Who killed the Cigarette Boat King,
the fastest man on the seas?
Now on Netflix, #5 most watched movie on the site in its first week:
Speed Kills, the movie adaptation
Screen-credited as based on the True Crime book Speed Kills
by Arthur Jay Harris
John Travolta plays Ben Aronoff, a fictionalized Don Aronow
Don Aronow was powerboating’s favorite, best-known, and most flamboyant racer and boat builder. In everything he did, he consistently pushed the limits, always at full throttle, testing himself. In ocean races, in the worst of conditions, a competitor described him:
“We’d be taking a terrible pounding and I’d be almost beaten down to my knees when Don would come alongside and grin from ear to ear – then take off!
"God, he was so demoralizing.”
That was what won him two world championships. It also carried over to his reputation of being not only a ladies’ man, but whose girlfriends were often married.
He was the living sales pitch for his boats – he sold magic. For the price, you could be more than you could ever imagine yourself as. You could be Don Aronow.
Who bought from him? Well-off businessmen – and the CIA and the Israeli Mossad – kings, presidents-for-life – and George Bush. If you’re thinking James Bond, so was he – he named one of his winning boats 007.
He was Bond – except he played on both sides of the law. You probably never would have known about his Cigarette boats had dope smugglers not preferred them. Nobody could catch them in them.
Then came the Reagan-era Drug War, and Bush got Don a high-publicity federal contract to build faster boats than he’d sold to the smugglers. What did the smugglers think? Because then Don quietly and bizarrely sold his company with the contract to Ben Kramer, the biggest pot smuggler on the East Coast. Why did he do that?
This is how Tom Brokaw reported it later:
“By the time drug agents on the trail put it all together – the Kramers and the government were already partners. That’s right, the boats the Customs Service uses to catch drug smugglers – were built for Customs by convicted drug dealers – who used laundered drug money – to buy the boat company. And you thought you’d heard everything.”
The feds found out and made him undo it. But a year later a grand jury was poised to indict Kramer, and subpoenaed Don to testify. The day before he would have, he was murdered in broad daylight.
Somebody had been afraid of what he was going to say. The cops concluded it was Kramer – but went no further. You kind of couldn’t blame them.
But were the waters deeper than that?
Speed Kills Podcast Pre-Release
Listen to the Introduction (touch the arrow)
More episodes coming soon!
Watch more about the book on YouTube: