Thomas Steinbeck

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Thomas Myles Steinbeck (born August 2, 1944) is a writer and the eldest son of Nobel Laureate John Steinbeck. Steinbeck, raised by his father and well educated, was drafted into the Vietnam War, inspiring him to become a photographer and journalist. Subsequently, he wrote numerous screenplays and worked in the film industry. Since 2002, he has been an author of original works, starting with his book of short stories, Down to a Soundless Sea, in 2002. His first novel, In the Shadow of the Cypress, was published in 2010. Steinbeck's latest novel, The Silver Lotus, was published in 2011. He is currently working on his memoir.[1]


Early life[edit]

Thomas ("Thom") Steinbeck was born in Manhattan, New York, to Nobel laureate John Steinbeck and singer/composer Gwyndolyn Steinbeck on August 2, 1944. His younger brother John Steinbeck IV, was born two years later. While the marriage of his parents only lasted for five years, Thomas Steinbeck ultimately spent a great deal of time with his father and credits him for his passion for the works of the world’s great writers, as well as his recognition of the effect of language and the poetic rhythm that words can have upon readers and society in general.[1] He had a good relationship with his famous father, stating that he would rate him, "an eight-and-a-half or a nine" on a ten-point scale.[2]

Steinbeck spent his early education at a number of boarding schools on the east coast. He and his brother traveled with their father to Europe, Greece, North Africa. At one point, they spent a year traveling the world with a young teacher from Austin, Texas: playwright Terrence McNally, who later won four Tony Awards and an Emmy. Steinbeck studied at the Chouinard Art Institute, then began to study film at the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television. The Vietnam War cut his studies short.[1]

Military service[edit]

Steinbeck trained to serve with Armed Forces Radio and Television at Fort Knox, but arrived in Vietnam on the second day of the 1968 Tet Offensive and was immediately reassigned as a helicopter door gunner. Eight months later he was allowed to return to his original posting with AFVN as a television production specialist. After his service, he returned to Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia as a journalist and photographer.[1][2]

Writing career[edit]

Upon his return to the U.S. from Asia, Thomas Steinbeck wrote and crewed on a number of documentaries, films and television projects, selling original scripts as well as screen adaptations of his father’s books. He has written numerous original screenplays and documentaries as well as adaptations of his father’s work.

He then turned to writing books. Steinbeck's first book, Down to a Soundless Sea (2002), was a series of short stories based upon the original settlers of Big Sur, California, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Published by Random House to excellent reviews, the book was translated into seven languages, an audio version, and a large print edition, and was even part of Oprah's Book Club. In 2010, Simon & Schuster published his first novel, In the Shadow of the Cypress. His latest novel, The Silver Lotus, was released in November 2011 by Counterpoint Press to strong reviews. He is currently writing his memoir.[1]

Steinbeck also contributed to the My California Project, a collection of short stories written by 27 California authors, in an attempt to save the floundering California Arts Council.

Personal life[edit]

Along with his writing and producing obligations, Thomas Steinbeck lectures on American literature, creative writing, and the communication arts. He serves as a board member of the National Steinbeck Center in Salinas, California and the Center for Steinbeck Studies at San Jose State University. Once a year he presents the John Steinbeck Award through his foundation, The John Steinbeck Family Foundation in affiliation with The Center for Steinbeck Studies.[3]

Steinbeck has been an active proponent of authors' rights. In 2009, he worked closely with his friend, Arlo Guthrie, in a successful initiative to implement an extension to the settlement negotiations between Google and the Authors Guild.

Steinbeck lives with his wife Gail in Santa Barbara, California.


  1. ^ a b c d e "Thomas Steinbeck - About Thom". Archived from the original on April 1, 2013. 
  2. ^ a b Interview with Thomas Steinbeck by Fiction Writers of the Monterey Peninsula.
  3. ^ Article written by Thomas Steinbeck about the selection of Michael Moore as the 2010 recipient of the John Steinbeck Award.

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