A lucid, well-organized, laudatory summary of the Nobel laureate's life and work, with emphasis on the evolution of his writing. A rebel from the time his mother forced him to learn to read as a preschooler, Steinbeck had one of those creative minds that persistently disrupts classes and ignores assignments. His father might well have despaired; instead, he gave him repeated chances to return to Stanford and provided support until Steinbeck's first financial success at the age of 33, dying a few months before the publication of Tortilla Flat. Meanwhile, Steinbeck had garnered his own education through reading, living, friendships, and honing his own writing skills. Ferrell portrays him as a fiercely independent artist, repeatedly underrated by critics who faulted his failure to repeat success, not recognizing his innovative power. In a narrative packed with events, Ferrell draws a believable portrait of a complex, difficult man of intelligence, persistence, and conscience. Because of its brevity, the book only sketches some major dramas: the second wife, who gave up custody of their two sons after she was proved ""abusive""; the experiences that provided the background for The Grapes of Wrath. Well balanced for its length, the book provides a generously annotated bibliography for those who want to know more, plus a list of Steinbeck's books and an index.