American Jewish Fiction

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Brief History of Howard coverA Brief History of Howard by Robert M. Levin

If you’ve spent any time going to acupuncture, studying Asian Philosophy, Tai Chi, or Chinese Herbal Remedies, you’ve no doubt come across the stories of ancient masters who have managed to live 200 years, 250 years through a superior understanding of the inner workings of Chi, that is, life force. 

Some have used this knowledge to better humankind, while some have placed more emphasis on “superior” instead of “understanding,” and have become like a deadly virus, like an impending nuclear explosion threatening to cover the planet.  This is the villain of this novel, Dr. Wang, one such master who is a half step from assembling the final pieces to this horribly destructive puzzle.

Over the years he has moved into the proper geographic position, living in the Center of the world’s most dominant power.  He has migrated to St. Louis, living a mundane life as an acupuncturist and herbalist, until the moment when his knowledge can be complete. He finds that the last bits of knowledge center on Howard Stein—a young graduate student at Washington University.  The now famous flap of the butterfly that causes the earthquake lies in a deadly illness that has befallen Howard.  Howard is Chaos Theory, the New Physics, personified.  Howard’s illness, to Dr. Wang, is a legion of Monarchs.

To Howard, Howard is a typical American Jewish young man.  A good student, enrolled in a graduate Psychology program as a matter of rational choice, a baseball fan as a matter of love, a jazz guitarist as a matter of greater love, a young man—in the history of American Jewish Literature—who has successfully removed the stain of being Jewish, the stain of Judaism, and has become generic.  He develops an illness that doesn’t allow this self-concept to remain.  Howard goes to doctors, the emergency room, more doctors, has more visits to the emergency room—and the results are the same.  Something is wrong; no one can say just what.  Howard senses that there is something seriously wrong with his body—and this is how he ends up on Dr. Wang’s treatment table.

What follows is Howard’s fight for life on so many levels, not just his disease, but the murderous pursuit of Dr. Wang, who sees that his final puzzle piece involves the discovery of a new way of killing—destroying not just the body, not just the Chi, but going so far as having to erase a human soul, Howard’s soul.  For Howard to survive he must take a wholly unpredictable and surprising journey across country, and into the depths of his own existence, into his own first person “I.”  Rather, the journey takes him.  

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What People Are Saying About A Brief History of Howard

“A BRIEF HISTORY OF HOWARD presents an opportunity to discover a classic: gifted writing, intellectual stimulation, and just enough 'Hollywood' suspense to prevent you from guessing what happens next. Pay attention; you can’t imagine where you’re going to end up on this journey!”


“A BRIEF HISTORY OF HOWARD is brilliant, astonishing, soulful—it reads like a jazz improvisation would play: surprising, moving, virtuosic and ultimately satisfying. The only comparisons I can come up with seem impossibly boastful and whimsical: JK Rowling meets Albert Einstein meets Gabriel García Márquez.

“It's the classic story of the grand fight between good and evil, with a solution provided by Stephen Hawking via Fritjof Capra and Isaac Bashevis Singer (now how is that for a hybrid?). Howard finds himself in a battle not only for his life but for his soul, his ch’i, and has to reach down to mysteries of physics, religion and the Judaism of his ancestors to find the weapons to prevail.

“It is an astonishing work of innovative fiction.”


"Whether you see it 'your way' or the author's, A BRIEF HISTORY OF HOWARD is more than an entertaining, thought-provoking, and engrossing tale (much a sequel is underway). Levin truly captures the 'Spirit of St. Louis' in place and time. As I was carried along by the story, reading ceased and listening took over, leaving me with the impression I had just participated in a very satisfying conversation."

Vikary E. Fins, Ph.D. English Literature, Educator