Like Ray Liotta’s character in Goodfellas, Eric Curtis Sande grew up idolizing the gangsters and drug dealers who ran his suburban neighborhood outside of Miami. In the glamorous 1980s in South Florida, cocaine and other drugs were everywhere. These dealers seemed to have all the yachts, luxury cars, and gorgeous women they could want. Even Eric’s father, who hated drugs so much he told him he would kill him if he ever used, became a drug dealer — that’s how the good money was. Eric spent much of his childhood with his father incarcerated for dealing. Eric biggest neighborhood hero, a local legend, was Ray “Little Ray’ Thompson, a real-life Scarface and drug kingpin, whose luxury yachts, often piloted by decoy seniors, brought in an estimated over 2 million pounds of marijuana into Ft. Lauderdale, one of the largest marijuana smuggling operations ever known to the feds. Ray was captured by the FBI and imprisoned for life for multiple murders and assassinations.
Eric befriended Ray during his life imprisonment, and before his death, Ray became a father figure to him. Eric recorded the many colorful, harrowing, glamorous, and bone-chilling stories Ray told him about his life in crime. Eric’s upcoming book recalling his time with Ray, The Real King of Miami, is a factual tale of how gangsters really lived and the fallout from the drug wars, a true real-life counterpart to films and shows such as Blow, Goodfellas, Savages, Scarface, Ozark, Narcos and Snowfall.
Continue reading for an exclusive interview.
Would you mind telling us a little bit about yourself.
I’m a drywall guy by trade. My brother and I were raised by my single father who was also a drywall guy. Drywall runs through my blood. We were poor. I remember money was tight and there was not a lot of food for us growing boys. My father made some bad choices. He was arrested and went to prison. Any sense of stability was gone when he was arrested. Not too long after he was incarcerated, I ended up dropping out of school. The allure of the money that could be made doing drywall was strong. I did not have that adult in my life to talk sense into me. Today I am the owner of a successful drywall company in Central Florida.
Is writing something you’ve always wanted to do?
No, I can’t say writing is something that I’ve always wanted to do. I enjoy reading more than writing.
Tell us a little bit about your new book, The Real King Of Miami.
The King of Miami can be described as a book of raw stories describing the rise and fall of one of South Florida’s largest drug dealers, Ray Thompson. The stories delve into the experiences and exchanges Ray encountered in his life as a crime boss. You’ll read about Ray’s power, wealth and the control he had during the height of South Florida’s drug explosion of the 70’s and 80’s. Living this life of crime, Ray inevitably faces betrayal, indescribable loss and the worst kind of Karma imaginable.
You were drawn so much to this story that it motivated you to write about it. Why was this so important to you?
The fascination with Ray Thompson started when I was 11 years old. I was acutely aware we were poor. I wore Kmart clothes while my friends wore name brand named clothing. My dad would bring me to school driving his beat-up work truck and I would insist that he drop me off a block away. Robert Stephens was my Uncle Scott’s best friend from childhood. He’d come over to visit my uncle driving a brand-new BMW. My 11-year-old impressionable self-wanted to know, “what did Robert do to afford such a beautiful car”. Whatever it was I needed to know, because I wanted it. In roundabout conversations I learned that Robert worked as a boat captain for a drug dealer. My attraction and curiosity grew. The more the adults tried to shield the truth of Robert’s work from me, the more I wanted to know more about it.
What kind of research did you do on this topic, and how long did you spend researching before beginning to write the book?
My research for The Real King of Miami came from one-on-one interviews with various people. I also spent 3 to 4 months, every day in the courthouse pouring over tens of thousands of court documents containing information from depositions, trial transcripts and limited pieces of evidence.
Is this your first book?
In what way do you hope this book is perceived by readers?
This book is raw. I hope the readers will feel the emotion of the broken family circumstances I faced growing up. Right or wrong, Ray’s life was fascinating to me. I want the readers to be amazed and fascinated by the details I share in the book. The stories I heard growing up intrigued my young mind and was my source of escape from my own everyday realities. I want the readers to experience this as well as they ready the book.
Is there anything else you would like to share with our audience?
In your life you’re going to watch a lot of movies, hopefully read a lot of books, and hear a lot of stories. There will be some that you will never forget. This is a story that you will always remember.