Brian Carso

Brian Carso

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As both a historian and a lawyer, I’ve been studying the American Revolution, and the life of Benedict Arnold, for nearly three decades. While writing a non-fiction book—a history of treason in the early United States—I came across a little-known plot conceived by George Washington to launch a spy mission to capture Arnold, put him on trial, and hang him from the gallows. I made a note to come back to this someday. Eventually I did, and I decided to tell the story in a novel, as historical fiction. After all, our knowledge of the plot is limited: it was shrouded in the utmost secrecy, and its players were spies. But we know some of the story and can piece together the details. The rest we can imagine. Many hours of reading and research brought the facts to light, but the imaginative work was quickened by retracing the footsteps of Benedict Arnold on battlefields and city streets, from the Plains of Abraham to Ticonderoga and the rolling hills of Saratoga; from the cobblestone streets of old Quebec City to lower Manhattan’s Bowling Green and Golden Hill. I stood where he had stood, and I imagined him there. One late summer afternoon I wandered through the colonial-era burial ground in Norwich, Connecticut, circling back again and again to the headstone of Hannah Arnold, Benedict’s mother, who rests beside an infant son and two daughters, each of whom died in childhood. I was a guest that night in a nearby house built in 1745, in which the teenage Benedict had lived while apprenticed to an apothecary. Sitting quietly in a dimly lit room where the boy had once walked about, where I thought I could almost see him, I began writing Gideon’s Revolution.
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