Thomas Steinbeck, John Steinbeck’s Son, Dead at 72

Image of Thomas Steinbeck

As reported by the New York Times, John Steinbeck’s surviving son, Thomas Steinbeck, died on August 11 in Santa Barbara, California, from cardiopulmonary disease, the condition that contributed to his father’s death at age 66 in 1968. A second Steinbeck son, John Steinbeck IV, died in 1992. Their mother was John Steinbeck’s second wife; the New York Times obituary detailed the course of legal action brought by Thomas Steinbeck and a niece against the non-blood heirs and literary agents of the author, who left the bulk of his estate to his third wife. While noting Thomas Steinbeck’s strong resemblance to his father, the New York Times story failed to mention the Steinbeckian character and literary quality of the younger Steinbeck’s writing, including novels and stories set on the Monterey Peninsula, the region celebrated in his father’s fiction. Also omitted was Thomas Steinbeck’s generosity to the Center for Steinbeck Studies at San Jose State University, which issued a statement praising his friendship and support. Robert DeMott, the John Steinbeck scholar who served as the Center’s director in the 1980s, recalled the son’s gift of his father’s typewriter and other personal items, as well as his presence at events honoring John Steinbeck over the years. Robert DeMott’s tribute to Thomas Steinbeck will be published in Steinbeck Review.

AP photograph of Thomas Steinbeck by Richard Green

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  1. Steve Hauk says:

    I only got to speak with Thom Steinbeck a few times, but was impressed by his grace and considerastion. He struck me as soft spoken in a gruff sort of way, and he definitely had a presence. I got to know him a little better through his wife Gail and their good friends artist Ben Brode and his wife Ann. Memory plays tricks, but I seem to remember Gail either saying or being quoted as saying that her husband stood a little taller after the publication and enthusiastic reception of “Down by a Soundless Sea.” He was, indeed, his own man, and quite a talented writer in his own right.



    New York Times Reports Death of John Steinbeck’s Son | Steinbeck Now

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