A small motorboat meandered through the Columbus Day Regatta, carrying just a driver, a cameraman, and a frail-looking 80-year-old man in an impeccable white suit. If, between swilling daiquiris and cannonballing into the sea, revelers on other boats noticed the strangely dressed octogenarian, they probably assumed he was just a standard-issue Miami weirdo, out to scope some drunken nip slips or round up a few women to share his table at a lesser-known nightclub later that evening.
But this wasn't just any weirdo. This was Tom Wolfe.
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The influential journalist and author of books such as The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test and The Bonfire of the Vanities was in town to research his latest project, Back to Blood, a novel set in Miami and addressing some very Miami topics like immigration, hedonism, wealth, and class. Miami Herald reporter Oscar Corral, who in 2003 had interviewed the writer for a profile of former Miami police Chief John Timoney, wrote to Wolfe in 2008 to offer to be his ìfixer,î a research concierge who could help connect the writer with his subject matter. To Corral's shock, Wolfe called him directly and accepted him as his tour guide.