Levinson, Robert S.
LEVINSON, Robert S.
PERSONAL: Born in New York, NY; married; wife's name Sandra; children: Deborah, David. Education: Attended University of California, Los Angeles. Hobbies and other interests: Movies, music, art, pleasure reading, big game hunting.
ADDRESSES: Agent—Susan Crawford, Crawford Literary Agency, 198 Evans Road, Barnstead, NH 03218. E-mail—[email protected]
CAREER: Mystery writer. Riverside, CA, Press Enterprise, Los Angeles Times, reporter; Harshe-Rotman & Druck, A/E; Filon Corporation, advertising and public relations director; Levinson Associates, founder, chairman, and president, 1965; Levinson Entertainment Ventures International, Inc., founder, TV writer and producer. Freelance writer.
Past board member of Writers Guild of America, west chapter, Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, and Country Music Association; former president of Public Communicators of Los Angeles, Hollywood Radio and Television Society, and Hollywood Press Club (six presidential terms); former chairperson and member of editorial board of Writers Guild of America's magazine Written By.
Co-emcee of the 2002 MWA Edgar Awards ceremony, writer-producer of the 2003 Edgar Awards.
MEMBER: Writers Guild of America West, Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, Mystery Writers of America (president and member of Southern California chapter and national board member, 2002-03), Country Music Association, Public Communicators of Los Angeles, Hollywood Radio and Television Society.
AWARDS, HONORS: Named Billboard Publicist of the Year for international campaigns involving Fleetwood Mac and others; .
"neil gulliver and stevie marriner" series
The Elvis and Marilyn Affair: A Neil Gulliver andStevie Marriner Novel, Forge Books (New York, NY), 1999.
The James Dean Affair: A Neil Gulliver and StevieMarriner Novel, Forge Books (New York, NY), 2000.
The John Lennon Affair: A Neil Gulliver and StevieMarriner Novel, Forge Books (New York, NY), 2001.
Hot Paint: A Neil Gulliver and Stevie Marriner Novel, Forge Books (New York, NY), 2002.
Former art columnist and critic for Coast; contributor of articles to Los Angeles Times Magazine, Rolling Stone, Westways, Los Angeles Free Press, Written By, and Los Angeles Magazine; contributor of short stories to Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, and the book Flesh and Blood: Guilty as Sin, Mysterious Press/Warner Books (New York, NY), 2003. Also wrote and produced forty television comedy, musical, variety, and awards specials for the world marketplace, including Annual Soap Opera Awards.
WORK IN PROGRESS: A stand-alone novel.
SIDELIGHTS: Robert S. Levinson, born in New York and raised in Los Angeles as the oldest of five children, could type by the age of ten. His father, a cab driver who wrote in his spare time, went into debt to purchase a typewriter and taught his young son how to use it. "I've always been a writer of something," Levinson told interviewer Nancy Eaton, of the Mysteries Galore Web page. Even as a child, he was "pumping out multiple copies of a one-page 'newspaper'" and delivering it to neighbors. He was the editor for his junior and senior high newspapers, as well as for a sportswriting organization that had been associated with the now-defunct Los Angeles Examiner. His passion led him to leave the University of California, Los Angeles after two years in order to become a reporter.
Several years later he entered the public relations field, and he established his own firm in 1965, which became the largest rock-contemporary music P.R. firm in the world. Levinson's Web site that "Any catalog of Levinson Associates clients—comprising more than 700 major star names—would include Elton John, Stevie Wonder, Fleetwood Mac, The Who, Three Dog Night," and others. In 1982 he established Levinson Ventures, Inc., for which he wrote and produced more than forty television award shows. "All of it got pretty much pushed aside when I decided to finally pursue something I'd hoped to do from the time I was a teenager, write a novel," Levinson told Eaton.
Levinson's first novel, The Elvis and Marilyn Affair, was described by Whitney Scott and Emily Melton in Booklist as a "smart, sassy, fast-paced crime read that is funny, inventive, and hard to put down." The plot centers around Neil Gulliver and his ex-wife, Stephanie "Stevie" Marriner—he a newspaper columnist and former crime reporter, she a well-known "Sex Queen of the Soaps" about to make her Broadway debut. Marriner, however, becomes a suspect in the murder of Blackie Sheridan, author and director of the one-woman play, Marilyn Remembers. In the play, Marriner stars as Marilyn Monroe, whose affair with Elvis Presley will be exposed following the discovery of love letters between the two stars. Gulliver, still smitten with Marriner, sets out to prove her innocence. "It will be an uphill battle," commented Cathy Sova in her review for Mystery Reader. "Virtually everyone at the Motion Picture Retirement Estates, the cottage community for ex-showbiz types where the murder took place, will be a suspect." And as the intrigue mounts, so does the body count. A Publishers Weekly reviewer wrote, "The hunt for the real murderer and the chase for the letters doesn't stop until the last page."
