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Down to a Soundless Sea


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About the Author

Thomas Steinbeck began his career in the 1960s as a motion picture cinematographer and photojournalist in Vietnam. Interspersed with his writing, speaking and producing obligations, Mr. Steinbeck has taught college-level courses in American Literature, creative writing, and communication arts. He serves on the board of directors of the Stella Adler Theatre Los Angeles and the National Steinbeck Center. He has written numerous original screenplays and documentaries as well as adaptations of his father's work. Thomas Steinbeck lives on the central coast of California with his wife. He is currently at work on his first novel.

From the Hardcover edition.


This very appealing first collection draws on folklore, historical research, and tales that Steinbeck (son of John) heard growing up. The stories celebrate the early lore of Monterey County, CA the seaside locale so beloved by the author's father. Set in the dusky past of horse trails, grizzly bears, and small fishing villages and ranging forward to the early 1930s, they portray humble people living in a beautiful but often unforgiving environment. "Sing Fat and the Imperial Duchess of Woo," for example, is a heartbreakingly tender story of love tragically interrupted by a surprise ocean storm. The immigrant experience also pops up. These are inspiring stories about hardy individuals who confront hardship, loss, and the potent power of nature with remarkable fortitude and grace. A noble addition to the Steinbeck legacy, this collection is enthusiastically recommended for all libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 6/1/02.] Patrick Sullivan, Manchester Community Coll., CT

Stylistically speaking, the apple doesn't fall far from the family tree in this debut collection by Steinbeck (son of John), a solid series of stories that deal with the settling of the Monterey Peninsula early in the 20th century. Steinbeck is especially successful when he writes long and develops his narrative line, most notably in "Blind Luck," the tale of a young seaman who goes through a rough initiation during his first voyage, surviving a tragic accident and ultimately fulfilling his desire to become an engineer and then a captain. Another noteworthy effort is the engrossing, novella-length "Sing Fat and the Imperial Duchess of Woo," about a Chinese immigrant who meets the love of his life while studying medicine with an older Chinese apothecary. Nature is a major presence in almost all seven of these stories, especially in two of the shorter entries: "The Night Guide" deals with the adventure of a young boy who uses his skills to locate his mother in the woods during a storm, while "The Wool Gatherer" describes the awe of a young man (a "daydreaming book hound" named John Steinbeck) when he spots a legendary Big Sur bear. A couple of entries fall victim to murky plotting and elliptical storytelling, but Steinbeck's naturalism and his accomplished voice make it clear that the family's literary legacy is in very good hands. National advertising, 6-city author tour. (Oct. 1) Forecast: Obviously, interest in the Steinbeck pedigree will be significant, and mainstream coverage is sure to help drive sales all of which will lay a strong foundation for Steinbeck's first novel, which is in the works. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

"Thomas Steinbeck writes with grace, authority, and passion. If John Steinbeck were my father, I would not have the courage to write a laundry list or a letter to the editor. But Thomas Steinbeck inherited his father's great love of story. It is a grand thing to have a Steinbeck back in American letters."

"These tough, unsparing stories are written as if they were lived, not imagined, by their author. Thomas Steinbeck has found his own voice and he exults in the sound of it. This is authentic, honest American writing. The kind of writing a father would be proud of."

"Thomas Steinbeck's stories breathe vivid new life into nineteenth-century California, and bring to mind the pleasures of such writers as Hamlin Garland, Jack London, and Stephen Crane. This is a splendidly assured and convincing debut."
Author of the National Book Award Finalist Among the Missing

From the Hardcover edition.

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