CRESTVIEW — A labor of love for a local author has come to its fruition.

"A New Beginning" is a historical novel by David A. Russell of Crestview. It tells the story of Andraui Stanislaski, a survivor of the Polish-Cossack wars. Stanislaski, who loses his entire family, decides to make a new start for himself. Along the way, he befriends Indians, frees a group of slaves, finds love and works to make a place for himself and many others in his new home.

"I like history, but I'm not, I wouldn't say that I'm an authority on it. I have read a lot and studied a lot over the years. I've spent some time in three different countries when I was in the military, and there's a lot of good history that we are losing, and I wanted to show the general nature of some of the people that came to our country in the beginning, and helped made it the country that it is," Russell said.

Russell has had a few new beginnings himself. He joined the military — "I went in when I was 17 and came out when I was 37," he said — and retired from Eglin Air Force Base in 1968.

He has worked for the military in Tripoli, Libya, Ecuador and the Dominican Republic.

After military service and work as a military advisor, he became a Realtor. He owned Dave Russell Realty, and when it went down during an economic slump in 1982, he asked Billy Teel of Teel and Waters if he could join his company. He worked there for 23 years, retiring three years ago.

"I was a president of Citizens for Constitutional Property Rights here in Crestview. We had chapters in 33 counties in Florida, so I did a lot of writing and stories to them over about a 10- or 12-year period," Russell said.

Being a Realtor for 50 years, including owning his own company, allowed him to do plenty of writing.

"In the course of running a business, you do a lot of writing. I guess that's where I learned to improve my English, and some of the people that have read my book have said real complimentary things about it. One of them said, 'I don't see how you ever had the time to do all the research that you did,' but it took me a little over two years to write the book, and it has taken more than two years to get it published," Russell said.

What's it like to have the book out there?

"I'll be 87 in just a few weeks, and I was afraid I wasn't going to live to see it published, it took so long," Russell said with a laugh. "But I did a lot of work on it and I was hoping it did get accepted and get published."

The research took him the longest because of the different types of information needed for the book. He said Poland had been wiped off the map for about 100 years, divided between Russia and Prussia, and there's not a whole lot of information on the individual battles. Finding out what slavery cost then, and the history of the guns mentioned in the book also took time.

"It took me a while to get because I wanted it to be as factual as possible," he said.

"A New Beginning" retails for $33.95 and is available online through Amazon, Books A Million, and Barnes and Noble.

Russell and his wife, Irene, have been married for 37 years. Their children have given them seven grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.