In LEON: A LIFE, a 97-year-old retired sea captain recounts his incredible, raunchy, and revealing life story — and Leon H Schneider knows how to tell a joke.

A scrappy, daring kid who survived on his wits during the Great Depression, Leon started at the lowest job in the engine room and rose to the rank of master mariner, licensed to captain any size ship, on any ocean. In his world travels as a ship’s officer, he racked up innumerable amorous adventures before settling down.

Back on land in his fifties, he faces his greatest challenge: How can he support his much younger wife and their three young kids?

He survived the Great Depression, being torpedoed by U-Boats, and the London Blitz. But can Leon survive the tedium of working at the mall?

Leon on the SS United States

Born in Brooklyn into a family of Jewish immigrants, Leon dropped out of high school and hitchhiked to Florida, the Catskills, and California. He joined the U.S. Merchant Marine and shipped out to Hawaii, almost missing the return trip just days before the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Everything changed when Leon survived two deadly U-Boat torpedo attacks in the Caribbean. Inspired to become a ship’s officer, he set out on a whirlwind of travel and adventure, with dalliances at every port: London during the Blitz. Postwar Germany, Italy, and Japan. An ill-fated affair in Buenos Aires. Encounters in the Philippines. A romance with a Yugoslavian ballet dancer. 

When the 45-year-old Leon finally settles down with 26-year-old Tamara, the couple must find a way to support the family in a world that has no apparent place for a retired ship’s captain with a colorful past.

Leon is a supremely gifted storyteller with an uncanny memory. He’s been charming people for years, and now, for the first time, his stories are available in print.

These are Leon’s shockingly funny, poignant, and unforgettable stories, as told to his son Ivan Schneider. Not just for the extended family, these are stories for the world, and for the ages.

About the writer

Ivan Schneider works as a ghostwriter and copywriter for large global consulting firms, technology companies, and high-tech startups. He collaborates on custom publications and other creative endeavors with his mother, Tamara Schneider, who provides art direction, design, and illustration.

Ivan attended Carnegie Mellon as an undergraduate and worked as a database programmer before earning an MBA from Vanderbilt and completing a full-year course studying the Japanese language at Cornell. Then, he spent five years with CMP Media as an editor for a trade publication in financial technology.

In 2012, he earned his Master of Liberal Arts from Harvard Extension School, concentrating in Foreign Literature and Culture with a thesis on the talking-dog short stories of Cervantes, Hoffmann, Gogol, Kafka, and Bulgakov. In 2017, his article “The Search for Dog in Cervantes” was published in the Animal Narratology special issue of Humanities, a peer-reviewed, open-access journal. He has presented his research at the Harvard Extension Alumni Symposium, and in Seattle at Mercer Street Books and The Grocery Studios. He is also a contributor to Seattle Review of Books.


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