Meyer Levin has been called “the most significant American Jewish writer of his time” by the Los Angeles Times and “one of the best American writers working in the realistic tradition” by Norman Mailer. His novel Compulsion (1956), the inspiration for the award-winning 1959 film Compulsion starring Orson Welles, chronicled the infamous Leopold and Loeb murder case and was one of the first “nonfiction novels.” It was called “a masterly achievement in literary craftsmanship” by Earle Stanley Gardner in The New York Times Book Review.
Levin’s additional works include the novels The Settlers, The Stronghold, The Harvest, The Fanatic, the memoir The Obsession (which tells of his long involvement with The Diary of Anne Frank), and the autobiographical In Search.
Levin passed away in 1981.
- StandaloneCompulsionMeyer Levin
- StandaloneThe HarvestMeyer Levin
- StandaloneThe Spell of TimeMeyer Levin
- StandaloneThe SettlersMeyer Levin
- StandaloneCitizensMeyer Levin
- StandaloneThe Old BunchMeyer Levin
- StandaloneFrankie & JohnnieMeyer Levin
- AnthologiesClassic Chassidic TalesMeyer Levin
- Non-FictionThe ObsessionMeyer Levin
- Non-FictionIn SearchMeyer Levin
- Other WorksOther Works by Meyer LevinMeyer Levin
“Meyer Levin’s astonishingly good novel is a period piece twice over […] COMPULSION is smartly structured to maximize suspense, and the book’s title is descriptive of the urge a reader feels to keep turning pages. The world of the upper class Chicago families is rendered in fine-stitched detail […] As psychological throller and as courtroom drama, this novel has few peers; it ascends to a Dostoyevskian level.”
“Before IN COLD BLOOD, before THE EXECUTIONER'S SONG, Meyer Levin’s COMPULSION was the standard-bearer for what we think of as the nonfiction novel […] Meyer Levin’s masterful skill as a writer and profound psychological insight into the characters of Nathan Leopold (transformed in the novel into Judd Steiner) and Richard Loeb (fictionalized as Artie Straus) produced a powerful, nuanced, and impressively credible depiction of two equally—but differently—disturbed minds.”
“Levin brings a compelling creative power rooted both in subjectivity and objectivity [...] he writes with the immediacy and intimacy of first-hand knowledge of the principals in the case. To this he adds the maturity of a man and novelist who probes the influences, the motives and compulsions, the psychological and pathological forces, that led to the monstrous crime [...] Mr. Levin succeeds brilliantly in creating high suspense in his fictional retelling of it.”
New York Herald Tribune Book Review
"Levin makes the senseless brutality of the murderers palpable, as well as the suffering of the survivors, who include Steiner’s devastated father, unable to comprehend how his child could become a killer [...] this holds up as a landmark legal thriller."
"Paying close attention to historical detail, COMPULSION is a deftly crafted novel that documents author Meyer Levin as a particularly gifted storyteller that will keep his readers total engaged from beginning to end."
“COMPULSION is one of the most powerful novels I’ve ever read. It will bring to mind classic Russian psychological novels; it was a groundbreaking novel in 1956 and it stands up superbly today.”
“Before Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood, before Norman Mailer’s The Executioner, ther was Meyer Levin’s COMPULSION, a docu-novel about the famous Leopold and Loeb murder case in the 1920s. If only for its rightful place in American literary history, COMPULSION is worth reprinting. But it is also valuable because of its author’s novelistic gifts–a convincing portrait of two brilliant psychopaths, a narrative capacity for a spellbinding tale, an auhtentic depiction of the 1920s Chicago moral and political landscape. COMPULSION is a credible portrait of an era, and an early example of an infamous crime turned into compelling fiction.”
Alan Lelchuk, author of American Mischief
“For nearly a century now, the Leopold and Loeb case has maintained a firm hold on the popular imagination, generating histories, movies, stage dramas, even musicals and comic books. Of this seemingly endless stream of retellings, Levin’s lightly fictionalized masterpiece—so true to reality that Leopold himself famously sued the author—remains the most gripping, psychologically penetrating, and purely readable account of one of America’s most sensational crimes.”
Harold Schechter, author of The Mad Sculptor: The Maniac, The Model, and the Murder that Shook the Nation