tv Q A CSPAN March 3, 2013 11:00pm-12:00am EST
wolverton. >> this week on "q&a," journalist and author bill steigerwald discusses his book "dogging steinbeck." >> bill steigerwald, author of "dogging steinbeck." when did you first read "travels with charley," and what is it? >> it was john steinbeck's last major work. it was supposedly a nonfiction account of his trip across the country with his dog. i remember reading it when i was 15. i remember being kind of
disappointed that on his great trek he didn't come through pittsburgh. the closest he came was erie. i have a vague recollection of reading it, but it made no impression on me. steinbeck himself, i had to read "of mice and men," "grapes of wrath." i did not have to read his other major work, "cannery row," in high school. but they say are springsteen's life was changed when he read "grapes of wrath." it gave him a social conscience and he wanted to do work on the working man. it had no effect on me. i was a goldwater boy. hillary clinton was a goldwater girl in chicago. almost the same age as i am. it set me off in a whole different direction than bruce springsteen.
>> the book, "travels with charley," when did the trip happen for him? >> on september 23, 1960, after a great deal of preparation, he left his summer home in sag harbor, new york, on long island. the european end of long island. he and charlie set off in his camper van, a pickup truck with a camper almost like a sailboat cabin or a boat cabin on top, set into the bed of the pickup truck. >> we will show it in a minute. >> he took off on september 23 and headed north the message uses and visited his kid at school near deerfield. then he made his way up to the top of maine. for some strange reason he thought he had to touch the top of maine first.
he found out how big maine is. he worked his way -- he went to bangor and up to fort kent, the top of maine, and drops down. >> how many days was he on the road? >> 75, maybe 77 at the most. no one knows for sure. he kept no notes. there were no records, no expense reports i can find or that anybody had. i know when he started thomas september 23, 1960. i know he was -- he mailed something from tallahatchie, mississippi december 1960. he was pushing hard to get home. he was sick of the road and trying to get home. >> what kind of dog? >> a french poodle, born in france. 10 years old, his wife's, his third wife and widow.
it was her dog. at the last minute he said, how about i take the dog for company? >> but quick background on you. where did you work most of your life? >> i grew up in pittsburgh. i decided to get into journalism, went to penn state, started to get a masters, did not work out. i went to cincinnati for four years. then i left and went to l.a. got in the side door at "the l.a. times" as copy editor. had 12 great years in l.a. i went out there with a car with everything i owned on top, including a old typewriter. i went out to see what would happen to me in los angeles. i was divorced of the time and had two kids. i ended up getting married again
and having three hollywood-born children. that is my great gift of them. i worked at the "l.a. times" for 10 years, from 1979-1989. then we were back in pittsburgh, as i say, to raise my children and die in peace. >> you did work at the "pittsburgh post-gazette." >> for the 1990s, basically, then the "pittsburgh tribune review" which is a libertarian- alternative. >> you say discovering the truth about "travels with charley." why is there a truth to be exposed? >> i set out to do this. a lot of people say i set out to bring steinbeck down, which is totally silly. i did a lot of feature stories in my life as a journalist. a sunday feature story where you spend a week or two with somebody. there is a long piece and maybe analysis.
it was not a straight up-and- down reportorial piece, but more of a first-person piece, although i did not write it in the first person. i was very much in the story. i quit my daily newspaper job in march 2009 and thought, i will read books until i die. how about this book? i will find out where steinbeck went on his trip and i will follow that route faithfully, 50 years later, exactly 50 years later. it is almost like a sunday feature -- a sunday newspaper feature to the 10th power. no newspaper would let me go
away for seven weeks or spend that kind of money. i did it on my own dime and on my own time. my agent in new york did not think it was a good idea. road books do not sell anymore unless you are somebody famous. i started researching steinbeck. i bought "travels with charley." >> this is the 1997 version. i read it first in 1962. >> probably close to one million people. it sold 250,000 copies immediately. in any case, i was on, i started researching "travels with charley." i wrote down every place he went, every place he mentioned. i thought it would be fairly easy to find his route and determine what it was. i had a 1962 road atlas and plotted the trip. good thing i did not have a real job. i kept building this database of times and places in "travels with charley." i went to the steinbeck fast
summer of 2010. i went exactly 50 years after he went. he went right in the midst of the jfk-nixon race. i went 50 years later, the tea party fall of 2010. by the time i left i had read also the original manuscript of "travels with charley," which is sort of like a holy relic. the west coast relic is the truck he went in. the east coast relic is the manuscript, the original handwritten manuscript of "travels with charley." when i went to read it at the morgan library, it is unbelievably beautiful. like getting in and out of the
pentagon and the vatican at the same time. appointments, very strict. >> in new york city. i have been there many times. on madison avenue and 37% think? named after j.p. morgan. his old home. >> they brought out the manuscript donated by steinbeck, handwritten. he wrote in longhand, in pencil mostly. margin to margin, top to bottom. i can read most of the words, but many of them are indecipherable. i compared the manuscript with the published book. >> had anybody ever done that? >> the guy at the morgan told me i was the first person to do it since 2006, and only six or seven people had done it. >> did anybody ever publish anything? >> no. i call it the smoking gun, the smoking artillery piece. i did that last in my research. strange how it worked out --
worked out very well. there i am reading this manuscript. i had my smartphone with the kindle version of "travels with charley." i compared. and you realize that the untruth part of "travels with charley" is betrayed by the manuscript and the edits made on the manuscript. you see what he really did, his wife joined him in seattle, spent 20 days with him on the west coast. that is not in the book. he had all the scenes about them traveling together in the manuscript. going to resorts and staying at the st. francis hotel in san francisco, which is where fatty arbuckle and queen victoria
state. a very palatial place. i realized then there was quite a large gap between what steinbeck wrote and what he actually did on his trip. who he met, where he went, who he traveled with. >> you call him a fraud? >> i did. that was sort of a slow process. in my notebook, the day i read the manuscript i wrote the thing that this is a fraud. but i did not use that word until much later. i was introduced by a friend of mine at the "post-gazette." he called it something of a fraud. i like the way that rang. in a sense it is a literary fraud. it was marketed, sold, reviewed, and taught for 50 years as a true story. >> how old was he? >> 58, and not in great health. he had a couple strokes. he was fine, but not a young man. >> let's take a look at that. we were at the steinbeck center back in 2002 when we did a
series on writers. what was it named after? >> don quixote's horse, i hope. i'm a nonfiction guy. >> what i remember most is that basically, they set up the vehicle. it has one of the first camper bodies i have ever seen. that was not a major sport in those days. there were very few large campers that contain toilets and all the rest. he thought it made him look rather invisible on the road. there were not many of them in those days. he called it the turtle. >> rosinante? >> my father is a great fan of don quixote. it was sancho panza's mount.
it is really amazing that he occupied the space. >> did he sleep in here? >> yes. this table goes down and there was a mattress that goes on top so you could sleep this way. >> did you talk or meet with tom steinbeck? >> i tried several times. he is one of the first guys i wanted to talk to. who would know more about the real trip and what went on on the west coast than him? it was kind of awkward. his wife was kind of tough to get through. then i sort of gained her confidence. she warmed up to me a little. but i never -- he was in santa barbara. i was never going to be in santa barbara. i never talked to him. >> why should anybody care? >> that is a good question. >> not about your meeting with tom steinbeck, but the whole thing? >> in a way, if i were only
doing a book about the fictionalizing, some of the deceit that went into the writing and marketing and publishing of "travels with charley," i do not think that is enough to write a book about. that was one of my problems selling it to traditional publishers in new york. we tried everywhere. road books do not sell. steinbeck is not important enough to anybody. i did not have a real -- neither one of those made a book, but i think everything made a book. my adventures, my innocent, naive attempts to follow this trail and applying basic 30 years of journalism experience to the process as opposed to being a dog fan or a travel fan or a steinbeck fan -- i was a journalist. i followed the trail. there is no great reason to say this was a big deal, i do not think.
