Here's Len's email:
Blogger Joe Kenney tipped me off to a not very complimentary critique of some of my novels, in a book entitled PIONEERS, PASSIONATE LADIES, AND PRIVATE EYES edited by Larry E. Sullivan, PhD, and Lydia Cushman Schurman, PhD, published by the Haworth Press. The book consists of essays by other PhDs about American popular fiction.
In other words, people who spend their professional lives studying the likes of James Joyce and Henry James, have turned their baleful vision to the likes of me.
The article mentioning my work is called WORLD WAR II COMBAT IN AMERICAN JUVENILE AND PAPERBACK SERIES BOOKS by M. Paul Holsinger, professor of History at Illinois State University.
In the article, I discovered to my amazement that my series THE RAT BASTARDS was the longest running war series in the spate of war series published in the wake of the movie PATTON. I also discovered that Prof. Holsinger had no idea that the author of THE RAT BASTARDS, John Mackie, and the author of THE SERGEANT, Gordon Davis, were both the same person, who in real life was and remains a very peculiar form of life known as Len Levinson, or as my former boss Sheldon Roskin referred to me when I was a press agent: "schmuck!".
Good Prof. Holsinger doesn't think much of my novels. Describing my soldier-characters, he says: "Their morality and their language is, in almost every case, that of the gutter."
Evidently Prof. Holsinger never was in the Army. Because the average Army barracks, or foxhole, were not exactly faculty tea parties. I was in the Aramy 1954-1957, but never in a war. However, many of my old sergeants were veterans of WW II and Korea, and one had survived the Bataan Death March.
Apparently Prof. Holsinger doesn't understand that in order to turn average American young men into soldiers, or to be blunt, trained killers, a certain amount of brutality is involved. And this brutality inevitably coarsens the spirit. When writing these novels, I wanted to be as realistic as possible. My goal was not to please the English Departments of American Universities, or to glorify combat, but to tell realistic stories about the tragedy and comedy of war, with all its blood, guts, cruelty, irony, and occasional heroism.
Prof Holsinger decries "this commitment to utter violence without a spark of human decency." Evidently he didn't read my novels very thoroughly, because human decency actually is shown occasionally. The soldiers are loyal to each other when the chips are down, although admittedly they fight amongst themselves sporadically during their brief periods of leisure.
My impression is that Prof. Holsinger somehow believes that frontline soldiers should be social workers and philanthropists. But social workers and philanthropists wouldn't last long on a battlefield, where it's kill or be killed by any means necessary. Prof. Holsinger's utter lack of understanding of his subject is astonishing, but they don't call it the "ivory tower" for nothing.
Prof. Holsinger complains that my characters "are, at best, hoodlums," which again indicates that he really didn't read the series thoroughly, and probably just skimmed the contents and cover copy, because he didn't notice, situated among the criminal types, West Point graduates with noble hearts, one young man from the upper levels of New York society who got drafted, aristocratic Japanese and German officers, numerous other decent, high-minded characters who got drafted or enlisted out of patriotism, including many brave Army nurses, and even General Patton and Field Marshal Rommel themselves make in-person appearances.
But it's true, many of my characters tended to be tough guys. Because if you're not a tough guy when you enter the Army, you must become one in order to survive. There is no alternative except unrelenting bullying in the barracks, or certain violent death on the battlefield.
I confess that I hated the Army during most of the three years when I was a soldier, when I functioned in a state of simmering rage nearly all the time. When I got out, I reverted fairly quickly to the mild mannered, half-baked intellectual that I always was, except for a tendency to lose my temper from time to time, after which I always feel deep-rooted self-loathing.
I've never forgotten those three years in uniform, age 19 to 22. In a way they made me what I am today, for better or worse. I very much admired combat veterans with whom I served, and still do. Although they didn't know it at the time, and neither did I, they inspired my 30 war novels. Since publication of these novels, many soldiers have written me letters or told me in person that they enjoyed my stories. Their opinions are the ones I value most.