The Kid

This morning, seeking distraction from COVID and Trump, I switched to TCM. There was Leo Gorcey and the East Side Kids, co-starring with Bela Lugosi and a 2’11” dwarf (Angelo Rossitta), who got his start playing opposite Lon Chaney. The East Side Kids starred in 21 films; before that, as the Dead End Kids, they had starred in seven (and a Broadway play), and later, as the Bowery Boys, in another 41, which is when I first met them, and at the conclusion of this run Gorcey was 39, a “kid” or “boy” no more. Except there. a stumpy, cocky screen presence the leader of the gang, all the way.

But never above 5’6″. Which wasn’t bad, since his father, a Jewish immigrant, was 4’10” and his mother, an Irish Catholic one, was 4’11” They were vaudevillians, so Leo, while more-than-half-a-foot better nourished, had sawdust, as they say, in his veins.

He had five wives, the first of whom, a dancer, was 15 and, after their divorce, she became Groucho Marx’s second.

An alcoholic, Gorcey died of cirrhosis of the liver at 52. He could have been on Sgt. Pepper’s cover, but he demanded money and was painted out.

Probably more than you wanted to know.

Only in America, I couldn’t help thinking.

On Anything But a Roll

I contributed (briefly) to First of the Month’s all-star pre-election issue:

Here’s a sample of what I said about the Supreme Court:

Where did these fuckheads come from? When I was in law school (1964-67) our few conservatives lurked in the shadows, eating spiders, tearing the wings off flies. They seemed like diplodoci, sinking into the black ooze of extinction. What reverse-Darwin, soul-swapped dark magic has restored them, black robed, frozen souled, gibbering for revenge?

Adventures in Marketing: Week 234

“Sold” one GOSHKIN.
The quotes are because I had sent it as a gift to the fellow whose work had led to the Edward Gorey chapter. But he didn’t remember ordering it and sent me ten and a five. When I explained and offered a refund, he said that, as a writer/publisher himself, he knew the realities of the game, and I could keep it.
Other acknowledgments of receipt have come in from Cincinnati Brooklyn, rural Arkansas, Boston, and Tustin, CA. (A dozen non-responders makes me wonder if I put the books in Vote-By-Mail envelopes by mistake.) G is not a book anyone would whip through, and, so far, no one has acknowledged making it to p. 50; but exit poll responses have included “terrific,” “great,” “really enjoying it,” and “lovely.” (This last from someone on p. 4.)

In other news…
I sent a copy (and an IWKYA) to a couple in Montreal. I had written about the fellow several years ago. As a subject, he had been exceedingly generous, and we had remained in touch.
I was happy to send GOSHKIN, but, especially after adding the second, the matter of international postage gave me pause. The question of did I want to be a person who requested reimbursement unflatteringly nagged at me all the way to the clerk’s window. But once I’d bitten this pecuniary bullet, I felt so inflated by self-worth, I got another envelope ready for Slovenia.

[All books available from this very web site.]

Adventures in Marketing: Week 233

Sold two “Goshkin”s.
My first customer, through Spruce Hill’s post office box, was an ex-commercial fisherman/short story writer whom I’d met when he read at the café. The second was a retired newspaperman/basketball pal, to whom I’d given one and wanted a second as a birthday present for his son. (Hint. Hint.) He paid cash.
Mail deliveries – all book rate – have not been steady enough to make me confident about the election. Some Berkeley recipients got theirs the day after mailing, and it took one copy only two days to get to New York. But it took one a week to reach Newton Centre and another about that to make it to Menlo Park. (The fate of half the others that have been shipped remains unknown.)
As for reader responses… Two copies remain quarantined within their envelopes. The more daring recipients have uniformly praised the cover, front and back. (One hopes that proves to be how a book can be judged, after all.) The sister of the dedicatee praised the dedication. (She also liked the copyright page, which may be a first.) One fellow seems to have skipped directly to the Bob Dylan chapter and liked it. And a somewhat baffled high school classmate writes “No wonder I was in Section 2 and you were in Section 1.”
But don’t let that scare you.
Books remain available at

I have two pieces in the new FIRST OF THE MONTH. Here’s the link to the first:

It ends:
But you know what this movie should have been? Half Vietnamese and Americans getting killed and half police clubbing the crap out of people. Maybe throw in some cities burning and then, okay, a couple court room minutes with multiple, mini-Marx Brothers running amok.