but there is fiction and there is nonfiction, and there is quite a divide between the two these days. there is creative nonfiction, narrative nonfiction, all these different applications or fictional techniques to nonfiction that are either ok or not ok depending on how far you go and make things up or fudging the facts or changing things around. as they say, all good nonfiction contains fictional techniques, narrative. >> he won a nobel prize for literature. what did he get it for? his whole body of work? >> pretty much so. he won it in 1962 a couple months after "travels with charley" came out. i guess it just came out recently he was sort of, ok, we do not have anybody else worthy
this year, we will give it to him. they had a bunch of people and they all -- the woman who wrote "out of africa" was one of the finalists. they gave it to steinbeck. they just release the notes from the nobel committee. he was sort of not a second choice but ok, we will give it to some guy. for his body of work. "travels with charley" was a big commercial success of the time. they did mention that in a release about the award. he had written "the winter of our discontent." >> let's look at john steinbeck in 1962 as he accepts the award. [applause]
>> it is customary for the recipient of this award to offer on the nature and direction of literature. in this particular time, however, i think it would be good for us to consider the responsibilities of the makers of literature. such is the prestige of the nobel award that at this place rice stand i'm compelled not to speak like a grateful and apologetic mouse but to roar like a lion for our profession and the great and good men who have practiced it through the ages. >> what you think he was like? what do you know from your research? >> likable in a lot of ways. i guess he became rich and famous.
he started out as a struggling writer. he worked hard to become rich and famous. he was a big guy. he had a big, heavy voice. i think he was a funny guy, a playful guy. he loves to travel. he traveled an awful lot with his family. at one point they all took off for europe. he was, i think, smart. he was a great writer, a great nature writer. he had trouble becoming a journalist at 25. he basically got fired from a new york newspaper because he could not tell the story straight, tell the facts straight. he was always embellishing, which is kind of funny to me. he is a tremendous writer. any journalist would love to be
able to capture the details and colors and feeling of nature and just reality as he took it in. now, his biographer, jackson benson, claims he was kind of cranky and not as good to his kids or a couple of his wives -- i do not know anything about that. to me, i guess my argument would be that of all the great celebrities and writers of his age he was a pretty normal guy. there are not any real horrible stories about him. >> let's look at some video at the sag harbor home. you took this video. do you remember when it was? wax it would have been the night before or the day of the 50th
anniversary of his leaving. >> you are starting your trip then? >> once i see it i can tell you when. >> this is where steinbeck started his trip, september 20 3, 1960. this is his house on a private lane. sag harbor, very close to south hampton. he planted that tree right by his door. it was tiny then, now it is huge. out in the yard, there is his writing house where he wrote. this is the writer's shack he used to write his books in. he would come out here where he could not lie and basically no one could visit him. it looks like it is in pretty good shape. the sun is going down behind it,
which makes for a pretty spectacular spot. >> who has that house now? >> his last wife, elaine, her heirs have control of the house. >> is it a museum? >> no. it is well taken care of. the "new york times" has taken pictures of the inside. i did not look inside the windows or anything that day. but the "times" took a bunch of pictures. it looks like it is pretty much the way it was when he left it. i think people live there or have lived there, and there is sort of a struggle over the house as to what to do with it. >> back to what you said earlier nobody wanted a book of travel. why not? what has happened? >> i do not think road books work anymore. unless you are -- i'm trying to think, william least heat moon, who wrote -- >> "blue highway."
>> that started out very small but grew into a big road book. i'm trying to think if there had been any major since. the traditional publishing industry is all about selling books. if they do not think it is going to sell, they do not care who you are or what you are doing. they do not want the book. i was told by way of my agent, who got responses by editors who read my proposal, the idea is when you go to write a book you write a proposal. the saying is that you sell the proposal, then write the book. i had to pitch this whole idea, what i was going to do, why was doing it, what i knew about steinbeck's book not being
factual. how i was going to compare my america in 2010 with steinbeck's 1960 america, all that stuff. basically, i was zero for 35 on this. it would great if it became a best-seller, i would have a final laugh, but i am not holding up much hope for that. it turned out much better than i thought. not only because the trip and people i met, which did not surprise me that i met so many wonderful interest and people driving around like a maniac for 43 days on 11,000 miles around the country. i knew i would meet good people. i have done things like that before, been on the road as a journalist. i know that if you are alone and on the road you will meet many interesting people. you will not mean the kind of people that steinbeck invented and put in his book because you do not meet traveling
shakespearean actors in the middle of a cornfield in eastern north dakota, as he says he did, and did not. but you do meet a farmer on a big ford truck. >> how do you know he did not meet that actor? >> he betrayed where he really was on the trip. he had no notes, no tape recorder. he did write letters to his wife from the road very often. >> how many of those did you read? >> maybe seven or eight. >> where were they? >> where were they? >> conveniently, in a book, "steinbeck, life and letters" edited by his widow. his wife joined him on the trip after about 10 days.
