Sunday, December 18, 2005

Marvin Albert

Mystery File online has an long article about a Marvin Albert novel that may or may not exist. Since I'm not a bibliophile, I can't say I'm all that interested in its machinations but in the course of the piece the writer talks about Albert's writing, which interests me a lot.

He was a fine pulp writer of the old school. And in the Tony Rome books he was a little better than that. The Rome books, as I recall them, were filled with lore about the Miami-Miami Beach area of the early `60s. When Albert was at his best there was an element of journalism in his books, the kind of journalism you get in many literary novels. He wanted to share a real piece of of fleeting history with you.

He was the same with his westerns. He wrote about bounty hunters as they really were, some were eseentially para-lawmen who hunted down the killers folks in a particular area were terrified of. He was a good guy here. Then there were the slime, as was inevitable. They were especially bad after the Civil War, which I didn't know about until I read a couple of Albert novels. These were men who'd developed a taste for killing and they'd kill your mother for a silver dollar if that's all they'd could get. And blue and gray alike produced these men.

In order to like the Rome books, I have to forget that Frank Sinatra had anything to do with them. I'm sorry, Sinatra as a tough guy always struck me as a joke. His thugs were tough guys but Frank baby was anything but. When a Brooklyn writer named Max Eastman gave Sinatra a bad review for a particular singing performance (he even said in the review that Sinatra had had an off-night), Frank baby jumped him in a cafe. Eastman, as was reported long ago in Esquire (I believe) was five-three or five-four and skinnier than Sinatra. He flattened Sinatra with one punch. Frank baby being Frank baby his sicced his punks on Eastman, of course.

Aside from Sinatra...I enjoy the Tony Rome novels very much. And again, as much for all the local color as anything. I've mentioned this scene before. Tony finds a dead guy and is desperate to get to a phone. He tries several bars on the same street. None have payphones. Why? Because drunks rip them out of the wall when they're arguing with their wives--and the phone company won't replace them.

Now there's local color.

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