Thomas Myles Steinbeck was a writer and public speaker. During his lifetime, he wrote numerous screenplays for feature films and documentaries. He published a book of short stories, Down to a Soundless Sea, in 2002. His first novel, In the Shadow of the Cypress, was published in 2010. In the fall of 2012, Thomas published, The Silver Lotus to excellent reviews. Thom’s memoir and a series of four novellas are scheduled for publication in 2019.
Thomas Steinbeck was born in New York City on August 2, 1944 to singer/composer Gwyndolyn Steinbeck and John Steinbeck, Nobel Laureate and author of “The Grapes of Wrath”, “East of Eden”, and “The Pearl”, among others. His younger brother, John Steinbeck IV (Catbird) was born two years later. While the marriage of his parents only lasted for five years, Thomas 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. While his mother gave him an appreciation of art, music, great food, and film, her alcoholism forced Thom into a state of self-isolation where he found solace in painting, drawing and sculpture. It was a hidden gift that not only saved him, but also eventually helped him evolve into a gifted craftsman and artist.
Thomas spent his early education at a number of boarding schools on the east coast, but his holidays were spent with his father. He and his brother traveled with their father to Europe, Greece, North Africa, but more often than not, it was the private times spent at the family home in Pacific Grove, California or Sag Harbor, New York that framed who he became as a man and a writer. At one point, they spent a year traveling the world with a young teacher from Austin, Texas. The teacher was the playwright Terrence McNally, who later won four Tony Awards and an Emmy. That influence, as well as the other great teachers who touched his life, lead Thomas to Chouinard Art Institute. He later studied at UCLA film school, but the Vietnam War cut his studies short.
Thomas 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. Because the military emergency was considered so devastating, he 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 discharge from the military Thomas returned to Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia as a journalist and photographer with the hope that the efforts made by the journalists covering the war would help bring about a change in the American government’s position. The experience there changed him forever.
Upon his return to the states, he 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. Disappointed by the filmmaking process, he turned to what he loved the best: storytelling. And how lucky we are that he chose that path.
His first book, Down to a Soundless Sea, was written at the behest of his friend, hotelier Michael Freed. The result was a series of short stories based upon the original settlers of Big Sur, California, at the turn of the last century. Published by Random House to excellent reviews, the book was translated into seven languages, an audio version, and a large print edition.
Along with twenty-six of California’s most popular storytellers, Thom agreed to serve as a contributor to the My California project published by Angel City Press. Each of the writers involved donated a story about their most beloved part of the state in an attempt to save the California Arts Council. The book is now in its third printing and has successfully served its purpose.
In 2010, Simon & Schuster published his third book, and first novel, In the Shadow of the Cypress. USA Today said:
“It’s both a history lesson and a mystery novel, revolving around a 1906 discovery — and subsequent disappearance — of two ancient jade Chinese artifacts, buried for centuries under a majestic cypress and unearthed through a natural disaster.”
Thomas’ deep affection for the Chinese people once again abounds in his next novel, The Silver Lotus, which was released in November of 2011 by Counterpoint Press. Library Journal said:
“Embracing romance, coming-of-age, adventure, and historical fiction, this novel will easily delight fans of these genres. It will also appeal to American literature lovers and loyal readers of the venerable John Steinbeck.”
Interspersed with his writing, speaking and producing obligations, Mr. Steinbeck taught college-level courses in American Literature, creative writing, and communication arts. He served on the board of directors of the Stella Adler Theatre in Los Angeles, The Center for Steinbeck Studies at San Jose State University and the National Steinbeck Center in Salinas, California.
In 1995, he married his best friend. Gail and Thomas Steinbeck lived in Montecito, California until Thom’s death on August 11, 2016. Though Thom’s favorite pastime was reading, he also loved a quiet sail on the Pacific and creating miniatures, for his nieces, nephews, and the neighborhood kids.
Mr. Steinbeck was an active proponent of authors’ and artists’ rights. Gail continues his efforts through her work with Artists Rights Coalition at www.artistsrightscoalition.org.
As a combat veteran, Thomas Steinbeck was a supporter of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation and the Southern Poverty Law Center. Both organizations work diligently towards the goal of peace, tolerance, and compassion. He strongly encouraged others to look after the interests and needs of those who have sacrificed so much on their country’s behalf.