Recognized as an outstanding writer of short fiction, Steele has twice seen his work published in O. Henry Prize Story collections. Some of his stories have been collected in two books, Where She Brushed Her Hair (1968) and The Hat of My Mother (1988). His award-winning novel, Debby, appeared in 1950. In 1969, Harper and Row published his book for children, The Cat and the Coffee Drinkers. Steele studied at Furman University and the University of North Carolina, as well as at the Sorbonne while he was an advisory editor with Paris Review. He served as lecturer at the University of California at San Francisco and at the University of North Carolina, where during 1966-1967 he was writer-in-residence.