he drove from chicago to seattle, 2100 miles, in seven days. each night he wrote a letter. his wife flew back to new york. he is averaging 300 or 400 miles a day. each night he wrote a letter to his wife and said where he was. monday, tuesday, wednesday, thursday, friday. compare that to what he says in his book and you realize the night he says in the book that he is camped out under the stars in a cornfield in eastern north dakota meeting an itinerant shakespearean actor. the next night sleeping in the badlands, hearing the barking of coyotes. those two nights did not exist. they are pure invention. he was, as he said in a letter to his wife, in a motel taking a bath. so he and his wife inadvertently betrayed this by publishing those letters. i do not know if those letters would have ever seen the light of day. i often say what i did was nothing spectacular. any kid with a library card and a healthy dose of skepticism could have done what i did.
>> imagine william least heat moon. he has been here a couple times. i want to run a clip of him talking about john steinbeck. >> i think that "blue highway" is a better book than "travels with charley" -- but i must say this in john steinbeck's defense. he was suffering from cancer at the time. this is really his swan song, so to speak. he took a challenging trip. he took that well recovering from cancer and never really traveled again after that.
so for a man who is ill it is a tremendous effort. i admire tremendously. but it is not his best writing. >> reaction to that characterization? >> i agree. i agree, but it was not cancer. it was a series of strokes. he was in pretty good shape. it is easy to say, to be too nice -- too easy on steinbeck to say he was sick. that is why he had to make up the stuff he made up. there are contemporaneous reports about steinbeck where he was on the road. a man who wrote the book "helter-skelter," interviewed steinbeck in his hotel in san francisco. steinbeck was playful and full of vigor. others who saw him on this trip, especially in san francisco, he was not a sickly guy moping around the country. he was full of energy. and good health, apparently.
he was not totally depressed, either. based on these observations of people. his local paper, the "peninsula herald," in monterey, went to his cottage in pacific grove and found him there fixing the fence. they got a big picture of him. he was banging away at some fence trying to fix it. a very nicely written feature. he is perfectly fine. >> born in salinas, went to stanford -- john steinbeck -- lived in sag harbor way at the end of long island. >> and manhattan at the same time. >> how long did you live in manhattan? >> he died in 1968. >> 66 years old. >> i would say he was in new york the last 20 years of his life. >> back to when you were at the library in manhattan and reading the transcript as he wrote it.
who do you blame for changing the transcript? as it got to the book that was published? >> let's put it this way. steinbeck came back from his trip -- he had to write a book. that is why he took the trip. it was supposed to be a nonfiction account. he did not have a whole lot to talk about. initially in his manuscript he wrote his wife and he were looking for a good restaurant on the oregon coast. those were cut out. other things were all of the politics. the nixon-kennedy election was on. steinbeck saw every one of the four debates. he was on the road. >> it is the way you tracked him. >> he said he saw the debate in wherever he was.
you knew that he was there on that date. some of the editing is clearly designed to remove his wife, remove any mention that he paused -- he says, i paused five times. chicago, texas twice, california, and seattle. she stopped driving like a maniac and he was in seattle for four days with his wife. they drove down the coast to san francisco. then down to pacific grove to the family cottage for another 10-12 days. it was mr. and mrs. steinbeck the whole time. charley was out of the picture. at one point, steinbeck had to write a paragraph that said basically, people are asking what happened to charley. this was after his wife joined him in seattle. when he says we, it is a elaine and john.
it is not charley and john. steinbeck wrote about a page and a half saying, "people ask what happened to charley. when my lady fair joined me in seattle, charley is fine." that never appeared in the book. the editor expunged elaine entirely from the west coast. almost 30 days of her presence on the west coast. they were not studying america. they were on vacation. >> he talked about his relationship with adlai stevenson and lbj. the last chapter was supposed to be on jfk. i want to show the video of you at libertyville.
