Street Poison: The Biography of Iceberg Slim, and the previously unpublished Iceberg Slim novel, Shetani’s Sister, both hit the shelves yesterday

Without wishing to glamorize the lifestyle (as he, himself, stated unconditionally, upon embarking on his new, legitimate career) of Iceberg Slim, I have to say that his writing is some of the most evocative of it’s time. Here was a man who adhered to the adage, “write about what you know”, and the result was a master’s course in street life, and, more specifically, the pimp business. Slim’s take on the underworld, while belonging to the literary tradition of the crime novel, presented a unique, and intimate, perspective on the genre. As an African American writer, Slim’s work followed the precedent of Chester Himes’, Harlem Detective series featuring detectives Gravedigger Jones and Coffin Ed Johnson, but changed the perspective to the criminal (at times reminding me of some of Jim Thompson’s emotionally bereft protagonists, albeit from a very different setting). Slim’s bleak and gritty realism, gave voice to a part of America, about which most had but fleeting ideas at best. It was a specific sort of ghetto journalism, the product of which is now an historic document of it’s era, as vital to understanding that period as any history text, and more interesting at that.


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