When Michael E. Cook retired in 2014 his wife was “scared we would be destitute.” That was all the motivation the South Salem, Ross County resident needed to sit down and start writing. Within a year Cook published three books: the fourth is with a publisher.
The Sean O’Rourke series is a three-book historical fiction western story about Sean O’Rourke, a fictional main character who becomes a federal marshal during the U.S.’s westward expansion after the Civil War.
Cook will be in the author’s tent at the Toast to Summer event later this month at the Fayette County Airport, selling and signing copies of his Sean O’Rourke series.
If you ask Cook’s wife if she thinks O’Rourke kills too many people in the series, she will say, “No, they needed it,” according to Cook. He said the series of books has been well-received by the people who have read them since their publication in 2015.
Cook grew up in Chillicothe, Ohio and graduated from Chillicothe High School in 1969. He went into the United States Marine Corps.
“I served in Vietnam and after the military I was at Ohio University for three years, where I majored in psychology and then I got married,” said Cook.
Cook left college and worked on the B&O Railroad as a locomotive engineer.
“I was laid off and then did odds and ends, and then I went back to finish up at Ohio University in Chillicothe and finished my bachelor’s. Only had 10 years to use the GI bill,” said Cook.
After graduating with his bachelor’s degree in 1983, Cook began working at Herr Foods in Chillicothe as a utility person and was quickly promoted: July 1984 he became the plant manager.
“That’s what I did until I retired,” said Cook.
Then he started writing.
“I grew up watching westerns and westerns were the main shows on TV when I was a kid. They were number one hits. Nowadays there’s not too many westerns. We need another western out there, I’m going to write a western, so that’s why I decided. I just sat down and made that stuff up, it just came to me real easy,” said Cook.
Cook said he favored writing the stories out by hand, because he wasn’t familiar with typing.
“My son gave me an old laptop, and I got the hang of it [typing],” said Cook.
Cook said the main character in the series, O’Rourke, is an adventurer who finds himself in a mess of trouble among outlaws and different settler clans.
“He goes out wandering by himself after that and he turns into a troop of cavalry and he makes friends with a sergeant. The Civil War starts and he joins the Union Army. He becomes a sharp shooter. He is a dead shot with a Sharps rifle. He gets wounded a few times in the war. He runs into his old childhood sweetheart,” said Cook.
Their reunion becomes more than a romance story, but to find out what happens, you’ll have to read the book, said Cook. The series is available on Amazon and at barnesandnoble.com as both paperbacks and e-books. Cook has also donated a couple of copies of the books to the public libraries in Jackson, Ross, and Highland counties.
“I wanted to see if I could do it [write]. I wasn’t even thinking about getting it published. When I got encouragement I went to a publisher. My youngest sister said, your main character is too macho, he gets all the girls. I told her, but he doesn’t go after all the girls, the girls go after him. That’s not macho,” said Cook.
Today Cook is working on another book, this one about a young man who goes to Vietnam and gets shot, comes back and gets a medical discharge and makes a fortune as an undertaker and mortician.
“He has a great love life, there’s a lot of sex but not explicit sex, but the women keep dying. My young hero is in love with this girl, she gets killed in a convenience store robbery, then he meets a Navy nurse, and she dies of bone cancer,” said Cook.
The story will follow the main character from when he is 5-years-old to in his 40s, despite his post-traumatic stress from the war, and despite the tumultuous times of the 1960s and 1970s.
“He’s going to have a lot of trouble with stress and post-traumatic stress. He’ll have nightmares and yell things out in the night or things will happen and he’ll start thinking about it,” said Cook.
But Cook smiled and said the book is going to have a happy ending.
“I was a naval gunfire spotter. Now once in awhile when I hear helicopters come over I (start to shake) because when there’s helicopters, they do one of two things: they can take you someplace bad or take you out of someplace bad,” said Cook. He said he plans to have that story published within a year.
Reach Ashley at the Record-Herald (740) 313-0356 or on Twitter @ashbunton