They were all penned by writers who worked in Monterey or nearby, leaving a lasting legacy not only on the world’s library shelves but here where they lived. Only one was a ‘native son’ but all found their spiritual home in this special part of the Central Coast.
John Steinbeck is far and away best known: Nobel laureate in 1962, Pulitzer Prize winner (in 1939, for “Grapes of Wrath”), and the man his hometown, Salinas, would have once voted ‘most likely to be run out of town on a rail.’ “Grapes of Wrath,” his exposé of the plight of migrant farmworkers, outraged the landowners he criticized; his play-like novel “Of Mice and Men” is often in the Ten Most Frequently Banned Books list. But now, the >National Steinbeck Center, in Oldtown Salinas, is dedicated to displaying the honesty, integrity and humor of the man and his works.
Edward Flanders Ricketts — immortalized as ‘Doc’ in Steinbeck's “Cannery Row” and “Sweet Thursday” — was a marine biologist who explored the concept of ‘ecology’ long before the word became fashionable. His great work, “Between Pacific Tides,” is still required reading in many college syllabi. Visitors can view the Pacific Biological Lab — a plain and simple wooden building where he composed the book while working on Cannery Row.
Although he only stayed a few months in Monterey, while courting Fanny Van de Grift Osbourne, the place and its people inspired the Scots author Robert Louis Stevenson to write a charming memoir, “The Old Pacific Capital.” The wild coastline around Point Lobos is said to have inspired settings in his first masterpiece, “Treasure Island.” The French Hotel where he stayed while pursuing Fanny’s hand in marriage is now called Stevenson House.
To discover two other great writers who made their homes in Monterey County one must travel further afield. In Carmel, see the stone structures, Tor House and Hawk Tower, built by Robinson Jeffers — a perfect complement to his sonorous, bardic verses. In Big Sur, visit the Henry Miller Library, founded by Emil White to house the controversial author’s books and artwork, and to shelter gatherings of poets, writers and songmakers.