Ira Levin began his career as a writer in his early twenties by winning a screenplay-writing contest sponsored by the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) in 1949. His entry, “The Old Woman,” about a wealthy elderly woman who thwarts a plot by her nephew to murder her for her money, won the second-place prize of two hundred dollars. Levin soon sold this script to CBS’s rival, the National Broadcasting Corporation (NBC), for four hundred dollars, and it was filmed as an episode of NBC’s popular mystery anthology series, Lights Out. This early success allowed Levin to avoid having to work in his father’s toy business and launched him on a versatile career as a popular writer of both Broadway plays and best-selling novels, a number of which were later made into critically acclaimed films.
Beginning with the publication in 1953 of his first novel, A Kiss Before Dying, Levin became one of the most influential writers within the thriller genre, and his works left a mark on popular culture for the next four decades. In the warped, cold-blooded murderer at the center of the plot of A Kiss Before Dying, Levin provided a prototype for the repulsive but endlessly fascinating psychopathic and sociopathic killers who populated American crime fiction and film for much of the twentieth century, from Norman Bates in Robert Bloch’s Psycho (1959) to the sadistic Leatherface in the cult horror-film The Texas Chainsaw...
(The entire section is 481 words.)