RIP Ira Levin

The author of A KISS BEFORE DYING, ROSEMARY’S BABY, THE BOYS FROM BRAZIL and several other bestselling novels is dead at the age of 78, according to his agent Phyllis Westberg. The cause of death was a heart attack and he is survived by three sons and three grandsons. Wow. I did not see this coming at all. What a loss.

And somehow, Levin’s thoughts on his own work, taken from a 1989 New York Times profile on the eve of the opening of his final play CANTORIAL, seem appropriate:

”I don’t mind the thriller label at all,” he says. ”They’re the

kind of books I enjoy reading. I know I get pretty bored with books and

plays that are about a writer’s coming of age, or the breakup of a

marriage. I mean, we’ve all been through that. We don’t have to go to

the theater or pick up a book to have that experience.

”When I

was young and starting out,” he says, ”I thought, ‘Well, someday, I’m

going to write the great American novel – or several of them.’ But as I

got older I was perfectly content with suspense, with thrillers. I

think they very well may last longer than the more serious types of


”I think most of the classical novelists who are

still popular were the popular writers of their day,” he adds.

”Certainly Dickens. And I don’t know what else was published the year

‘Dracula’ came out, but what other book from that year has lasted as


UPDATE: More obits courtesy Playbill, Broadway World, the NYT, the New York Sun and the LA Times. The NYT also published Levin’s last piece of writing, a letter in support of a high school student from Wilton, Connecticut – the basis for the setting of THE STEPFORD WIVES –  whose play on the Iraq War was shut down. “I’m not surprised, therefore, to learn that Wilton High School has a

Stepford principal, one who would keep his halls and classrooms

squeaky-clean of any ”inflammatory” material that might hurt some

Wilton families,” Levin remarked. “It’s heartening, though, to know that not all the Wilton High students have been Stepfordized.”

Also, though it’s behind a paywall, Anthony Boucher reviewed Levin’s A KISS BEFORE DYING for the October 25, 1953 “Criminals at Large” column and his thoughts are clear from the available opening paragraph: “The hardest thing for a reviewer to write, believably and persuasively, is

an all-out, no – reservations rave; and that’s the problem that faces

me this week as the result, of all things, of the first novel of a

23-year-old writer.”