>> adlai stevenson. >> the former governor of illinois, presidential candidate in 1952, 1956 and steinbeck wanted him to be the candidate in 1960. did he write for him? >> he helped him with speeches and did some writing for him. it was not like he was the main ghost writer. they had correspondents at the princeton library. and steinbeck was very partisan, very political and geopolitical in national politics. he was sending stevenson all kinds of advice and jokes and ideas. >> here is your video from liberty ville. [video clip] >> steinbeck came here 50 years ago and i suspect they walked in the woods because in a later letter to stevenson, steinbeck reminded him of their walks in the autumn.
blazing autumn woods. great room. and steinbeck's books. and adlai stevenson's books. >> what kind of camera did you use? >> i have a canon hd. i created some youtube videos. i documented my trip. it was kind of scary i had a digital camera. i had a canon video camera and 10 or 12 notebooks. it makes it great.
because when i got back, i could look at that video and use it to help me describe what i was going to write about. >> do you have a price -- the driving, the gasoline, staying, writing and self publishing? >> this was a one man project for good and bad. i figured it cost me $5,000. and that is with about $2,000 of fuzzy accounting, whatever deterioration -- depreciation of my car and incidental things are lumped together. i figured food, gas, lodging was a little less than $3,000. >> what kind of a vehicle? >> a toyota rav 4 which i leased after testing out the back and seeing that i could stretch out in the back and sleep if i needed. >> how often did you sleep in the car?
>> 20 nights of 43. 10 of those were in wal-mart parking lots. i love walmart. i am not a walmart basher. i don't shop there, but i do like them. they have a policy that -- a corporate policy that welcomes people to sleep in their lots overnight, truckers and it goes back to sam walton. >> you mentioned kurt gentry. >> kurt gentry wrote "helter skelter" in the late 1960's about the manson killings. when the time that steinbeck came through, he was a huge fan. he was a freelancer for "the san francisco chronicle." he heard that steinbeck was coming to town.
he went, he called steinbeck and bag to for an interview. steinbeck said fine. gentry showed up with a bag of 21 steinbeck books. and steinbeck signed every one. and gentry is a good, old- fashioned writer-journalist. a tough guy. he lived in san francisco since 1955. he was nice to me. it was great to interview him because he went out and hung out with steinbeck with that half- hour interview. >> it was at the square bar -- the western square bar. north beach is there. >> it is where kerouac -- huge at that time, in 1960, it was like the present and future of american pop culture. the smothers brothers were there.
it was a jazz thing at the time, but rock and roll was coming and city lights was there. >> how was -- how old was kurt gentry? >> when i met him, he was 79. he is writing a book about the mob in vegas. >> $5,000 for the trip. did you buy the rav 4 new? >> leased it new, yes. >> still have it. in addition, what did it cause you to get this book published? >> nothing at the time. it is an amazon book. it cost me nothing to do the e- book. amazon makes everything extremely easy and cheap to do. then i created the paperback version. zero. printed on demand.
you go to amazon and you can get the e-book for $5.00 or get a paperback copy for $12. as soon as you push the button, they call somebody and -- in south carolina and the printed the book and mail it to. there is no inventory cost. i would not do this. if it were not for amazon, we would not be sitting here. the book would not exist. >> what is the reaction you have had from the steinbeck family? >> i heard nothing from the family, nothing from anyone really in the steinbeck world. now, i was a journalist who used to dipping into things for three weeks and leaving and doing something else for three weeks. you become the expert and forget everything and move on. and the steinbeck world has been my home for almost three years.
and i have spent more time on this than anything in my life. it is both a good thing and a bad thing. it gets to be a burden. i am interested in everything. city planning, i'm a libertarian. so you know i am full of ideas. >> back to steinbeck's politics. what to think of general eisenhower? >> he made fun of his syntax -- >> in print? >> in letters. to stevenson and others. i cannot remember if there is anything about eisenhower in "travels with charley," but a lot of what was taken of "travels with charley" was steinbeck's sniping at nixon and a little bit of ike. he hated nixon.
>> what was the reason? >> i think steinbeck -- and this was taken out of the book -- he was a partisan democrat. he said that in the manuscript twice. he did not like republicans. though he had grown up the son of a republican, his sisters were republican. monterey went for nixon in 1960. >> where did you find the letter that he wrote to his editor at viking? >> that is fairly easy to find. it may -- parts of it may be in one of the major biographies. it is floating around a lot. there is a book where he went from across the waste of america from new york to san francisco.
