Writer Thomas Steinbeck Dies

Son of John Steinbeck Made His Home in Santa Barbara

Thomas Steinbeck, the eldest of writer John Steinbeck’s two sons by his second marriage, to Gwyndolyn Conger, died on Thursday at his home in Santa Barbara. His wife, Gail Knight Steinbeck, said his death at age 72 was caused by obstructive pulmonary disease.

Thomas Steinbeck
Click to enlarge photo

Sue De Lapa

Thomas Steinbeck

Thomas Steinbeck was author of the short-story collection Down to the Soundless Sea, published when he was 60. In a 2012 interview, he told The Santa Barbara Independent that his first book was accidental. Written for Big Sur’s Post Ranch Inn, it contained stories he’d grown up hearing about the area and was only published after an agent saw it. Steinbeck went on to publish two other books, but may be best known for the legal wranglings over his father’s legacy. John Steinbeck left his works to his third wife, Elaine, who, in turn, left them to her family members rather than Steinbeck’s. Thomas and his niece, Blake Smyle, filed suit to recover the copyrights, but lost in a federal appeals court.

Steinbeck attended Chouinard Art Institute and UCLA and was a helicopter door-gunner during the Vietnam War, according to his website. He was an artist as well as a writer, and he crewed on documentary, film, and television projects, and wrote scripts, including adaptations of several of his father’s stories. In Santa Barbara, he is remembered for giving his time to speak with school classes about his father, a Nobel laureate, and his works.

To submit a comment on this article, email or visit our Facebook page. To submit information to a reporter, email

Be succinct, constructive, and relevant to the story. Leaving a comment means you agree to our Discussion Guidelines. We like civilized discourse. We don't like spam, lying, profanity, harassment or personal attacks.

comments powered by Disqus
event calendar sponsored by:

Bank Robbery Suspect Kills Self in Bathroom

A man barricaded in the bathroom of a Goleta business apparently killed himself after robbing a bank ...

News-Press’ Found to Owe Union and Employees $2.2 Million

National Labor Relations Board puts money amount on employee losses since 2006.

Fire Starts Just West of Buellton

[Update] Vegetation fire starts on the 1000 block of Highway 246; Bobcat Springs on evacuation warning.

UCSB Enrollment Up

Admission jumps 10 percent though housing concerns remain.

Banned in Santa Barbara

City Council says no more plastic straws or Styrofoam.