Speedway Best Seller
by Dana R. Rowe
He may have written up the profile of your favorite driver for the Seekonk Speedway Program and you knew him as Steven Herbert. You probably didn’t know that Steven Herbert’s brother was racing on the track at the same time. But what they did at Seekonk sent them both off into their bigger careers.
Steven Herbert went on from the modest program to becoming a best-selling novelist. His brother went on to Roush-Fenway Racing. But the family name wasn’t Herbert – it was Steven’s pen-name, his Mark Twain, so-to-speak. His books today are under the family name of Manchester. Ah. Perhaps you’ve now guessed that Steven’s brother is Billy Manchester, who wheeled about on Saturday nights on the third-mile oval.
Since heading off from writing driver profiles, Steven Manchester has become a novelist, publishing several books, six of which have gone on to become publishing industry bestsellers. Three with Barnes and Noble and three more with Amazon. And his latest is Ashes, which currently resides at number three with Barnes and Noble and has won multiple book festival awards. He counts 17 books in his output and has more under creation.
Steve gives full credit to his Grandfather, Herbert Manchester, who was an amazing storyteller. “He was an old Yankee,” says Steve, “and he could spin a yarn! He’d make you laugh, make you cry – take you to another place. As a kid, I wanted to tell stories. His son, my Uncle Herbie, was a big influence.”
Not long out of high school, his life got sidetracked. Steve was a member of the National Guard and his unit was sent to the Gulf War – operation Desert Storm. Their Military Police company was picked up and dropped into the forces forming up to oust Sadam Hussein’s forces from Kuwait. Steve says: “It was the experience that made me think about the rest of my life. I made a decision in the middle of the Arabian Desert – I’m gonna close my dream down.”
And when he came back he went to Bristol Community College to finish his degree in criminal Justice. In class, his prof, Barry McKie challenged him to write a book. As he says on his website (http://www.stevenmanchester.com) “During one of the classes, my professor, Barry McKee, detailed police work, but barely touched on other topics. I finally raised my hand and asked, ‘As the criminal justice system is so vast, what about the courts, probation, parole – corrections?’ Barry smiled and told me to see him after class. I thought I’d done it! In his office, Barry explained, “Except from the slanted perspectives of inmates, there’s no real written material out there on corrections, or prisons.” Barry smiled again and then dropped the bomb that would change. my life forever. “If you’re so smart,” he said, “why don’t you write it?” It was the last push I needed to get writing. Nine months later, I placed the first draft of 6-5; A Different Shade of Blue (under the pen name, Steven Herberts) on Barry’s desk. From then on, I was hooked. I was a writer.” Full-circle back to Grandpa Herbert Manchester’s storytelling. Steve and McKie still remain in contact over the passing time.
It took the year to write the book, but another three years passed in the effort to get the manuscript into publication, done by a small press on Long Island. And still under the name he used for writing at Seekonk: Steven Herberts. And after publication, it took a while for the first-time author to get the book sold. “It’s taken years to get myself read,” he says. “You have to build an interested audience.”
During that time, Steve had begun writing for the Program and did so for the 96 and 97 seasons. One of the high points came in June of 96. “I was able to write an article about my brother. Gail [Pangelinan] gave me the assignment out of the blue. At the time I used the pen name. They didn’t know we were brothers.”
Through the racing magazine, through BCC, he kept the writing going and it prospered: “You stay at it long enough . . . You have to stay at the table to get a winning hand.” As the chips began to fall his way, his appreciation for his craft was altered: “It used to be that the publishing was a big part of it. Today it’s the writing.”
In that vein, he recalls sitting on a bench at the beach with his laptop: “And it was going great – I got so much work done that day. And his finger keep flying across the keyboard.
The year 2000 saw him complete The Unexpected Storm: the Gulf War Legacy, covering his experiences during and after serving in Desert Storm. Amazon calls it, “ A compelling tale of friends made and lost, battles anticipated but never fought, and promises broken. Steve covers the footsoldier’s view of the war which went on for just 100 hours but tied everybody up for most of a year.
Meanwhile, Brother Bill had acquired an interested audience for his skills: Roush-Fenway Racing. He was off and working on Greg Biffle’s over-the-wall crew as a gas man. Part of the 13-second ballet. They called themselves the Pit Bullies and won pit crew of the year. These days, he’s risen through the organization and now serves as a shock specialist.
Along his career path, Steve branched out, creating a play, “Three Shoeboxes”, dealing with Post Traumatic Stress. It received its world premiere through a local theatre company, Footlights. It was performed in Swansea under the direction of Sue Nichols-Nedar. “That was a fun project for me. It was cool to sit back. I have friends who were in that. My daughter was in it. It was a very cool experience for me.”
Now the play has been rewritten into a novel and will be his next book.
His current hopes are pinned on the continued success of Ashes, which has won the Beach Book Festival, a big boost for its sales and publicity. It’s the story of a pair of estranged brothers who are brought back together by their deceased father’s lawyer who tells them they can have the large envelope their abusive and alcoholic father left for them. Not looking forward to the trip they embark and begin to discover . . .
It joins his other primary books among the 17 he has written and as the current sales project tops the list. Among his titles are: The Changing Season, Gooseberry Island, Pressed Pennies, The Rockin’ Chair, Good Night Brian and Twelve Months. “ I’ve written a dozen and a half books, with four of them (The Rockin’ Chair, Twelve Months, Pressed Pennies and Gooseberry Island) becoming #1 national bestsellers. And I’m just getting started!”