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Making history thrilling

Steve Sheinkin spent 10 years writing history textbooks, but in a way, it was a tortured decade of his life. Not because he found history boring or despised it; quite the opposite, really. What drove Sheinkin crazy as he composed chapter after chapter of juvenile curriculum was what he wasn't allowed to include; information he felt students should know and stories he was sure would help them comprehend and remember what many consider a dry subject lacking intensity and excitement.

History textbooks are awful and kids hate them. I thought I was going to change the world by getting all these great stories into textbooks, but I soon found out the process is incredibly political and you can't say anything controversial, said Sheinkin, of Saratoga Springs. "Kids always tell me history sucks, that's the No.1 response I get, and it's a fair thought because the stuff they read is so boring."

Sheinkin didn't act on his frustration right away. Instead, he squirreled away all the red inked material his editors rejected; until last July, when he published his first non-fiction history chapterbook "disguised" as a novel. Since then, he's written three more, with his latest non-fiction thriller "The Notorious Benedict Arnold" released at the beginning of November.

"The most important thing is just how great he was before becoming a traitor; that's the one thing everyone remembers about him, the treason and that's fair. But before that, he was the star of some of the greatest action stories in American history., leading a march through the wilderness of Maine up to attack Quebec in winter of 1775. That's what made him really famous. It was one of the great epic marches of military history; the kind of thing that would have been so famous in history today if he hadn't become a traitor," said Sheinkin. "There'd be movies and books and everyone would know it."

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