Here’s the link to the second:

It begins:
A heavy bag, I should say, besides being a fit way for any sentient being to respond to the world, aids your average septuagenarian’s anaerobic condition, hand-eye co-ordination, and balance – so’s he don’t fall on his nose when going down the hall for the night squirt.


Adventures in Marketing: Week 232

Sold five copies of “Goshkin” and one each of “Pirates and Mouse,” “Most Outrageous,” and “Schiz” to a woman in Chester County, PA, who’d come across another of my books a few months ago and become a fan. (This smashes my old Single Purchase record, previously held by a bi-polar woman who, in a manic phase, gave everyone in the café a Meyer lemon, bought one of each book on my table, took another half-dozen from the “Free” shelves – and has not been back since.) It is always a kick when, at conventions or signings or in the café, someone I don’t know personally buys one of my books, and this Chester Countyian has joined a rare group who reassure me that what I am doing isn’t entirely nuts.
“Goshkin,” by the way, is here. First box arrived Wednesday. I mailed out copies Thursday, and first responses came Friday. (This is a tribute to Media Mail. Vote-By-Mail ballots should do as well.) Two recipients “can’t wait to read it,” and one said, “It looks terrific. Hilarious!”, a compliment I forwarded to J.T. Dockery, its illustrator/designer, since he’s the guy who deserves it. (All recipients were in Berkeley, north, south and west, so if you don’t have yours yet don’t worry.
[By the way, if you haven’t ordered. My web site,, accepts Pay Pal.]

In other news…
1.) Dept. Of Journalistic Ethics: The publisher of a cartoon collection I am to review has gifted me with a half-dozen pairs of sox (five white, one pink) adorned with images from the work under consideration. Would Bob Woodward wear them, do you think?

Adventures in Marketing: Weeks 230 – 231 1/2

Sold one more (pre-publication) “Goshkin.” The buyer was a high school classmate – and the journalistic talent in her yearbook co-editorship.
And swapped ten copies to the nonpareil J.T. Dockery, its illustrator/cover designer for some of the original art with which he graced it. (And J.T. reports he’s sold one already, via a virtual comicon he “attended.”
Additionally, I gave away an IWKYA, which is a nice story.
When I started out as a lawyer (1970/71), the firm I had space withused to send Xmas cards to clients. I decided to do the same, and if a client sent me one, even if their case was closed, I held them over to the next year’s list. Some of these exchanges went for long stretches, but within a few years of my retirement (2011), only three remained, a fellow from Greece and a woman from China, who were a couple, and a woman from Spain, for whom I’d gotten a divorce, and who’d been with me practically since the start.
Then two or three years ago, she stopped. The last card she’d sent had mentioned she’d had a stroke, but I couldn’t find her address and had no way of checking on her. A month ago, filling in some COVID-induced idle time cleaning my study, I found an envelope from her – which gives you some idea about the nature of my study – so I took a chance and wrote her. I received a lovely note back, telling how well she and her son and daughter, whom I knew about, and granddaughter, whom I didn’t, were doing and suggesting we e-mail.
So I sent my address – plus the book. I doubt she knows I was a writer. Hell, when I was her lawyer, I didn’t either.

Adventures in Marketing: Week 229

Sold one “Goshkin at Large,” which represents a decline of 80 % over the previous week’s sales, a downturn I can only attribute to the economic policies of the present administration. (Worse yet for my bottom line, the buyer, a lawyer-pal, is someone I’d already privately determined deserved a gift copy for his previous beyond-the-call support of my books.)
Also gave away an “I Will Keep You Alive.” It went to two young women who identified themselves at the Mended Hearts Forum as “college age sisters” who’d both received defibrilators recently. After identifying myself as old as four college age sisters and similarly equipped, we struck up an enjoyable correspondence, covering such experiences as being skinny enough to have our bulges initially make for locker room self-consciousness, especially in my case sice I lacked a “boob” to hide mine under.

