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Extended Audio Sample Street Poison: The Biography of Iceberg Slim Audiobook, by Justin Gifford Click for printable size audiobook cover
0 out of 50 out of 50 out of 50 out of 50 out of 5 0.00 (0 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Justin Gifford Narrator: J. D. Jackson Publisher: Highbridge Audio Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: August 2015 ISBN: 9781622317660
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The first and definitive biography of one of America’s bestselling, notorious, and influential writers of the twentieth century: Iceberg Slim, né Robert Beck, author of the multimillion-copy memoir Pimp and such equally popular novels as Trick Baby and Mama Black Widow.

From a career as a ruthless pimp in the 1940s and ’50s, Iceberg Slim refashioned himself as the first and still the greatest of “street lit” masters, whose 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 culture, and even American culture ,without reckoning with Iceberg Slim and his many acolytes and imitators.

Literature professor Justin Gifford has been researching the life and work of Robert Beck for a decade, culminating in Street Poison, a colorful and compassionate biography of one of the most complicated figures in twentieth-century literature. 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, one of America’s most infamous pimps of the ’40s and ’50s.

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.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Gifford’s taut biography is important and overdue.”

    New York Times

  • “Gifford’s greatest achievement is placing Beck’s life within the context of larger social, political and economic changes.”

    Washington Post

  • “By refusing to either idealize or demonize his subject, he succeeds.”

    Boston Globe

  • “Gifford’s dramatic, hard-core, contextually dynamic, and powerfully affecting biography is sharply relevant to today’s civil-rights struggles.”

    Booklist (starred review)

  • “Gifford transcends the opacity of academic writing in this lively account…‘This is not a story without tragedy…But it is a story of redemption and breathtaking creativity, too,’ writes Gifford, who not only tells the story well, but shows why it’s so significant.”

    Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

  • “Thoroughly engrossing…In addition to lucid critical assessments of Beck’s published and unpublished works, Gifford offers a flavorful account of African American cultural and social history.”

    Publishers Weekly

  • “A remarkably researched, fascinating life story…Gifford makes a strong case for the enormous popular appeal and the continuing widespread influence of Iceberg Slim.”

    Library Journal

  • “Narrator JD Jackson’s performance gives this literary biography of Robert Beck warmth and animation…Jackson clearly delineates with both pacing and inflection the passages Gifford quotes from Beck. Gifford and Jackson pair well to realize Beck’s complex humanity and help listeners understand why he remains the recipient of homage in both street lit and rap.”


  • A 2015 Amazon Best Books of the Year Selection for Biographies & Memoirs
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About the Author

Justin Gifford is a professor of American literature and African American culture at the University of Nevada, Reno. His courses focus on zombies in American culture and hard-boiled detective fiction of the post-WWII era.

About the Narrator

J. D. Jackson is a theater professor, aspiring stage director, and award-winning audiobook narrator. He is a classically trained actor, and his television and film credits include roles on House, ER, Law & Order, Hack, Sherrybaby, Diary of a City Priest, and Lucky Number Slevin. He is the recipient of more than a dozen Earphones Awards for narration and an Odyssey Honor for G. Neri’s Ghetto Cowboy, and he was also named one of AudioFile magazine’s Best Voices of the Year for 2012 and 2013. An adjunct professor at Los Angeles Southwest College, he has an MFA in theater from Temple University.