Collage of various Levin book jackets

Photo of Ira Levin at home
Ira Levin (1978) Credit: Henry Grossman

‘The Levin Seven’

Ira Levin's seven novels include some of the most iconic touchstones of popular culture: Rosemary's Baby... The Stepford Wives... The Boys from Brazil... When asked in 2002 how he understood his books' tendency to become cultural reference points, Levin replied:

“I suppose it’s because I’m only intrigued by suspense situations that impinge on society at large as well as the individual characters involved – the backlash against feminism in The Stepford Wives, the computer-controlled society of This Perfect Day, cloning in The Boys from Brazil, and hidden surveillance cameras in Sliver. And of course the Antichrist of Rosemary’s Baby and Son of Rosemary. One of the benchmarks by which I measure a new idea – on the rare occasions when I get one – is, if it really happened would it rate at least a paragraph in the New York Times? I don’t think a writer should ask a reader’s attention for anything less.”

Levin's hallmark is an uncanny realism and texture in the worlds and characters he creates – so detailed and empathetically-observed are they. From suburban homemakers to serial killers. From Rosemary in Manhattan, to "Chip" in the future. All presented with his trademark not-a-word-wasted narrative style, unrivaled plot twists, and ever-lurking wit.

“Every novel he has ever written has been a marvel of plotting. He is the Swiss watchmaker of the suspense novel.”
    –Stephen King (1981)

Levin treats his characters – and his readers – fairly: no forced logic, no plot holes, no punches pulled.

“Levin is a professional in the highest sense of the term, his books like clockworks, not “plotted” in the conventional sense [...] but crafted, pieced together patiently.”
    —Paul Walker (Luna Monthly, 1976)

Though often tackling consequential themes, Levin's work is never didactic. It functions – by design – as straight entertainment. Peter Straub (Ghost Story) wrote of Levin's collective work: “[It] resembles a bird in flight, a haiku, a Chinese calligrapher’s brushstroke. With no wasted motion, it gets precisely where it wants to go.”

“My goal is to entertain. That's what any book or play has to do first. Anything beyond that is fine, but first it must entertain.”
     —Levin (The Reporter, 1980)

“A consummate craftsman . . . Levin respects craftsmanship. He believes in it.”
    —David Handler (1980)

  • This rundown of The Levin Seven from British author Andrew Cartmel. (See his site's separate rundowns of each individual title, as well.)


Authors Chuck Palahniuk and Chelsea Cain discuss Levin's novels