In 1966, author Roderick Thorp published a tough as nails novel entitled THE DETECTIVE, which became a bestseller all over.
Two years later, in 1968, the inevitable movie adaptation was released, starring Frank Sinatra in his first serious acting role in ages as Detective Joe Leland. In it, he received some of the best notices of his career as a jaded tough guy cop investigating a murder in New York' gay community.
The all-star cast highlighted such familiar names of the time as Jack Klugman, Ralph Meeker, Jaqueline Bisset, Lee Remick, Robert Duvall, William Windom, and Al Freeman, Jr. In smaller roles, look for an unknown Bette Midler and actor Frank Raiter, later the big bad of Christa Helm's LET'S GO FOR BROKE.
That might have been the end of the story if Roderick Thorp hadn't gone to see the movie, THE TOWERING INFERNO when it came out a few years later in 1974. A co-production of two studios, that disaster film was one of the biggest hits of its day, with an even bigger all-star cast than THE DETECTIVE--Paul Newman, Steve McQueen, Fred Astaire, Faye Dunaway, Robert Wagner, and on and on and on.
The movie's tougher to watch these days in the wake of 9-11 but at the time, it reportedly gave Thorp dreams of a cop running through a skyscraper with a gun. In 1979, the result of those dreams was a new novel, NOTHING LASTS FOREVER, a sequel to THE DETECTIVE in which his now older, retired protagonist, Joe Leland, flies to Los Angeles to meet his daughter at a Christmas party at the skyscraper where she worked, only to have it taken over by terrorists.
Since Sinatra had starred in the original, he was asked to reprise (no pun intended) his role in a film version of the sequel. Then 64 years old, he turned it down, although he had likely already filmed THE FIRST DEADLY SIN, released in 1980, another serious drama with DETECTIVE vibes. It was based on the first of Lawrence Sanders' "Deadly Sin" novels and was expected to start a new franchise. Instead, Frank would finish out his acting career over the next few years with various cameos, usually as himself.
So the role of Joe Leland was offered to the big stars of the time--Sly, Arnold, etc., as the screenplay went through various rewrites, ending up with no Joe Leland at all, but rather the much younger, not-retired, New York cop, John McClane.
The TV series MOONLIGHTING premiered in 1985 while all this was going on, making an immediate star of the wiseacre Bruce Willis. Ironically, according to IMDB, Willis's first big screen role was as an uncredited extra in Sinatra's THE FIRST DEADLY SIN.
Presumably the final film in the series, A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD, released 25 years later in 2013 and still starring Bruce Willis as John McClane, brings us full circle as Frank Sinatra, gone since 1998, appears on the soundtrack singing his classic rendition of "New York, New York."