potential and his step-father had encouraged him to apply for a job at London’s Daily Express newspaper (which he never did), the West Jefferson resident, via London finally caught the writing bug and turned it into something much more than just a hobby.
Sawyer recently published his second book, “Theirs Not To Reason Why” (Tate Publishing, 2014), a novel of the Crimean War.
Sawyer started writing when he was 72 years old. His desire to write resulted from a lively discussion over religion with a friend who happened to be a Methodist minister.
“Mike, you’re confused,” his friend said, according to Sawyer.
Except he wasn’t confused. He was angry and disillusioned with organized religion.
“I realized I’d been fed a load of bologna for decades,” Sawyer said. “I spelled out my anger by writing the book.”
The result was his first book, “My Heresy a Refudiation of Religions,” which was published in 2010.
With his first book in the tank, Sawyer realized what his English teacher and step-father had known all along — he could write. Still, Sawyer wasn’t completely satisfied.
“My Heresy” was bred out of anger.
“I wanted to sit down and write without anger,” Sawyer said.
So he turned his attention to his lifelong passion, history. In particular, the Crimean War.
The Crimean War lasted from 1853 to 1856 and was fought between an alliance of Great Britain, France, the Ottoman Empire and the Kingdom of Sardinia (present day Italy) against the Russian Empire. The war was fought over control of the Black Sea peninsula that served as a buffer between Russia and the European continent.
Sawyer originally set out to write a history of the war but instead shifted his focus to writing a work of historical fiction from the perspective of the “rankers,” or the enlisted men. Those men on the front lines were famously captured by Alfred Lord Tennyson in his poem “The Charge of the Light Brigade,” as well as several Hollywood films.
“These men, privates and NCO’s (non-commission officers), were mostly from the dregs of British society,” Sawyer writes in the book’s foreward. “Born in slums, prisons and brothels, they had grown up in workhouses, orphanages or on the streets.”
“Theirs Not To Reason Why” offers a mix of social commentary on Victorian England, romance, war and brotherhood. The book centers around the life of Jack Spratt and his service in the 17th Lancers of the British Army - the cavalry unit that participated in the infamous Charge of the Light Brigade at the Battle of Balaklava on Oct. 25, 1854, during the Siege of Sebastopol.
Sawyer was very familiar with the 17th Lancers as he was one of them. In 1953, he enlisted in the British Army and served for three years as a tank crewman in the 17th/21st Lancers.
“This (information) comes from what I know,” Sawyer said. “I served. I knew about its history.”
There is also a personal element to the book as Sawyer said many of the characters are based upon people he served with in the 17th.
Altogether, Sawyer is pleased with the fruits of his most recent literary labor
“It was a labor of love, it really was,” Sawyer said. The book was also a group effort as he was aided in the writing and publishing process by the proofreading skills of his wife, Pamela.
“Theirs Not To Reason Why” is available for purchase online through Tate Publishing (www.tatepublishing.com). The book available in paperback and downloadable formats.
Sawyer hopes to have copies available for sale at the West Jefferson Coffee House on the Backstreet in the near future. He’s already making plans for several book signings at the coffee house.
Sawyer said he hasn’t ruled out a sequel, and has an idea for another book in the future.
Alan Bulluck can be reached at 336-846-7164 or on Twitter at @albulluck