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Shetani's Sister (Vintage Crime/Black Lizard) Paperback – August 4, 2015
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Praise for Iceberg Slim and Pimp: The Story of My Life:
"What shines through is one man's desperate attempt to be something, no matter how sad that something appears to us. And it is literature. It has influenced thousands of young Americans... We don't need to idolize him but we do need to respect him as a writer who told what he knew of the truth."
--Sapphire, in her 1998 introduction to Pimp
"The works of Robert Beck, aka Iceberg Slim, have made a powerful impact on our global cultural landscape and should be essential reading. We have to get beyond his life as a pimp, and accept him as one of the most influential writers of our age."
--Irvine Welsh, The Guardian
''One of the greatest black writers in American history.''
"The capitalist's manifesto."
"All the questions of life can be answered if you read this book."
"Iceberg Slim does for the pimp what Jean Genet did for the thief."
--The Washington Post
About the Author
Iceberg Slim, also known as Robert Beck, was born in Chicago in 1918 and was initiated into the life of the pimp at age 18. He briefly attended the Tuskegee Institute but dropped out to return to the streets of the South Side, where he remained, pimping until he was 42. After several stints in jail he decided to give up the life and turned to writing, crafting most famously his autobiographical classic, Pimp: The Story of My Life. He died in 1992.
Top customer reviews
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Shetani's Sister alternates chapters between two parallel characters, Los Angeles vice cop Russell Rucker and New York superpimp Albert Spires (known as "Master Shetani," shetani comes from the Arabic word for "adversary" which is more appropriate in this context than its English cognate "Satan"). Both lost the most important women in their lives to cancer, and nearly suffered breakdowns as a result. Both are betrayed by their most trusted subordinate, and both suffer from addictions (Rucker to alcohol, Spires to heroin) and barely controlled violence.
Rucker is restrained from by abyss, barely, by the memory of his father and the ballast of three prior generations of honest cops. At a key moment, "his dead father's voice roared inside his head like a proclamation from the heavens. 'Russell, laddie, you're the family's fourth generation cop. You'll be just fine with God and yourself, inside and out, if you never kill anybody out of hatred or anger. Laddie, only take a human life when you can't avoid it or your own life is directly in danger.'" Spires didn't know his father and murdered his mother. Her voice sounds in his head only with insults and threats. Nothing restrains Spires but his inhumanly controlled personality, and that eventually cracks.
The story has psychological depths in addition to complex narrative structure. The straight characters are tormented by loneliness, overwork and boredom, which lead to violence and corruption. The criminals have a richer and more human existence, but their world is fragile due in equal measure to its inherent corruption and to external violence. Even at the highest levels of success, its inhabitants are insecure and vulnerable. Religion plays a murky but important role, it can be a source of great strength to those who embrace it humbly and without doctrine, but in organized form, it is pure evil.
Although this book is more mature and literary than Iceberg Slim's earlier novels, it has some structural faults. It reminds me of the original Scarface, a story that builds brilliantly but kills off too many characters to have a satisfying ending. Just as Tony Camonte swaggers boldly through that movie, but ends up crying piteously, "Don't shoot....I don't got nobody....I'm all alone," Albert Spires (whose prostitutes call him "Daddy") finishes with, "'Mama! Mama! Please let me in! Please, Mama,' he begged piteously, in a child's voice."
This is a great novel by one of the most important American writers of the 20th century. It's definitely X-rated for sex, violence, violent sex, sexualized violence, language, corruption and extremely pervasive drug use. But it has a deep authenticity, for all its exaggeration, and it tells a complex and subtle story.