by David Phinney
Friday July 12th 2024



Tom Wolfe

Sad news. Tom Wolfe, one of the best writers of his generation has passed away.

I met Tom in San Francisco while he was researching Man in Full. He was alone going through some newspaper archives at the San Francisco library. Very friendly, and easy going. We talked a lot about Emeryville in the East Bay — full of political corruption, shady billion-dollar development deals, drug wars, gunrunning, gambling, prostitution and fast-money schemes.

Lots of laughs over the strangeness of it all and how newspapers largely ignored it because the town was so politically wired. Wolfe eventually dropped his San Francisco location for the protagonist in Man in Full. He opted for a young stoic man from a gritty industrial town in the East Bay — with a steel mill. That would be Emeryville…..

His best book: Bonfire of the Vanities. Some say bond trader Sherman McCoy is the lead character. I say it’s New York City and the intense dynamic of ambition, racism, social class, politics, and greed that electrifies the town.

We met a few times through the years again. He was a always up for a laugh and a chat. Collegial even.

So I may have inspired Tom for a location in his novel but Bonfire of the Vanities gave me inspiration for my first novel Boom and Bust inspired by that gritty little town that is a microcosm of every town in America. Thanks my friend.