The Case for Creative Nonfiction

Steve Sheinkin began his presentation at the Fay B. Kaigler book festival by apologizing for having once written textbooks. Now he says he’s writing the stuff those editors wouldn’t let him put into textbooks – not dry enough, I suppose. Personally, I forgave him instantly. You see, I had read Bomb. The book is listed for middle grade, but let’s not let them have all the fun.

The book is part of a rising genre in both adult and children’s books called creative nonfiction. The genre follows the tricky road of having to be as authentic as those textbooks (or maybe more so) while reading like a good novel or short story. Bomb is part suspense, part history, part intrigue, and all fascinating. Steve tells the story of the making of the atomic bomb with much conspiracy and suspense as he pits the Americans and Germans in a race to develop the bomb with the Russian spies out to steal their secrets.

I had also read The Notorious Benedict Arnold: A True Story of Adventure, Heroism, and Treachery before the festival. He told us that everybody is scared of Benedict Arnold. Perhaps the complexity of his character portrayed in Steve’s book is more threatening than the traitor of the textbooks, but the hero gone bad makes for a fascinating book.

I’ve waited since April to write and post this blog because there are two of his books that I purchased for a birthday present for my rising senior grandson – Lincoln’s Grave Robbers and The Port Chicago 50. I didn’t want Sam to know in case he read my blog. Sam has had writing tendencies since his elementary days when he used to make me proud saying, “I’m a writer like Grandma.” He writes now for his award-winning high school newspaper and may or may not continue this into a career.

No career pressure from his grandmother, but all the same, I included a note in Sam’s present about reading like a writer. Writers read for pleasure like the rest of the world. They also read to improve their craft, examining how good writers engage their readers. I hope he sees Steve’s ability to stay completely true to the facts while writing a story that keeps readers up at night turning pages. Who knows? Maybe one day Sam will write his own past midnight page-turners or collect a few of those award stickers that pepper the front of Steve’s books.

And my loyal readers can find the rest of Steve’s books at to pick out which one they’d like to read next.