I recently joined a social book club and our last book selected by the popularity vote was Iceberg Slim by Robert Beck, otherwise known as Iceberg Slim.

It is the life story of Iceberg Slim, a prominent pimp in Chicago in the middle of the 20th century.

The story is full of shocking realities of pimp culture in America at this time and we see that this lifestyle is not mutually exclusive with drugs and the prison system.

There are so many themes to explore in this story, from family to colourism, the American judicial system, rehabilitation and the economy, to name a few. It has a high shock factor as it details the ongoings on the life of a pimp and sometimes I was having to remind myself that this was not just fiction but was actually a real depiction of someone’s life. He lived this! It was his reality and this book was not written merely for entertainment purposes but was to share his truth. What surprised me the most was the violence involved.

From the outside looking in, and I’m sure if you spoke to the average person; we would all agree that a pimp is the bad guy taking advantage of vulnerable women for his own personal gain. He’s a heartless, selfish excuse for a human being and he should be locked up – or worse. This book, Iceberg Slim’s story – his real life story – permits you the opportunity to see the story from the perpetrator’s perspective as opposed to the victim’s which is usually what we would typically hear.

What we notice through the protagonist’s story and the details of the lives of others who held his position in this underground industry, is that they lived very adverse, oftentimes traumatic childhoods. For instance, seeing a parent beat up mercilessly by one who who was supposed to love them and even tortured and killed before their very eyes.

Slim’s story is one that is highly popular in hip hop culture, having been cited by rappers such as Nas, Jay Z, made into a film adaptation and comedian Dave Chappelle is known to hand out copies of this book out to those that come to watch his shows. He has said the Iceberg’s story goes some way to explain his 10-year hiatus from comedy on a public platform.

Perhaps the biggest drawback to reading the book is the language used. Granted, it lacks no description and has a fair amount of dialogue however, the way it is written makes is hard to digest while still following the story. Baring in mind that this book was first published in 1967 and was written about events that occurred on the streets of Chicago, starting in the years of the great depression, the 1930s, I can understand why it is written this way. There are many colloquialisms and jargon that only one living in those times would understand – even Google couldn’t tell me what some of the terms meant! However, there is a very basic glossary included in the back of the book (that I wasn’t aware of until a few chapters in!).

Overall, I give this book 3 out of 5 stars.