From Violins to Violence: A Memoir
It’s been said that anyone who sits down to write personal memoirs, and then have them published, must be a flaming egomaniac. Particularly non-celebrities who no one really cares about other than one’s inner circle of family and friends. Well, that’s what I always thought.
Not too long ago I received, unsolicited, a self-published book in the mail from a casual friend named Scotty, a retired police officer who had served a long and distinguished career fighting crime in the steamy neighborhoods of Miami-Dade County. I didn’t know him well, but I read the book with interest. Knowing it was not destined for the shelves of Barnes & Noble, or the review page of the New York Times, he wrote it for no other reason but to leave his story to posterity. He cared about legacy to grandchildren, and their children, and so on.
And so I thought about my ancestors from both sides of the parental aisle, including my father whom I never met. I wondered if I would have been interested in learning more about his life in vaudeville, what motivated him, what made him happy, what didn’t. Was he really engaged to Ginger Rogers at one time? Was his friendship with show biz stars like Milton Berle, Rudy Vallee and the Dorsey Brothers for real, or did he tolerate them for professional gain? Were my mother and father truly in love, or were they talented performers who enhanced each other’s career? What drove him to the insane asylum where he died, just across the street from Sing Sing prison in Ossining, New York? Did my mother have an affair with a Mafia gangster while he was still alive? What struggles lingered in his heart as he wallowed in loneliness the last two years of his life, staring out dusty windows of a mental institution?
These are questions that will never be answered, for me, and for my children’s children.
And what of his parents, my grandparents who died in separate pedestrian accidents in New York City long before I was born? Would I have not longed to read their memoirs about life in eastern Europe in the 19th century, when anti-Semitism stewed and Jewish people longed for freedom across the ocean in America’s paradise? Why did they make the decision? How difficult was the journey, from idea to arrival? How did they support seven children, one of whom was my father? And is it true that so many of their offspring’s offspring changed their surnames in order to hide their Jewishness? Frank became Franklin. Weinberger became Wayne. And so on.
Then, there is the mystery of the Norwegian side of my heritage. Mom rarely spoke of her feelings about family and early struggles. I would love to have known about my grandfather’s view of the world at the turn of the 20th century in Minnesota and South Dakota. Neither of my Norwegian grandparents could carry a tune, nor play an instrument, yet they sacrificed and spent their last nickels and dimes to make sure their two daughters became accomplished dancers and classical pianists. What was the vision? What were their struggles growing up in the rural mid-west? Who were their parents, why did they immigrate, and what were their dreams?
The questions, are endless, to those who care. I would have read any of their memoirs with passion and zeal, if they only existed. Instead, their lives are gone with the wind. While we know little or nothing about our ancestors from two hundred or two thousand years ago, there will soon be a day when my life, and those around me, will be gone to that same wind. Most of my great-great grandchildren will not give a rat’s ass that I ever existed. But, there might be one. Just one.
And so, on behalf of that great-great granddaughter in the year 2103, I present these professional, and personal memoirs for the same posterity as Scotty, my police friend who sent me his self-published book. His was a good idea, and so is this.
One never knows. Some young man with a Frank surname in the next century might wonder why he’s afflicted with an attention deficit disorder, or schizophrenia, or why he’s able to pick out tunes on a piano by ear, why he’s easily subject to addiction, or what drives his libido out of control. I’m not sure to what extent genetics and lineage can affect the personality. I’ve been told by many how much I walk, talk, act, laugh and even think like my natural father...though I never shared a single moment with him.
I have lived a full life, replete with all the trimmings, including show business, dance, classical music, living with the Mafia, zero self esteem, an array of foiled marriages, children scattered, misery, friends and enemies, violence, killers, rapists, corruption, politics, good cops/bad cops, the face of suicide and the wonder of happiness as I approach the finale. Many ask how a violin student, high school drop-out and stepson of a Miami Beach bookie ever ended up wearing a badge and a gun. It is time to share all this, before it’s too late.
People tend to pigeon hole others, seeing them as one dimensional, attaching a quick label for easy recognition, like sound bites from CNN News. Sally the slut. Max is a millionaire. Sam the homeless man. Tiger the golf pro. Jack the police officer. Many see me as just a cop, a homicide detective, a captain, and nothing else. Kids see me as an authority figure. Ex-wives see me as a man who let them down, and therefore, I owed them something. Friends see me as loyal. Others see me as a person who once hurt them. Just like Richard Nixon, Bill Clinton, Monica Lewinsky and Mark Foley, whatever good they accomplished in life will be overshadowed by a single deed. That can happen to anyone.
It all doesn’t matter when the hole is dug. What really matters is what we leave behind. For some, it’s money, property, memories and a few pictures. For me, as always, it has to be words.
Writing is the ultimate catharsis. It brings it all together.
We have no idea what impact we may have had on another individual. I’ve received letters — out of the blue — from long since retired cops who wanted to thank me for whatever it was I did for them twenty-five years earlier. One man recently showed up at a library book talk in Clearwater, Florida, for no other reason but to thank me for setting his life straight when he was a wayward teenager thirty years before. I had no recollection, but he hugged me anyway.
Scotty has no idea that he inspired me to pen a book of memoirs. He does now.
While these pages were mostly intended to describe the world of policedom, it was impossible to exclude personal milestones that formed the mosaic of my life, why and how they impacted my behavior, my performance, my struggles as a human being, and how it all impacted those who I worked with and who I loved. Rest assured, at least fifty percent of the personal side has been edited out, or else this book would have looked like a Michener opus.
For that great-great grandkid somewhere down the calendar, I want him or her to know this: More important than any solved murder, failed or successful marriage, violin recital, mystery novel or newspaper accolade, I wish to be remembered most as one who loved from deep inside the heart. No matter how it ever may have appeared on the outside, no matter my imperfections, my love has always been genuine.
And so it goes...
In From Violins To Violence: A Memoir. Marshall Frank bares all about his transition from a classical violinist, dancer and stepson of a Miami Beach mobster, to becoming one of Miami-Dade County’s premier homicide detectives. In a most compelling autobiography, Frank shares many personal and professional experiences.
The connections between his mob-tied family and corrupt officials How an unlikely candidate became a law enforcement officer The struggling heart, mind and family life of a homicide investigator True murders cases, rapes, suicide and other major criminal investigations The arrest of five police officers for murder and the political fallout that followed The truth behind the Liberty City riots of 1980 Crushed marriages, alcoholism and the bane of drug addiction The influence of music in life of turmoil
From Violins to Violence: A Memoir
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