PIMP: The Story of My Life, By Iceberg Slim

There are countless books out there about life during what we call “The Jazz Era,” specificly the 1920’s and 1930’s during prohibion, The Great Depression and World War 2. Every aspect of life here in The United States has been covered to a great extent but there’s still the sense that there is a lot left uncovered. There’s a sense that not everything has been explored or exausted, even if it has we are still digging deeper into every aspect of life during “The Jazz Era” because we find it captivating.

No matter how harsh and brutal life was during that era, no matter how depraved, we don’t care. There are those of us who are so hungry for more stories about that era that we’re willing to read just about anything regarding that period because we want to know what caused it, how it happened and how it effected people, how they adapted and overcame everything.

We love those stories because we know how it all ended, generally speaking. The Depression ended, The Second World War occurred and good triumphed over evil.

I have never read a book about life in the underworld from someone who was on the oppisite side of law enforcement to this extent. I had yet to read a book that was about one of the “villians” from The Jazz Era; up until now it was all about law enforcement officials who were trying to combat violence and the stem the flow of illegal alchol.

I was turned on to the book, “Pimp: The Story of My Life,” by Iceberg Slim through Dave Chapelle’s most recent comedy special. At the end of this show or episode he discusses how he came to the decision of leaving his “Comedy Central” show before disappearing from show business for a couple of years while reading an anecdote from the book about how the books protagonist, the pimp Iceberg Slim, turned around a whore who was at the end of her career and managed to get some more mileage out of her before she quit the business for good.

Dave Chappelle lamented about this book shocking revelations about how horrible one human being could be to another in a desperate attempt to first make a mere living and then seek out notoriety and fame within his own part of the world and profession.

After reading the book, I can tell you that what Mr. Chappell said about “Pimp” was an understatement.

The book chronicles how a young black man born into a racist and bigoted America from troubled parents slowly found himself getting deeper into trouble with every bad decision that he made. “Pimp” chronicles how as a young boy named Bobby experienced cruelty and emotional trauma turned him from someone who was well behaved and hardworking into a hardened criminal, panderer and an exploiter of young black women.  The abused ranged from being thrown against a wall by his biological father when he was an infant to watching his mother’s boyfriend brutally kill his kitten when he was still a child.

In the earlier chapters we learn of how he experienced how “love” was for suckers and chumps, only idiots like his stepfather who loved young Robert and his mother loved others and set themselves up for their hearts to be broken eventually. The earliest lessons for him was that the concept of intimacy was to be exploited, people’s sexual desires were to be mined for financial enrichment.

In the later chapters we read about how he saw life in the underworld was the only way for someone with his ethnic background to get ahead in the modern world, and he admired older men in Black America were able to make fortunes by exploiting they system and other people’s vices. For the man who would become “Iceberg Slim” and his exposure to this kind of life and role models it’s hard to imagine how he could have become anything else besides what he eventually became.

“Pimp: The Story of My Life” is captivating and brutal, there are times the stories about what happened in the world around him are so intense and horrible that there were moments when I had to put it down or stop listening to the Audible version until I could compose myself. There were times when I had to ask myself, how could he have experienced these horrific experiences like I did, and he went one way and I went another?

The kind of things that he and I both experienced will make a young man bitter and cynical, hardhearted. Seeing how genuine evil can become normalized and explained away as “she was doing the best she could at the time” while a boy is growing up into becoming a man makes a man see the world in certain ways, and you can’t unsee what you’ve seen.

How is it that he became “Iceberg Slim” and I became “Renderking Fisk?” Other than the fact that he didn’t have a role model like I did who told me to knock some of my bullshit off before it was too late?

I don’t know if I can recommend this book, or the follow-up “The Naked Soul of Iceberg Slim.” It has everything that is necessary for an entry into The Fedora Chronicles Book Cellar, it’s an unflinching look into the life of The Underworld during the Jazz Era and it’s full of detail about accoutrements from those decades.

It’s about a man who experiences the worst aspects of life and comes out triumphant in the end after seeing the error of his ways and uses his writings as a warning for others to not follow in his footsteps.

It’s a book that demands to be read as a cautionary tale and a reminder of the adage that we reap what we sew.

Be sure to read other reviews in The Fedora Chronicles Book Cellar.

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