ENCINITAS — Twenty years ago, North County resident Pat Steele wrote a novel that told a story of a young man’s struggle with drugs and his ultimate spiritual redemption in Mexico.
Without a publisher, and today’s self-publication options not available to Steele, he put the 300-page manuscript in his garage.
Flash forward to today, and Steele, 68, is celebrating the release of the book, “Scorpion Bay,” which he said is just as relevant today than it was when he wrote it, maybe even more.
“I hadn’t read the book in 20 years, and when (my friend) mentioned it, I started to edit it and I said, ‘Wow, this still flies,’” Steele said Monday morning during an interview at a Leucadia coffee shop. “None of it is dated, it’s basically timeless as far as I am concerned.
“I enjoy the fact that I’ve had people come up to me and say that they really liked the book, but I am still sort of amazed that it actually happened,” Steele said.
The novel centers around the main character, Will, who grew up with an alcoholic father but finds steady work as a carpenter and a relationship with his steady girlfriend that looks like it might last forever. However, it doesn’t, which sends him into a drug-fueled tailspin from which he seemingly can’t get out of until he is taken in by a Mexican fisherman, whose family guides Will back to health and sobriety.
Like most great novels, Steele’s words are inspired by both his life experience and many of his friends growing up in Playa Del Rey during the late 60s and 70s, when America first began its love affair with hard drugs and the party culture.
Steele battled a substance abuse problem for three years, and during the same time he saw many of his friends lose the battle, winding up in prison, or as in the case of a former girlfriend, dead from drug overdose.
Many of the issues are relevant today.
“Of course, we are dealing with a major opioid crisis, and Will was strung out on heroin,” Steele said.
Whereas the character Will found his redemption in Mexico, Steele said he found is down Interstate 5, when he moved in 1969 from Playa Del Rey to Leucadia to reset his life. Here, he said, he found his wife, Betty, sobriety and purpose.
“You have to bottom out yourself, you have to be so miserable that you say, ‘I can’t do this anymore,” Steele said. “My parents laid down a great foundation, they were great role models, but at that time, nobody could have told me anything. I had to find it myself. It gets down to sort of a ‘tough love.’”
Steele rebounded from his low point and became a successful roofing contractor. He and his wife moved to Solana Beach where they lived for four decades before recently returning to Leucadia after he retired. He spends his days playing competitive softball, surfing and “my wife gets me a list every morning.”
“I told her, ‘If you want me to write another book, you gotta shorten that list,’” Steele said with a laugh.
While not ready to begin a second novel, Steele said his follow-up effort might be an anthology of stories he has written over the years for various publications, including The Coast News.
To purchase a copy of “Scorpion Bay,” visit www.aspenwoodpublishing.com/