While I was looking up Of Mice and Men in Wikipedia on Friday - I noticed an interview that was by John Steinbeck in 1937 (the same year the book came out), and I read something interesting in there about Lennie Small - altohugh this was not only Wikipedia saying so - it was witnessed by other sites:
"I was a bindlestiff myself for quite a spell. I worked in the same country that the story is laid in. The characters are composites to a certain extent. Lennie was a real person. He's in an insame asylum in California right now. I worked alongside him for many weeks. He didn't kill a girl. He killed a ranch foreman. Got sore because the boss had to fire his pal and stuck a pitchfork right through the stomach. I hate to tell you how many times I saw him do it. We couldn't stop him until it was too late."
Ah, so that person could've been the inspiration for Lennie. This was around the years when John Steinbeck worked as a migrant worker at a ranch for the summer holidays and experienced these facts that later appear in the Of Mice and Men novel. Of course, the real life "Lennie" isn't named here - and there doesn't seem to be any documents of a real life Lennie Small in an insane asylum for mentally ill people. Although, maybe John never revealed his real name and that we won't know for sure.
Some of Steinbeck's interviews from 1937 are very interesting and very inspiring - even when he mentions that Curley's wife wasn't a real person -- but a symbol to Lennie -- a bad sign.