Tracy R Twyman: February, 2009
“The roots of the Hocus Pocus essay actually come from a detailed chapter outline I wrote for another book that I proposed to HarperCollins in 2006. I asked Peter [Levenda] if he could hook me up with his editor [Peter Hubbard] there. He gave me the guy’s email address, and I sent a 1-page query to the editor. The guy wrote back saying he was interested and wanted to see a detailed outline with sample chapters. I sent these to him. I never heard back from him. A few months later, Papal Magic came out. It followed my outline almost exactly.
Yes, I am saying that Peter Levenda stole my book. Probably on the advice of his editor [ Peter Hubbard at HarperCollins – William Morrow ]. It’s not uncommon for editors to take book proposals they like from unknown authors, and give them to more famous authors to write, screwing the original author completely. I just didn’t think Peter [Levenda] would do that to me, but he did.”
“[W]ell, it took me a while to figure out what happened. After I didn’t hear back from the editor, I just forgot about the book proposal completely. I interviewed Peter for the radio show. Everything seemed kosher. He didn’t tell me about Papal Magic when it came out. I found it myself at the book store one day. And in fact, even when I read it, I noticed some similarities with what I had written, but I actually assumed that I had sent the proposal after Papal Magic was published, or after it was in production. I thought maybe that was why the publisher hadn’t gotten back to me–because he already had a book about the same subject in the works. Until one day I was came across the original emails I sent. I checked the dates of the emails and the dates of Papal Magic’s publication. And I looked at the chapter outline I had sent, and compared it with the book. In some cases entire paragraphs are almost identical. Then I realized what had happened.”
A native of the Bronx, Peter Levenda grew up in New York; Gary, Indiana; Chicago, Illinois; and Charlestown and Claremont, New Hampshire; graduating from the same Bronx high school as David Berkowitz. In 1968, he and a fellow high-school senior gate-crashed the funeral of Robert F. Kennedy at St Patrick’s Cathedral and found himself leading the procession out of the cathedral at the end of the service. Briefly involved (1968-1969) with the American Orthodox Catholic Church (which served as a front for American intelligence operations and which was implicated in the John F. Kennedy assassination) Levenda’s religious interests extended to Eastern Orthodoxy, Chinese Daoism, Haitian voudon, and modern occult societies in the Kabbalistic tradition, as well as Islam. He has held a variety of jobs, mostly in international trade, while simultaneously doing the research and writing the books for which he is known.
His book on doing business in China – The Mao of Business – is the only book written by a twenty-five year veteran of China trade rather than by an economist or business theoretician. He is best known for his study of Nazi occult beliefs – Unholy Alliance: A History of Nazi Involvement with the Occult – which boasts a foreword by Norman Mailer. (Mailer included an extended version of this foreword in his book on writing, The Spooky Art.) In order to collect information for this book, Levenda undertook a dangerous trip to Chile to investigate the notorious Nazi sanctuary, Colonia Dignidad, where he was briefly detained. Levenda’s trilogy – Sinister Forces: A Grimoire of American Political Witchcraft – is an extension of the original theme of Unholy Alliance, but focusing instead on American history. It bears forewords by Jim Hougan, Dick Russell and Paul Krassner, as well as blurbs by Norman Mailer and Katherine Neville, among others.
In 2006 he decided to obtain his MA in religious studies and Asian studies at Florida International University, which he did in 2007. In the process he wrote The Mao of Business (which bears a foreword by Steven Heine, head of the Asian Studies Department at FIU as well as the holder of Japan’s highest honor given to foreigners as an acknowledgement of his work on Zen Buddhism), and then Stairway to Heaven: Chinese Alchemists, Jewish Kabbalists and the Art of Spiritual Transformation, which looks at the role that the constellation Ursa Major played in the mystical and shamanistic traditions of various cultures. He followed this up with a study of Freemasonry – The Secret Temple – and then with Tantric Temples: Eros and Magic in Java, based on the research he began in Indonesia in 2007 as a Luce Fellow. Since then he has written Ratline: Soviet Spies, Nazi Priests and the Disappearance of Adolf Hitler, a book that continues the study he began in Chile in 1979 of the Nazi escape routes, and is currently at work on a study of the occult background of Mormonism.
All this is in addition to his unpublished novels and other fiction, such as The Chinese Chip; Citadel; The Black Pullet; The Key Keeper; and Orientalisms.
Levenda is a member of the American Academy of Religion (AAR), TAK (the religious studies honor society), and is a charter member of the Norman Mailer Society. He divides his time between South Florida and everywhere else.