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Sunday, June 6, 2004

Revolutionary heroine's ride inspires book and screenplay

By Lois Marchand
Staff Writer

NEWTON -- It took a New England-born writer to translate a movie script about a famous midnight ride by a colonial heroine into a new book.

Local editor, writer and publisher Steve Hart -- who has roots in Lawrence -- has ghost-written a book about the Revolutionary War ride of Sybil Ludington. The story is based on a screenplay for a movie that is planned for release in 2007.

The adventure tale -- which is geared to teen readers -- is about the exploits of a 16-year-old girl whose father was colonel of a militia in New York state. When the British marched on a nearby community on an April night in 1777, Sybil -- like Paul Revere -- rode through the countryside alerting the militia to get up, get armed and get ready to march in the predawn hours.

Although Hart, 55, adapted the book, "Ludington's Ride," from the original screenplay by Charles Welty, the book bears Welty's name as author. A note credits Hart, who was hired by Welty, with adapting the screenplay into book form. Hart is also the publisher of the hardcover book, which is due in book stores by July 31.

"Ludington's Ride" is based on the historic events in Putnam County, N.Y., when nearby Danbury, Conn., was torched by the British. Sybil, the colonel's eldest daughter, alerted the 400 citizen-farmers who served under his command.

Set against a backdrop of colonial life and times, the book includes themes of bravery, greed, young romance and family loyalty. It looks into the lives of people who were forging a new country, warring against the entrenched British and struggling with dangers inherent of the times. It also explores the life of a girl on the threshold of womanhood, and the obstacles which imperil her errand.

The story is the first in a trilogy of tales written as screenplays that follow the Ludington saga.

The movie "Ludington's Ride" will be filmed in 2005 at EUE Screen Gems LTD Studios in North Carolina and on location in Putnam County, N.Y., on a small portion of the 35-mile route actually ridden by Sybil Ludington, said Welty, the film's producer.

Welty said the production crew will rebuild the Ludington family's grist mill, which was destroyed by fire 30 years ago.

Welty said the film is in its development phase of production and a budget has been established. He said he is still looking for additional financial backing and hopes to make movies of all three parts of the trilogy.

Welty said while the first movie is based on the ride of Sybil Ludington, whose portrait is displayed in the Daughters of the American Revolution Museum in Washington, D.C., the next two stories are fictional tales based on the characters and their time in history.

Welty described Hart as "a very enthusiastic man," adding he liked what he did on the book.

Hart has lived in Newton Junction for 23 years with his wife, Roxanne, but has strong Merrimack Valley roots.

A 1967 graduate of Lawrence High School, Hart used to deliver The Eagle-Tribune in the Beacon Street neighborhood in Lawrence. He studied English literature at UMass-Lowell and Northern Essex Community College. A construction worker for the New England Power Co. for more than 20 years, he opened a video store chain called Video Extra in Methuen, North Reading and Dorchester, Mass., and in Plaistow and Kingston, N.H. After selling the chain, he worked as a manager at Barnes and Noble Book Store in Salem, N.H.

It was while recuperating from a back injury he suffered while shoveling snow in March 2001 that he sat down and began writing.

His first novel, "Eden Found," is about the adventures of a Boston newspaper reporter who manages to stay a step ahead of militants in the Middle East after he becomes involved with a pair of college professors in their search for ancient writings dating back to the days of Adam.

The book won the 2003 Editors Choice Award from All Books Reviews, a book review Web site.

"The real satisfaction comes in seeing your book in print and in the feedback you get from readers," said Hart. "I spent two and a half years writing and researching and rewriting."

He said he found a publisher willing to publish "Eden Found" but was disappointed when he was told he would have to wait a couple of years before it was released. That was when he decided to form his own publishing company.

Hart said he has also recently completed work on a new screenplay for a comedy, and has edited and published a trilogy about the life of Jesus called "The Greatest Story Ever Revealed: The Gospel According to Andrew."

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