In 1968, Jackson J. Benson, then a naive young literature professor, set out to write a critical appraisal of John Steinbeck. He found his project turning into an authorized biography: this is an account of his experiences over the 15 years he devoted to writing it. On one level it is a collection of anecdotes, character sketches and memories of Steinbeck. Benson interviewed scores of people who knew Steinbeck at various times in his life, and read thousands of primary sources. On another level it is an account of the biographers task, with allist triumphs and frustrations. We follow Benson as he struggles to master the skills of the biographer: locating sources of information; learning to conduct interviews - and assess their validity; and sifting through all the contradictions and prejudices.
Jackson Benson has published ten books on modern American literature, among them The True Adventures of John Steinbeck, Writer, which won the PEN-West USA Award for Non-Fiction, and Wallace Stegner: His Life and Work, which won the Evans Biography Award. Benson was professor of English and American literature at San Diego State University for thirty-one years until his retirement in 1998.