A racially charged sex scandal at one of America's most prestigious universities could have sprung straight from the pen of Tom Wolfe, the unflinching chronicler of colour and class in contemporary America.
The setting is Duke University, an expensive private academy with a predominantly white student population located in the racially divided North Carolina town of Durham.
Duke has been rocked by the claim by a young black woman that she was beaten, raped and subjected to racial abuse by three white men from Duke's highly rated Blue Devils lacrosse team after being hired as a stripper for a sports club party. The athletes deny the allegations.
The frictions are exacerbated by the fact that the alleged victim, who has not been named, is a student at the city's other university, North Carolina Central, which is mainly black.
Lacrosse is traditionally the preserve of affluent, young whites, and the Blue Devils, losing finalists in last year's national college title game, are no exception.
Just one of the 47 members of the college team is black - and he was the only one not to be required to take a DNA test after the young woman specified the skin colour of her alleged assailants.
The furore has highlighted racial and social divisions in a city where the charged history of the South remains fresh in many minds.
It has also caught the interest of Wolfe, who has drawn on such themes in his three best-sellers: Bonfire of the Vanities, A Man in Full and - most recently - I Am Charlotte Simmons, his 2004 account of life at a hard-partying university located next to a slum.
"It really doesn't take very much to create a flashpoint between different racial groups in this country these days," the author told the Sunday Telegraph. "People might not like to admit it, but race in America is one of the keynote issues of our age."
I Am Charlotte Simmons even features the drink-fuelled, sexist and racist exploits of rich young lacrosse players.
"As basketball and [American] football are dominated by black athletes on campuses nowadays, lacrosse is pretty much the last chance for white kids to show off their machismo in college sports," Wolfe said.
"They are noted on college as the hardest-partying and in my book they are badly behaved."
He said his fictional Dupont University was the amalgam of various real-life colleges, though many at Duke - from where his daughter graduated in 2002 - are convinced that their campus is the inspiration for the book.
Writing about the novel in the Durham Herald-Sun, Stuart Rojstaczer, a Duke academic, observed: "The central thesis in this book about college life at Duke is that sex so dominates undergraduate culture that there is room for little else… [It] is a dead-on accurate description of one-third of the student population."
The town-and-gown divide between Durham and Duke is striking. A year's undergraduate fees at the university come to $41,239 (£23,632) while the average household income in the surrounding district is $43,337. Eleven per cent of Duke's students are black, compared with 44 per cent in the town.
Some locals refer to the college as "the evil empire" and claim that the students feel that they can behave with impunity. The assault claims have sparked protests on campus by some students against what they claim is a culture of privilege that protects the wealthy.
Lawyers for the lacrosse players claimed last week that there were glaring inconsistencies in the account of the woman. They said that no crime had occurred and that the DNA samples would clear their clients, who were victims of a "lynch mob mentality".
But Michael Nifong, the district attorney, said that evidence indicated the woman was assaulted. He claimed that the athletes were not co-operating.
"There's been a feeling in the past that Duke students are treated differently by the courts," he said. "There was a feeling that Duke students' daddies could buy them expensive lawyers and that they knew the right people."