HERITAGE: New novel based on town’s own war hero

Troops 'going over the top' at the start of the Battle of the Somme in 1916 during a training exercise behind the lines
Troops 'going over the top' at the start of the Battle of the Somme in 1916 during a training exercise behind the lines

A new fiction novel has been published called The Angel of Time – and it is centered around the real-life experiences of a man who fought on the Western Front.

Author Michael Stewart based the story on his great-grandfather Corporal William Puttnam, who lived in Berkhamsted and fought with the Royal Field Artillery from August 1915 to March 1818.

The Battle of the Somme - July 1, 1916 PNL-140311-101937001

The Battle of the Somme - July 1, 1916 PNL-140311-101937001

He was eventually wounded in the Battle of the Somme – one of the largest offences of the First World War, where more than 1m men were wounded or killed.

Mr Stewart has dedicated the book to the memory of Cpl Puttnam and his wife Amy Louise, who single-handedly brought up their six children during the conflict.

Mr Stewart said: “Without the efforts of these good, honest, hard-working people, and many others like them, I would not be here and this story would not have been told, so I owe them a great deal!”

The Angel of Time is the first novel by Mr Stewart, 54, who always wanted to be a writer or journalist, but ended up going into busines instead.

He said: “The novel is based around hospice helper George Putnam who is the most unlikely First World War hero ever, especially as he was born in 1960. After George’s encounter with Violet – a sweet old lady dying with cancer – and the sinister ghostly soldier who accompanied her, he suddenly finds himself thrown back to war torn France in 1918, fighting for his life.

“Wounded, but finally escaping the horrors of Flanders, he discovers that he is in fact married to the younger Violet and falls madly in love with her, only to find their whole existence is threatened again by a sinister figure intent on killing them both.

“Who is the ghostly figure following George? Who wants him dead and why?”

Mr Stewart said he ‘thoroughly enjoyed’ writing his first novel. He said: “To achieve this I have had to learn absolutely everything from proofreading to publishing.

“It has been an amazing journey for me and has changed my whole life and career; taking me out of the business world I have been in for the past 35 years and thrown me into a whole new world of books and publishing.

“I am also now a third of my way into my second book.”

> The Angel of Time is available at www.amazon.co.uk and you can read more about Cpl Puttnam in next week’s Gazette.