UNR professor to present first biography of ‘Pimp’ author Iceberg Slim

From a Sundance Books and Music news release

street poisonJustin Gifford will present his new book, Street Poison: The Biography of Iceberg Slim (Penguin Random House, 2015), from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 27, at Sundance Books and Music.

The book is the first and a definitive biography of one of America’s bestselling and most notorious and influential writers of the twentieth century: Iceberg Slim, né Robert Beck. Beck was 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.

Beck’s 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.

Gifford, an associate professor of English literature at UNR, has been researching the life and work of Robert Beck for a decade, culminating in Street Poison. 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. Gifford’s biography illuminates the life and works of one of American literature’s most unique renegades from pimping to penning his profoundly influential confessional autobiography, Pimp, to his involvement in radical politics.

Gifford’s teaching and research focus on American and African American literature. His previous book, the first literary and cultural history of black street fiction, Pimping Fictions: African American Crime Literature and the Untold Story of Black Pulp Publishing, was a finalist for both the Edgar Allan Poe award for literary criticism and Phi Beta Kappa’s Christian Gauss Award for scholarship.

Learn more at www.sundancebookstore.com/gifford.


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