Forgotten Treasures of the Pulps: Tony Rome, Private Eye
The paperback original (PBO to collectors) was the immediate successor to the pulp magazine as the home of pulp fiction. Marvin Albert was one of the bright lights of the paperback original market for detective fiction.
Albert’s work is revered in France, where he is considered a master of the hardboiled form, but he is largely forgotten stateside since his work lacks the literary polish of Dashiell Hammett or Raymond Chandler and was never shocking like Mickey Spillane. Albert may not have broken new ground, but he did excel at crafting hardboiled private eye stories in the classic tradition from the 1950s through the 1980s.
Much like Max Allan Collins or Michael Avallone, he also supplemented his income by adapting screenplays as movie tie-in novels for the paperback original market. Oddly enough, Albert specialized in bedroom farces for his movie tie-in assignments, in sharp contrast to his tough guy crime novels and westerns.
Albert utilized a number of pseudonyms during his career (although many of these titles were reprinted under his real name towards the end of his life). He published three hardboiled mysteries featuring a tough private eye called Tony Rome in the early 1960s. The books were published under the byline of Anthony Rome, as if to suggest the tales being told were real cases.
Tony Rome is best remembered today thanks to a pair of campy Frank Sinatra vehicles in the mid-1960s which portray the character as a middle-aged playboy drooling after bikini-clad lovelies half his age. The fact that the private eye operated out of a houseboat called “The Straight Pass” seems to have inspired John D. MacDonald’s Travis McGee private eye series, which launched later in the decade. The sad thing is such vivid recollections of the character do a terrible disservice to the books.
Tony Rome, on the printed page, is a private eye who carries a great deal of emotional baggage. He quit the Miami Police Department after his father (a police captain) committed suicide following public exposure by a political rival that he had once accepted a bribe early in his career. Tony quit the force and largely retreated from the world aboard his houseboat. He is most at home snorkeling in the beautiful and peaceful Atlantic Ocean. Crime routinely brings him ashore and Rome sees justice is done before retreating out to sea once more.
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William Patrick Maynard was authorized to continue Sax Rohmer’s Fu Manchu thrillers beginning with The Terror of Fu Manchu (2009; Black Coat Press) and The Destiny of Fu Manchu (2012; Black Coat Press). The Triumph of Fu Manchu is scheduled for publication in July 2014.