By David J. Glenn

ByDavid J. Glenn

Two Queens professors — one in physics at York College, the other in history at Queensborough Community College — have come out with popular-press books, an intriguing fantasy, and a historical analysis.

You might think of the books as required reading:


“Joey Willem, born in a typewriter, had lived through three printings, a TV option, and six never-produced screenplays only to be killed off prematurely at the whim of a television sponsor…”

Joey Willem is one of the hundreds of characters, including Sherlock Holmes, Don Quixote, and even Bambi, who have checked into the Inn at the End of the World, located just north of the Forest Beyond.

They also inhabit the new fantasy novel, “The Inn at the End of the World” by Gene Levin, a physics professor at York College CUNY in Jamaica.

Levin of Little Neck is quick to say that “Inn” is not — as you might expect, since he is a man of science — a science-fiction story. It’s just old-fashioned, flight-of-fancy fiction.

He’s written other such stories, but only one or two short stories had anything at all to do with physics.

So how does a man with enough discipline of thought to earn a master’s degree in physics from Columbia University and a doctorate in physics from New York University start writing fantasy novels?

He pulls a muscle in his back, that’s how.

“It was 19 years ago, when I was playing tennis,” Levin told Qguide. “I had to be in bed for three weeks. I soon became bored, and thought, ‘Maybe I’ll try and write something.’”

He started 80 pages of a book in longhand and then bought a second-hand electric typewriter to complete it. He titled it “Resonance,” an espionage novel, and found an agent willing to try to sell it.

It didn’t. But while that may have discouraged lesser-willed new writers, Levin already had started writing another novel, “The Moire Dragon,” about the reincarnation of the vicious Vlad the Impaler on a Westchester college campus.

It didn’t sell, either.

Levin didn’t stay away from his typewriter, and a few small magazines published some of his stories “But I didn’t quit my day job,” he said.

He took a writing course taught by Pam Conrad in the adult education department at Queens College, and Conrad suggested he read “The Princess Bride” by William Goldman. “I saw the movie, then read the book, which was so delightful,” he said, that when he thought he found an unfinished loop in the story, “I had the temerity to write an epilogue, and send it to the author for his comments.”

Goldman’s response? “He reminded me that ‘The Princess Bride’ was his book, with his characters, and if I didn’t want to learn what lawyers were for, I should cease and desist forthwith, if not sooner.”

Levin knew what lawyers were for, and left “the Princess Bride” alone. But he used it as an inspiration for his own character, Myron Blunger, a portly, retired librarian who lives in the Bronx with his wife, Sophie. For the next four years, when he wasn’t teaching physics, writing papers for scientific journals, coaching Little League or taking his daughter ice-skating, he wrote “The Inn at the End of the World.”

While his agent tried to sell it, with no luck, Levin followed his usual pattern of starting on another book even while his current one was being rejected.

As it turned out, “Inn” and the next book, a sequel, “The Devil’s Grandmother” have been published and are available by print-to-order from Amazon.com, Borders Books, Barnes & Noble, Manhattan’s The Compleat Strategist.

‘To Hear Only Thunder Again’

Dr. Mark D. Van Ells, assistant professor of history at Queensborough, looks at how World War II GIs coming back from the most horrific conflict of the 20th century, if not in history, readjusted to civilian life.

Now, at the beginning of the new century, “World War II is a very popular subject,” said Van Ells. “People are interested in what their parents or grandparents did during the war.”

The 264-page book (including an extensive bibliography) is geared to the general reader as well as history, sociology, or psychology students and veterans and their families. Van Ells stresses that while a great deal has been written about warfare, “one of mankind’s oldest activities, and perhaps its most tragic one,” there hasn’t been much study of what happens when soldiers return home. Throughout world history, he stresses, the warrior, even in the glory of victory, has often returned home to rulers and a population confused as to what to do with them and fearful of men who had been trained to deal with fighting but not with peacetime. Van Ells cites a work by psychiatrist Jonathan Shay who shows that Achilles in Homer’s classic suffers some of the same emotional effects from the Trojan Wars as did the Vietnam veterans thousands of years later.

“To Hear Only Thunder Again” is at bookstores and available through online retailers.

Reach Qguide Editor David Glenn by e-mail at glenn@timesledger.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 139.

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