he uses that paragraph as a way to, as a jumping off point to do his book. it's there. it is commonly found -- i think it is in the biography. >> i'm going to read some of what john steinbeck wrote to his editor at viking. after? >> this has been after the travels and probably in the summer of 1961 when he was struggling to write, still struggling nine months after his trip ended to write "travels with charley." >> "thinking and thinking for a word to describe decay. not destruction --
>> what is the difference between what he is saying then and what we are thinking now? >> i think that was all horribly pessimistic and inaccurate account of america. i do not know where he gets that. i have a grudge against people who are rich and famous and lived in new york and who go out and fly over the country and say
that the people out there are too materialistic. these are people who have everything they need. and then they go out and complain about regular americans wanting trucks and toys. >> how is america different for you when you got back from this trip? >> not much. i knew -- my trip did not surprise me. i had been around the country, doing small, real journalism- type stories, and the people i met on my trip were no different than the people i had been meeting for 20 or 30 years. >> characters? >> the guy who, a german- american who had a restaurant and wisconsin named rolfe, i cannot think of his last name. i would go into his restaurant in the dark of a night and he's he comes out of kitchen, he is covered with grease.
he was back there cooking. he tells me his life story. he tells me how he had seen hitler when he was 8. just amazing little stories, which i retell and there at length because where do meet a guy like that except in the woods of wisconsin? >> what about the guy -- i tried to find this on youtube. the guy who made his own videos. >> i could not find it. he may have taken them down. a guy named bob. he was a wild man. >> o-e-h-n-e-r. >> i met four characters in one day. the first was a guy riding a camou atv. >> all terrain vehicle.
>> he was sitting on the corner in the middle of nowhere. he was like an msnbc democrat ranting. he was tremendous. i could read every word he said. he was scared. then i met bob who was scary because he had done these youtube videos. it was challenging tea party people and republicans to fight through this youtube thing. a total character, a nice guy but certifiably and probably crazy. >> he would say the tea party is scary. >> being a libertarian, i can adapt to all ends of the spectrum. i am not a republican. he hated republicans. he hated ceo's. called them hells angels in suits. then i met rolf.
>> i have some more video i want to show. there is one of when you visit the spaulding in were steinbeck allegedly stayed. why do we say allegedly? >> because there is no real proof. two people told me he did. both of whom worked at the inn in 1960. but that allegedly may be the leftover caption for when i first put it up there. i later proved -- here is the video. [video clip] >> the spaulding inn where steinbeck stayed on one of his passes, his adventures. i have not seen it yet. here's how you get to it. this is where steinbeck stayed, according to current local reporter named jeff woodburn.
steinbeck was seen here by six or seven people. in there, dressed to the nines. it's not really a camper. >> did -- did you find yourself getting irritated as you went through the trip? >> not in a real sense. i think early on i realized that what was in the book and what he really did were often very far apart. and i didn't feel like -- i think some people accused me of being on a jihad.
this is what happens in journalism. i had to follow the trip. i had to complete the trip or it was no use doing it. >> were you by yourself the entire time? >> i thought of a dog for five minutes. then i thought how i will go around the country this fast and worry about a dog, too. i did not have a dog at the time.
no. you've got to do a trip like this alone. steinbeck, when he set out to do this trip, he had great plans and it was going to be what what amounted a great journalism project by a great writer. it was going to go alone, he was going to take pictures. it was going to send dispatches from the road to newspaper chains. he did none of that. he did not travel alone. he was not alone very much. >> but you've tried all along the way to get people to fall you. >> yes. i did a daily blog back to the pittsburgh post-gazette called travels without charley. two or three times a day i would send back much of what turned out to be the core of that book. the people i met, what i did, photos, no video at the time. when i got back, i started putting up the videos. i documented my trip as i went. that got to be a lot of work. but i have fun.
this was not torture. i had a great time. i met people i will never forget. and they are in the book, thank god. thank god i had written so much about it as i went, because to read -- to put it together after the fact would have been very tough. >> you have all reference to this network in your book when you talk about the call-in show and that steinbeck wrote about the voices that he heard sounding more and more the same across the country. but you say tune in this network and listen to the calls and you hear a lot of different voices. what was your experience? >> i heard plenty of accents. i taped one. a guy in maine who gave me directions to the house that steinbeck stopped at in his trip. he was so amazing. i could hardly understand -- i turned on my smart phone and taped the directions. because his accent was so heavy. he had a great accent. someone waited on me in texas, i could barely understand her. there are plenty of people with accents in america. i live in pittsburgh where there
are still plenty of people with the pittsburgh accent. it would think that tv and radio would have killed it off, but it has not. >> on the front of this cover i have here of the steinbeck "travels with charley" book is a picture of john steinbeck sitting in front of a tree with the dog, the poodle. you talk about this picture in your book. >> that picture was also used as part of the ad campaign. i think that is what i am referring to. they did full-page ads in "the new york times" and elsewhere. that is the picture they used with steinbeck and charley. he was a standard poodle. he was not a baby, that is for sure. >> did you find anybody that could tell you how many books of "travels with charley" had been sold since it published in 1962? >> the penguin group now owns the rights to steinbeck's books. when he wrote them, it was the viking press. the penguin group people said, i said, can you give me an
estimate of how many "travels with charley" books have been sold? and they gave me the number 1.5 million. when it first came out, somewhere i saw the figure of 250,000 copies were sold within the first month or two. >> so if somebody wants your book, they can get it on amazon as an e-book for -- >> it's $12.99. i can make it $10.99 or $19.99. >> is it in any bookstores? >> no. >> can they find your videos on youtube? >> yes. i have a web site called the truth about "travels with charley." it's truth about charley.com. if they go there, they can eventually find my youtube video. >> here is some video at fremont's peak.