In an interview with Sova for Mystery Reader, Levinson recalled how the book developed: "I follow the standard advice: write what I know." Drawing on his many years of experience, he wrote a "mainstream novel set in the world of rock-and-roll." His literary agent, however, suggested he write a mystery instead. Levinson stated during the interview: "The rock-and-roll novel goes into the trunk and I do my homework," studying the works of best-selling mystery and crime-fiction authors. He noted that his most important realization at this time was that myteries were "like any other novel except, maybe, for a dead body or two in chapter one." He decided his "hook" would be a Marilyn and Elvis affair. In her review of the book, Sova concluded that the novel "offers an entertaining mystery, a nifty hero, and a less-than-satisfying heroine. If Stevie Marriner can be humanized, this would be a duo worth visiting again." Meanwhile, a contributor to Kirkus Reviews wrote, "Levinson . . . knows his turf well enough to make this readable celebrity rip-off a plausible first for a projected series."
The second novel in the series, The James Dean Affair, made it to number one on the Los Angeles Times bestseller list just three weeks after its release. The plot finds the former husband and wife—Gulliver and Marriner—best friends and now involved in a murder investigation. At a ceremony attended by the couple to launch a James Dean commemorative stamp, Marriner's soap opera costar, also a former Dean costar, is shot dead by a man who appears to be Dean himself. It is rumored that Dean survived his 1955 car crash and is murdering former co-stars, including Natalie Wood and Sal Mineo. Gulliver seeks advice from his father, who once played a role in Dean's movie, Giant, and who also believes Dean is alive. As more of Dean's costars die, Gulliver fears for his father's life. K. W. Becker, who reviewed the novel for Mystery Reader, wrote that "Levinson takes liberties that are perilously close to libel to develop a shaky story that doesn't hold together and quickly loses the reader's interest. . . . The body count is high, the entertainment value is low." In another review, Booklist contributor Jenny McLarin wrote, "Although the convoluted, implausible plot may annoy some readers . . . the smart-alecky dialogue helps keep your mind off the plot."
Levinson's third and fourth novels, The John Lennon Affair and Hot Paint, resurrect his motif of tying a factual celebrity death to a fictionalized crime, solved by the unconventional former husband-and-wife amateur-detective team. Of The John Lennon Affair, which also made the Los Angeles Times bestseller list, Gary Niebuhr commented in Booklist that "A convoluted plot . . . makes for challenging and occasionally frustrating reading." Rex Klett, however, wrote in a review for Library Journal that the novel has "Wonderful dialog, great plotting, plentiful Hollywood tidbits, and literate prose."
Regarding Hot Paint, a critic for Publishers Weekly wrote: "There's almost too much going on here, making the plot difficult to follow at times, but Levinson, a veteran art columnist and critic, reveals plenty of substance under the glitz." The novel's plot is triggered when a collection of Andy Warhol silk screens are presented to Marriner by a well-known gangster. Gulliver and Marriner discover one print missing, and their investigation leads them to the underground trade of stolen masterpieces, for which collectors kill, and to works of art that the Nazis had confiscated from Jewish collectors. John Austin commented on the Books of the Month Web site: "It is a brilliantly plotted, and exceedingly clever telling of a subject not too many novelists have gone into: the ongoing efforts to recover and return to the legal owners among surviving Jewish families, art treasures stolen during the Holocaust years." Austin commended Levinson for his "painstaking and thorough research."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, August, 1999, Whitney Scott and Emily Melton, review of The Elvis and Marilyn Affair, p. 2035; August, 2000, Jenny McLarin, review of A James Dean Affair, p. 2120; July, 2001, Gary Niebuhr, review of The John Lennon Affair, p. 1987.
Kirkus Reviews, August 16, 1999, review of The Elvis and Marilyn Affair, p. 989; June 15, 2000, review of The James Dean Affair, p. 837; August, 2001, review of The John Lennon Affair, p. 835; June 1, 2002, review of Hot Paint, p. 774.
Library Journal, August, 2001, review of The JohnLennon Affair, p. 169.
Publishers Weekly, July 12, 1999, review of The Elvis and Marilyn Affair, p. 80; July 10, 2000, review of The James Dean Affair, p. 48; July 16, 2001, review of The John Lennon Affair, p. 158; July 15, 2002, review of Hot Paint, p. 56.
Mysteries Galore Web site,http://www.bestsellersworld.com/ (October 29, 2002), Nancy Eaton, "Interview with Robert S. Levinson."
Mystery Reader,http://themysteryreader.com/ (August 4, 2000), K. W. Becker, review of The James Dean Affair; (October 29, 2002) Cathy Sova, review of The Elvis and Marilyn Affair; Cathy Sova, "New Faces Interview Robert S. Levinson."
Robert S. Levinson Web site,http://www.rslevinson.com (October 19, 2002).