Word of Hollywood’s latest plan to adapt the ground-breaking Iceberg Slim novel "Pimp: The Story of My Life" into a film falls on the 40th anniversary year of the book’s release.
Though widely ignored by mainstream media and even most bookstores and distributors when it was first released, "Pimp" would go on to sell millions of copies worldwide. Not only did the autobiographical tale of Iceberg Slim’s rise from poverty into the ranks of street legend earn him a fan base for future book releases; it also changed the literary game in decades to come. Experts in the genre agree that "Pimp" appealed to an entire new audience of economically and socially disenfranchised readers in the Black community.
“When reading the works of Iceberg Slim, one cannot help but notice a tension between the sensationalistic descriptions of ghetto life and the cautionary tone through which such descriptions are rendered,” writes scholar Cameron Leader-Picone in his essay, “The Theory of a Hip-Hop Neo-Slave Narrative and the Trope of the Tragic Mulatto.”
“Slim positions his literature as part of the evolving representation of the African American community,” Leader-Picone adds.
Published by California’s tiny Holloway House imprint, "Pimp" established the blueprint for what developed into today’s multi-million-dollar industry known as urban fiction. Led by authors like Nikki Turner, Relentless Aaron and various new jacks, contemporary urban fiction has its roots in "Pimp" and other titles by Iceberg Slim and Donald Goines that graphically explored the challenges of street life.
"Pimp," however, wasn’t based in fiction, but truth, according to interviews with its author. Born Robert Beck, “Iceberg Slim” developed his alter ego after learning his way around the Chicago slums in the ‘40s and ‘50s. Following his literary success, he admitted to the Washington Post that his career of exploiting women had highs and lows. “I just rested and dressed. And petted my dog and ate chocolates, and slept on satin sheets. And went to the penitentiary, periodically, I might add.”
While Hollywood’s portrayal of Beck’s life is likely to attract thousands of his fans to theaters, the finished product could be highly scrutinized. Like the streets that it portrays, "Pimp’s" readers will expect something real and raw.