In other news…
1.) That fan of “Fully Armed,” whose failurw to find any other books by me had made her an object of curiosity last “Adventure,” took slight umbrage at my surprise. She pointed out that she had looked only in the immediate aftermath of having read FA and that (a) at that point, I had only written one other book, which had come out 15 years earlier, and (b) there was no Google to help her. This left me much abashed, but I think we have become pals again.
2.) In my semi-recently published review “From Croatia With Love” (, I highly praised the book “Mangalos vol. 1.” Its artist, Ivana Armanini, and writer, Marko Golub have now said really cool things about my piece separately at FB. “The best and most bizarre review ever” (IA) and “Strange, magical writing” (MG).
FLASH! And word has reached me just this morning that “comic activists” in Belgrade want to reprint my review in translation for distribution at a comic festival. “Serbian language,” I am told, “is fantastic for the psychedelic and bizarre,” which, I guess, is how my prose is regarded there and isn’t bad for an old Jewish guy from West Philadelphia. Makes you want to keep getting up in the morning and take another swing at the ball.
[Incidentally, I ought to point out, this very piece, slightly modified but hopefully even more bizarre and magical – though in English only – appears in “Goshkin,” for which orders are still being taken. Just send $15 to Spruce Hill Press. POB 9492, Berkeley 94709.)

Adventures in Marketing: Weeks 227 – 228

My pre-publication promotional blitz for “Goshkin At Large,” consisting of an announcement to 300+ FB “friends” and another hundred or so emails to people I actually know, produced five – Count ‘em, FIVE – checks in Spruce Hill Press’s P.O. Box. One from a fellow ex-Philadelphian, one from my lawyer world, one my comics world, one from an ex-colleague/ still friend of Adele’s (and mine), one from the Vanne Bistro readings crowd.
Presses are now ready to roll (or roulez) their being in Montreal. Now I’m in Berkeley, the editor/formatter in Portland. and the illustrator in Kentucky, yet no sheet of paper was touched, let alone harmed, in reaching this state. (Is that science-fiction, or what?) There were a couple blips. Like the printer couldn’t figure out the book’s title from the cover, or believe the only color we wanted was black; but that’s been straightened out, and it’s due to ship Oct. 8. Counting freebies set aside, about 244 remain, so get your $15 to P.O. B 9492, Berkeley 94709.

In other news…
1.) I have been asked to write about a black, gay, back country, Afro-lachian, Afro-futurist outsider artist, who died of AIDS in 1998. I’m up for it, though I can’t help wondering if Cornell West will think us both being born in 1942 America makes me the guy for the job, identity-politics wise.
2.) Long time readers may recall “Fully Armed.” Suffice it to say, it has not received a great deal of attention lately. But just this week I received an e-mail from a woman who said she had known its subject and wondered if I could put her and him in touch. She went on to say that she had read and enjoyed the book when it came out and wondered if I had written anything else, since she had been unable to find that I had. I wondered how hard she had been looking for the past 40-some years, since, me aside, I knew of three other book-writing Bob Levins whose work she might have turned up. Anyway, I directed her to this very web site, and if its cash register rings, there will be another “Adventure” in the near future.

Adventures in Marketing: Weeks 225 – 226

Despite proving incapable of registering it for sale at Amazon – how do you “upload” documents, anyway? – I unleashed a veritable blizzard of pre-publication promotion for “Goshkin at Large.” An announcement at Facebook to all “friends,” known and unknown, and a massive targeted e-mailing garnered a dozen (misplaced) congratulations (What’s the big deal when you publish yourself?) and a more satisfying (if non-enforceable) half-dozen promises-of-purchase. But when I made my weekly trek to my P.O. box, all that awaited was a letter from my pen pal former client (pun semi-intended), currently serving life in Vacaville.
Maybe next time. (And have I mentioned how character-building a challenge it is to know everyone who bought your book and, more importantly, everyone who didn’t it and try not to let it affect your judgment of them?)

In other news:
1.) The buyer of “Most Outrageous,” responding to my request for his mailing address, identified himself as having come across my book while engaged in “background reading prior to an online seminar on pornography.” Since “M.O.” isn’t directly on point, being more about child sexual abuse, with a side trip into recovered memory, and, crucially, the evidentiary-admissibility measurement of relevance vs. prejudicial effect, when spplierd to the person of 1500 “Hustler” cartoons, I sent him a bonus pdf of my seminal treatise on hard core, “‘Yes! Yes!’ She Panted,” for which he has yet to thank me.
2.) A basketball buddy/poet invited me to sign a Writers Against Trump petition. This may not seem like much, but, for a guy for whom any purchase of his work by a stranger, even a porn-studying one, is a thrill, to be recognized as a “Writer” by his peers (Well, one “peer”) is gratifying… And, yup, there’s my name on-line at this very moment, among hundreds, within shouting distance of Salman Rushdie’s.
3.) Chet Baker, in a 50-year-old interview with Dick Conte, re-broadcast this morning on KCSM: “If my following ever gets too big, I’ll figure I am doing something wrong.”