Sian Cain in The Guardian:
The manuscript for My Life With John Steinbeck, by the author’s second wife and mother of his two children, has been in Montgomery, My Life With John Steinbeck recalls a troubled marriage that spanned 1943 to 1948, a period in which he would write classics including Cannery Row and The Pearl. During their marriage, Conger Steinbeck described a husband who was emotionally distant and demanding. “Like so many writers, he had several lives, and in each he was spoilt, and in each he felt he was king,” she wrote. “From the time John awoke to the time he went to bed, I had to be his slave.”
Conger Steinbeck first met the author as a nightclub singer in 1938, when he was married to his first wife, Carol Henning. In 1941, Conger Steinbeck alleges that the author sat her down with Henning and told them both: “Whichever of you ladies needs me the most and wants me the most, then that’s the woman I’m going to have.” Describing their wedding night, Conger Steinbeck recalls one “Lady M” ringing their bedroom and speaking to the author for more than an hour on the phone. Conger Steinbeck alludes to Lady M being his mistress, writing that the pair had a “matinee about three times a week”. By her account, Steinbeck rarely showed affection to her or their two sons, Thomas and John Jr, and had never wanted any children. When she was experiencing problems during her pregnancy with John Jr, Steinbeck told her that she had “complicated” his life during a busy period of writing. When John Jr arrived prematurely in 1946, she recalls Steinbeck telling her: “I wish to Christ he’d die, he’s taking up too much of your fucking time.” She identifies the conversation as “the moment when love died”.