In the canon of African-American crime literature, there is not a more important writer than Robert Beck, better known as Iceberg Slim. The author of an autobiography, five published novels, a short-story anthology, an essay collection, and a spoken-word album, Beck was the dominant black popular writer of the post-Civil Rights Era. In 1967, he released his masterwork, Pimp: The Story of My Life, a memoir of his twenty-five year career as a pimp on the streets of Milwaukee, Chicago, Cleveland, and Detroit. The book was written in such specialized street vernacular that Beck’s white editors insisted he include a glossary to translate terms like “bottom woman” (pimp’s main woman), “stable” (a group of prostitutes belonging to one pimp), and “circus love” (to run the gamut of sexual perversions). Even though Pimp was released as a mass-market paperback and was ignored by the mainstream literary establishment and the white public, it sold millions of copies at newspaper stands and black bookstores, in barbershops and liquor stores. Pimp became a classic on military bases, in prison libraries, and in black neighborhoods from Harlem to South Central Los Angeles. According to Beck’s publisher—Holloway House Publishing Company—Pimp’s popularity helped make him the best-selling black American author of all time.
In 1983, Iceberg Slim wrote his last complete novel, Shetani’s Sister. The story of a treacherous Harlem pimp and the vice detective charged with catching him, Shetani’s Sister was Slim’s last attempt to crossover into the mainstream literary marketplace. After many years of conflicts with his publisher at Holloway House over royalties, he decided to bury the manuscript in a drawer rather than let the company have it. Now, over 30 years later, Shetani’s Sister is finally being released with a major trade press complete with an introduction by Justin Gifford.