Thursday, November 25, 2010

Gordon Davis's AKA Leonard Levinson's Death Train

It's not Friday, but I think this could be linked to Patti Abbott's Friday's Forgotten Books series of blog posts.

I wrote earlier about a war paperback by Gordon Davis that was for some reason published in Finnish as by "Steve Jenkins". The real name behind the pseudonym was Leonard Levinson, a prolific paperback writer from the seventies and eighties. Late last night I finished the other Gordon Davis novel published in Finnish, called Kuoleman juna. It's the literal translation of Death Train, and it's the first book in Davis's Sergeant series.

Just like the earlier "Steve Jenkins" novel, this was also fluently written and quite fastly and crisply paced, without much padding. Some of the scenes with historical figures, like Eisenhower, could've been left out, but then again they are not very long. The battle scenes are short enough and there's enough action to keep the reader's interest going. The main character, Mahoney, is delightfully cynical - I think it's him on the cover. There are some sex scenes, but Davis/Levinson has just enough style to make them plot points, not just loose scenes with sex. I'm not sure, though, whether the scene with a young nun, Mahoney bursting with lust to break her virginity, was done with good taste. Well, then again Mahoney decides to pull out.

I'd like to read more of Levinson's work, as he seems a writer who knows how to spin a yarn and keep it tight, but there are no more translations (I think) and ordering these from abroad seems a bit silly. I was thinking I'd try to compile a Levinson bibliography with the help of Hubin's biblio, Abebooks and Pat Hawk's pseudonyms catalogue, but I won't do it now. Later on I'll write a more thorough article in Finnish about these two books and post it on the Pulp magazine blog here. Here's Bill Crider on one book by Levinson, the non-genre The Last Buffoon.


Todd Mason said...

It's genuinely puzzling, sometimes, how certain books achieve no great fame anywhere, yet travel across many borders...not quite raping cute nuns, perhaps, makes for an exploitation value that seems to call out to publishers here and there...I should go back and read the previous entries again, but did ever read him in English, Juri?

Juri said...

There was also a bit about Mahoney being a lapsed Catholic - this makes him change his mind, can't rape a nun if you're a believer, right?

I haven't read any of Levinson's works in English and I won't seek them out on Abebooks or some such, since the postal cost is quite high, even if I could find the books for 10, 20 or 50 cents a piece. The Finnish translation in these seems pretty okay and not abridged or censored.