where is that? >> it overlooks -- it is the highest point in monterey county, in steinbeck country. it is 20 miles from salinas. it's a little peak. it might -- may be about three times the size of your studio. you have to be a mountain goat to get there. >> how long did it take you to get to the top? >> a 15 minute walk from the parking lot. to me, i love it because there are no rangers, and no guards, no railings. it is a state park, yet, you are pretty much on your own. >> let's look at what you videotaped. [video clip] >> it's ridiculously high. scary up here. i'm on freemont peak, overlooking steinbeck country.
the glare is the sun glancing off the bay. i hope i do not kill myself trying to show this. i dropped the camera and miraculously it is still working. i am looking in to the sun. >> what did fremont mean to john steinbeck? >> one of my favorite sections is when he is leaving monterey and heading back east on his trip. and he says that he goes up to the top of fremont peak, which he could see from his childhood home. you could see it from everywhere in the valley. he went up there and he used it
as a metaphor to go up there and look back on his life. there is some really good writing. i went there because he went there. it is hard to get to. you have to go up 11 miles to this narrow road. then you have to walk to the top where i was in the picture, in that video. you can sit there usually by yourself and watch the sun sink into monterey bay. >> did you want to make money off of this? >> yeah. >> did you need to? >> yeah. i basically -- i was living on what was left of my 401k. i had no advance. ideally, i wanted to get an advance from a publishing company. even if it was $20,000. then go out and you write the book and do the traveling. -- while you are spending the publishers money. nobody gave me a dime.
it came down to -- when i tried to sell the book before i went, the publishers and agents said you have to make the trip first. so i did the trip and i came back and it was easy to get an agent after i had made the trip. but it was impossible to get any of the legacy or traditional publishers in new york to fork over any money. >> what do you think? are you going to make enough money on this to make it worthwhile? >> it is worthwhile. to me, being here with you is reward enough. it is selling four or five copies per day. if you do the math, and i make $3 or $4 a copy. if this would bring me $400 for as long as i live per month, it is a second little -- >> what outlet has done the most good for you in american media?
>> "reason" magazine, my libertarian friends. i wrote everything i wrote for the post-gazette within four weeks after i came back. i made my statement that the book was a literary fraud, all that stuff. five months later, "reason" magazine published an expanded version of that article. i was able to get somebody i knew at "the new york times" to wave it in front of "the new york times." no initial media paid any attention, other than -- on the media, the npr station, they were smart, they were on it back in december. no print media. "the new york times" saw the article. once they did see it, i had a call from charles mcgrath. he did an article about me. my claims.
the power of "the new york times" is awesome. i was suddenly given credibility. i was reading my name in hungarian, all around the world. the story of steinbeck's book "travels with charley" being outed as a piece of heavily fictionalized piece of work, all over the world. >> our guest bill steigerwald lives in pittsburgh. spent 10 years with "the l.a. times" and "the pittsburgh post- gazette." and has a book we have been talking about called "dogging steinbeck: discovering america and exposing the truth about travels with charley." thank you very much. >> thank you. [captioning performed by national captioning institute] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2013]
>> for a dvd copy of this program, call 1-877-662-7726. for free transcripts or for your comments, visit us at q-and- a.org. today programs are available as podcasts. >> next, david cameron takes questions from members of the house of commons. after that, in looking politics and debate around the automatic spending cuts then a discussion on the proposed merger between american airlines and u.s. airways. on the next "washington journal " we will talk about sequestration and ex-effect on sequestration and ex-effect on workers