Created by Anthony Rome
The real Tony would have kicked Frankie over there off the boat.
In the novels in which he first appeared, Marvin Albert's TONY ROME was a "hard-loving, hard-loving private detective (who gets) his fill of offers from women, but always preferred 'The Straight Pass,' the 36-foot sports cruiser he won in a crap game."
And remember this is a few years before Travis McGee showed up in "The Busted Flush".
Tony may not have done as well as McGee, but he was no slouch, either. The three novels he appeared in, all paperback originals, were a cut above the rest -- good tough reads, with a rather unique setting (for the time) and an appealing, yet flawed hero. A former lieutenant in the Miami police force, he resigned after his father, a disgraced police captain, committed suicide. He set up a detective agency with Ralph Turpin, but he and Ralph didn't get along, so Tony went solo.
Not that he seems to need much help. Tony's one tough dick, and he doesn't take much shit. He carries a .38 Police Special, or a Luger (which he also won in a poker game), and he's been known to carry a small six-shot .22 up his sleeve, just for fun. And he's not afraid of mixing it up with the various lowlifes, thugs, and contract killers he seems to always be running into. No wonder he keeps the "Straight Pass" as his ace in the hole, both financially and as his escape when life on shore gets to be too much.
So he lives on board, but he keeps an office downtown on the corner of Miami Avenue and Flagler Street. And, like any P.I. worth his salt, Tony has a pal on the police force. In Tony's case, it's Lieutenant Santini, who he went through the academy with. He may not be getting rich, but he seems to be making enough to keep himself in Luckies and brandy, and to indulge in his two passions: women and gambling. Like I said, the books are worth searching out, especially The Lady in Cement (1961), which features Tony going up against a social-climbing mobster, and a pretty memorable scene involving the lady of the title and a few hungry sharks.
Alas, these days Tony Rome's probably best known now as a the hero of a couple of smirky Frank Sinatra vehicles filmed in the late sixties, starring ol' Blue Eyes as our boy Tony and Richard Conte as Lieutenant Santini. As long as he was wearing his landlubber clothes, he was passable. But the moment he boarded, all bets were off. Putting a dorky captain's hat and whiter-than-white sailor duds on Frankie didn't make him into a believable boatnik, never mind a hard-ass P.I with a gambling jones -- he just looked more like his mommy dressed him. No wonder the movie posters featured him in the more traditional P.I. fedora and jacket.
The books were hard, tight and right, but the films, even beyond unfortunate wardrobe decisions, were incredibly cheesy affairs, with various pals, sycophants and hangers-on of Frankie's popping up all over the place, grinning like the second stringers they were, trying to be hip. Okay, there were moments, particularly in the second film, worth watching, and Bonanza's Dan Blocker gives a surprising, notable performance.
But let's face it, as a rock'n'roll kid, I never thought Frankie and the rest of the Rat Pack were ever that hip to begin with. And by the late sixties, they were definitely well past their expiry date.
My advice? Stick to the books.
Anthony Rome was actually a pseudonym for writer Marvin Albert, who wrote for newspapers, magazines, television and film. Under various pseudonyms (including J. D. Christilian and Nick Quarry) he created other P.I. characters, including French Riviera gumshoe Pete Sawyer, two-fisted gumshoe P.I. Jake Barrow (which many regard as his best work) and retro eye Harp. Quite prolific, Albert was also known to have written quite a few quite decent Westerns (several of which came quite close to hard-boiled/noir territory).
In the early 1980's, Albert moved to France, where he was widely admired, and lived there until his death in 1996. After his death, a collection of short stories by French writers was published, as a literary "hommage" to Albert.
-- Miami Mayhem
-- My Kind of Game
Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.
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