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Street Poison

The Biography of Iceberg Slim

This book can be downloaded and read in iBooks on your Mac or iOS device.


The first and definitive biography of one of America's bestselling, notorious, and influential writers of the twentieth century: Iceberg Slim, né Robert Beck, author of the multimillion-copy memoir Pimp and such equally popular novels as Trick Baby and Mama Black Widow. From a career as a, yes, ruthless pimp in the '40s and '50s, Iceberg Slim refashioned himself as the first and still the greatest of "street lit" masters, whose vivid books have made him an icon to such rappers as Ice-T, Jay-Z, and Snoop Dogg and a presiding spirit of "blaxploitation" culture. You can't understand contemporary black (and even American) culture without reckoning with Iceberg Slim and his many acolytes and imitators.

Literature professor Justin Gifford has been researching the life and work of Robert Beck for a decade, culminating in Street Poison, a colorful and compassionate biography of one of the most complicated figures in twentieth-century literature. Drawing on a wealth of archival material—including FBI files, prison records, and interviews with Beck, his wife, and his daughters—Gifford explores the sexual trauma and racial violence Beck endured that led to his reinvention as Iceberg Slim, one of America's most infamous pimps of the 1940s and '50s. From pimping to penning his profoundly influential confessional autobiography, Pimp, to his involvement in radical politics, Gifford's biography illuminates the life and works of one of American literature's most unique renegades.

From Publishers Weekly

May 04, 2015 – Gifford follows his essential study of street lit, Pimping Fictions, with a thoroughly engrossing biography of Robert "Iceberg Slim" Beck (1918 1992), "black America's bestselling writer, the literary godfather of hip-hop, and definitive icon of pimp cool." He follows Beck from his working-class Chicago roots to the streets and prisons that served as his crime schools, and then to his phenomenal sales and influence as the author of the groundbreaking 1967 memoir Pimp: The Story of My Life. Beck, having spent the 1950s alternately incarcerated and working as a pimp, was released from prison in 1962 and found himself "past forty with counterfeit glory in past, and no marketable training, no future," setting the stage for his new path as a writer. This biography is informed by interviews and archival research (school, prison, and historical society records; contemporaneous press accounts), as well as by Gifford's judiciously applied skepticism of Beck's own recollections. In addition to lucid critical assessments of Beck's published and unpublished works, Gifford offers a flavorful account of African-American cultural and social history. He makes an entertaining, informing, and most persuasive argument that a writer "practically unknown in the American mainstream... is arguably one of the most influential figures of the past fifty years."
Street Poison
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  • $4.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Biographies & Memoirs
  • Published: Aug 04, 2015
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Seller: Penguin Random House LLC
  • Print Length: 288 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.5 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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