Dogging Steinbeck: Discovering America and Exposing the Truth About 'Travels With Charley'

Bill Steigerwald had a brilliant plan for showing how much America has changed in the last half century — or so he thought. He’d simply retrace the 10,000-mile route John Steinbeck took around the USA in 1960 for his beloved bestseller “Travels With Charley.” Then he’d compare the America he saw with the country Steinbeck described in his classic road book. But when the intrepid ex-newspaperman from Pittsburgh started researching Steinbeck’s trip he uncovered a shocking literary scoop. Steinbeck’s iconic nonfiction book was a fraud. “Travels With Charley” was not just full of fiction. It was a deceptive and dishonest account of the great novelist’s actual road trip.

Steigerwald made his own road trip exactly 50 years after Steinbeck did. Chasing and fact-checking Steinbeck’s ghost for 11,276 miles and 43 days, meeting hundreds of ordinary Americans, often sleeping in the back of his car in Wal-Mart parking lots, he drove from Maine to California to Texas. Despite the Great Recession and national headlines dripping with gloom and doom, Steigerwald discovered an America along the Steinbeck Highway that was big, empty, rich, safe, clean, prosperous and friendly. He didn’t just reaffirm his faith in America to withstand the long train of abuse from Washington and Wall Street, however. He also exposed the half-century-old myths of “Travels With Charley,” ruffled the PhDs of the country’s top Steinbeck scholars and forced “Charley’s” publisher to finally tell the truth.

Steigerwald is a well-traveled journalist and veteran libertarian columnist. With the spirit of a teenage driver, a dogged pursuit of the facts and a refreshing point of view about America proudly located in the heart of Flyover Country not Manhattan, he spins the story of his ride with Steinbeck’s ghost into a provocative, news-making and entertaining American road book.