Rosemary's Baby, uses the letter tiles from a Scrabble board game to discover the true identity of her kindly old neighbor. Polanski, in his film adaptation, underlines these utterly prosaic and harmless everyday items with portent, but it was author Ira Levin who first created such a richly creepy, and yet playful and knowing, scenario. All of them witches indeed.
Deathtrap from 1978 is still highly regarded and plays continually), and neither Rosemary's Baby (originally published 1967) nor The Stepford Wives (1972) are solely horror novels, he deserves recognition within the field for creating such lasting pop culture horror icons as a mother who gives birth to Satan's child (sorry, that wasn't really a spoiler for anybody, was it?), and especially in the latter's case where simply referring to someone as a "Stepford wife" - or, indeed, a Stepford husband or anybody else - means that person is an unwitting or mindless slave to conformity and empty bourgeois values.
Rosemary's Baby, feminism and the role of women in the home in Stepford Wives. Their datedness - not nearly as prevalent as one might think - only enhances their charm. Levin is a master of economical prose, understatement, and sleight-of-hand misdirection as he doles out the clues and plot twists. Paranoia figures largely, out in the suburbs and within the city, and menace can be found anywhere, over idle chat and coffee, sitting in a doctor's waiting room, when your husband goes off to work. They never stop, these Stepford Wives... they work like robots all their lives...
I love that both novels can be read either as totally straight thrillers or as black-comedies-of-manners. And while a superficial interpretation might convince some that Levin disdains women, I think it's rather obvious that he is really condemning men and the fact that they think women with any kind of power will diminish their own. Irony: it's good for the blood, no?
I read Rosemary's Baby in high school, after I watched its masterful movie adaptation (surely the most faithful of all movie adaptations!); Stepford Wives only in the last few years after falling for Katharine Ross and (especially) Paula Prentiss in that bittersweetly vintage 1975 film adaptation. The novels can be undertaken in a couple sittings and offer up numerous pleasures, a few chills and ironic grins, and are easily found in used bookstores everywhere, so why you'd want to pay $14 for a new trade paperback edition of books around 200 pages long is a mystery Levin himself certainly wouldn't deign to write. Especially when you can get that ridiculous Gothic-romance version of Stepford Wives, because what all men secretly desire are women in shapeless gowns colored like M&Ms.