For most in Connecticut, the name Robert Steele conjures up the image as a former Congressman who unsuccessfully ran again the late governor Ella T. Grasso, the well-spoken politician whose dad, Bob Steele, was a radio icon.
These days however, Robert Steele is an author. His debut book, “The Curse,” is a novel, a family saga that begins in the 17th century and morphs into a contemporary tale of the arrival of casino gambling in Connecticut, complete with historical references, mobsters, politicians and business moguls looking to get rich quick. Steele, a one-time resident of Ledyard, lived next to the Mashantucket Pequot Reservation, affording him a front row seat to the state’s emerging gambling industry. Why he wrote the book and how he did it were some of the topics he discussed when he Spilled the Beans with Java.
Q: You were such an intense politician in your heyday so I was surprised you wrote a novel rather than some “think tank” non-fiction about the evil of gambling. Why do it this way?
A: I came in touch with this story in many different places. I played Little League baseball in Wethersfield within a mile of the Pequot attack. I served in Congress so I knew the political aspects and the players and the chiefs of the tribes. And then I lived on edge of the reservation for 21 years till 1998 and as I watched this develop it seemed this was one of the most fascinating stories in Connecticut. Here was this region that was hit out of the blue, something that had an enormous impact on its economy and culture. People who don’t live there can’t begin to grasp the impact of casino gambling. The more I thought about it and trying to link it to my experience, it seemed to me the whole story of the past and how it happened was a fascinating one. I knew there were three factual books already written on the subject so I saw no reason to try that but decided to do it from a different direction and to a broader audience. I think a good story is always made up of what is most interesting. I think it is an absolutely intriguing story and even more intriguing as I tell it from a fictional character point of view.
Q: Clearly you have a personal interest in that you represented that area of the state. Given the name of the book, was writing it a way to unload your pent-up anger or a gentle way to teach a lesson?
A: I hope people will find it a fascinating story. I hope it will serve as a cautionary tale about bringing gamble casinos into their towns and communities. Every week we read about economy and jobs and I am most concerned as the gambling monopoly ends, what happens next? The best independent economists and analysts say the cost benefit ratio of a casino is 3 to 1, that’s three dollars spent for every dollar in benefits, money spent on things like social issues, broken families, gambling addiction. Ct has been in a more advantageous position because more than half of these gamblers are from out of state but that is going to change as other states add casinos. Now our governor is saying double down and we should be a leader in internet gambling.
Q: I take it you don’t agree with that?
A: There is a double concern. It’s terrible. I think it is time for some leader to step forth as Gov. Weicker did and say more gambling is not what this state needs.
Q: The story line of your novel pretty much boils down to greed and what seems to be politicians and slick business people who use their positions to undermine others and that never-ending battle of money somehow circumventing common sense. Or did I read it wrong?
A: It comes down to public policy and where are our leaders? There is another new book that will scare the daylights out of you by an MIT professor called “Addiction by Design.” It’s about how today’s modern slot machines are addiction delivery devices that are designed to maximize the time people are on the slot machines. Liberals and conservatives agree it is an aggressive tax that goes after people who are susceptible. Internet gambling which would put a casino on everyone’s Smartphone. Somebody has to ask ‘is that good?’The book is intended to entertain as an engaging gripping novel and be a cautionary tale about where America is going.
Q: You sound as though you might have some renewed political plans?
A: Politics are distant in my past and I am totally sitting on the sidelines. No absolutely not. I spent a long time writing this book and I couldn’t step up any more.
Q: Any thoughts on the state of our state from a politician’s point of view?
A: I think we are doing everything we can to encourage jobs and the economy and I applaud those efforts. I like seeing the biotech and other technology growth and what seems to be a replacement for manufacturing. We should ride that, it seems to be the trend in the country. It should not be more gambling.
Q: What about the current national campaign, the U.S. Senate horserace between Chris Murphy and Linda McMahon?
A: I am still a Republican. But I look at these candidates and the arguments and one of the things that bothers me is nobody wants to tell the truth about what has to be done. There is no way there will be Social Security when my grandkids are ready unless we reform it. It is so dishonest to say ‘I will do nothing about social security.’ Everybody is going to have to get together and make these tough decisions. I don’t even want to discuss who I am supporting. Don’t want it to get mixed up with the book.
Q: Will you consider writing any other books?
A: I have a different feeling every day. It depends on how exhausted I am. I have no immediate plans. This book was really unique because I lived there for 21 years and knew the players.
Steele will disucss his book on Nov. 8, at the Essex Library and on Nov. 15, at RJ Julia in Madison.
- -- ADVERTISEMENT --
- Mickey on Aurora Hands Out Awards
- Carmen Rivera on South Glastonbury Woman Headed To Miss USA Contest
- EDWARD GAWLAK on South Glastonbury Woman Headed To Miss USA Contest
Java Blog Email Form