Shetani’s Sister by Iceberg Slim

24438325Publication August 4th 2015 by Vintage / Knopf

Adult, Street Literature, Crime, Prostitution, Drugs

eARC provided by publisher via Edelweiss

My rating 4 Stars

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From the multi-million copy master of vernacular black literature and pioneeer of hip hop culture, a masterpiece of crime fiction set in Los Angeles’ meanest, toughest streets.

Here is the newly discovered novel by Iceberg Slim, the creator and undisputed master of African-American “street literature,” a man who profoundly influenced hip hop and rap culture and probably has sold more books than any other black American author of the twentieth century (not that he saw the royalties from those sales). In many ways Iceberg Slim’s most mature fictional work, Shetani’s Sister relates, in taut, evocative vernacular torn straight from the street corner, the deadly duel between two complex anitheroes: Sergeant Russell Rucker, an LAPD vice detective attempting to clean up street prostitution and police corruption, and Shetani (Swahili for Satan), a veteran master pimp who controls his stable of whores with violence and daily doses of heroin.

*Actual rating 3.5 stars*

REVIEW Have you ever read a book that tests your limits? Like…. this book is some heavy s**t! Seriously! It’s centered around murder, prostitution, drugs, adultery, corruptness, and anything else you may want to tack on. Trust me, you will find something of everything in this book. I was torn between a 3.5 or 4.5 star rating. I finally went with a 4 since it’s not exactly a 5 star read for me, but this book was nothing if not addictive. All of the things that went down with these characters is something that I don’t stand for, but I was hooked on finding out how this chaotic story would end. It’s told in third person alternating perspectives, so it’s easy to understand who is in what scene and the setting that it was taking place.

Los Angeles, CA starts off with a bang. Sergeant Rucker is the leader of a special task force that takes down prostitution on Hollywood Boulevard. He wants to keep the streets clean and is doing a fine job of taking down pimps and whores. After a run in with a hooker thief, Pee Wee, he is involved in something that, to this day, is very controversial; cop kills man. The thing is, it was justified. Come at me with a blade, and I’ll defend myself. Enough said. So, he takes his vacation leave to go spend time with his girlfriend in New York, leaving his partner Crane in charge of keeping the streets clean. Except, Crane has his own secrets and soon things get out of hand. While Rucker is gone, Hollywood Blvd is swarmed with prostitutes that seem immune to arrest. None of the undercover cops can proposition any of them.

On the East Coast in New York, Shetani (Albert Spires) controls his stable of addicts and whores with an iron fist. The man is truly the devil, as his nickname states. Shetani means Satan in Swahili – who knew? Hooking his girls to heroin and cocaine to keep them submissive and bring in his money, he’s ready to set up shop on the West Coast. He sends his main girl, Petra, to scout L.A. and find someplace to call home. Shetani is truly a disturbed individual. He grew up in an abusive home with his mother, whom he killed by shoving her head first out of their apartment window, when he was barely a 12 year old kid. It was ruled “junkie-takes-a-tumble-out-the-window”. After reconnecting with his little sister years later, she dies of leukemia. What did he do? He beat the crap out of the hospital staff for failing to save her. He spent the rest of his teen years in a mental institution, but was set free at 18. He soon has a new girl in his stable, and he thinks that she is the reincarnation of his sister Tuta. Pee Wee, the thief, comes to get her fix and he ends up getting her to work for him too. She needs a pimp since hers was killed by a cop back in L.A. Soon, Pee Wee is feeling played and decides that Shetani will pay for tricking her into working for him. He wouldn’t let her send money to a friend who got messed up by something she was involved in. She killed a John, and Shetani sees her as more trouble than she’s worth. There are so many twists and turns that my head started to spin.

So, all of these characters are connected. This is one messed up tale. I could see it playing out in my mind as I read. The language is crass and straight to the point. If you aren’t a fan of crime thrillers, such as Training Day, Pulp Fiction or American Gangster, then you would not get this book. It’s filled with sex, drugs, and violence. I kept thinking that this man sure knows how to tell a story. I can tell by the writing that it’s a vintage book. There are some sentences and phrases that needed to be put together, and not broken down. I don’t like it when the subject is the first thing in every sentence. It’s annoying. I don’t like it. It made me want to throw my Kindle across the room. See that? That is how some of the sentences are in this book. Other than that, this book has movie written all over it. Swear to God, that it may be the best street lit that I’ve read. The story is so addictive and I just had to keep reading to find out how it all ended – to which I said “WTF?”. It ended abruptly and I was left wanting more. Like, you just can’t black the hell out like that. If the author was still alive, I imagine that there would be a book 2. If the publishers come up with one, I’d be skeptical to read it. One, this is said to be something he wrote and decided not to let his publisher make a dime off of. Two, I can only imagine all the legal papers filed to get this in the hands of another publisher. Don’t make up that he had another one hidden somewhere. I’m good, no matter if this left me feeling empty.

I could easily see Denzel playing Shetani (though, Mr. Washington is older than this character) , but I had that Academy Award winning moment in my mind and if anyone can give this character life, Denzel surely can. King Kong has nothing on him. *Snorts* And I see Russell Crowe playing Sergeant Rucker (he’d fit perfectly). Blake Lively would definitely be Petra and Pee Wee would be played by Tessa Thompson. See, that’s how I read this book. I had to give them faces based on their description and that made it more fun to read. There are many more characters to this story. It’s so intricately woven that you have to read each and every sentence to not miss anything. My problem stemmed from the crude words spit between these characters. It was nerve racking to read but I think the author could have toned it down a bit. This story is based in the late 70’s or early to mid 80’s, I can’t tell which. Just by some of the cars descriptions, it’s hard to grasp just when it took place. If you love street literature of any kind, then this book is for you. You want diversity in your lit? This is definitely the book to read, because every color is within these pages. The characters are all flawed; even Sergeant Rucker has something that taunts him everyday. Definitely recommended!


13 thoughts on “Shetani’s Sister by Iceberg Slim

  1. OMG I haven’t seen an Iceberg Slim book in FOREVER!!! And the way you describe this puts me in the mind of Carl Weber. Though not exactly street lit, all manner of foolishness ensues in his books.

    And I LOVE me some street lit. But I haven’t read it like I used to for some time now. I guess I kind of grew out of it. But you def have me wanting to pick this one up just to see what shenanigans Slim has his characters going through in this one. Sounds like a real roller coaster.


    • I want to see this on the big screen. And not one of those low budget films with rappers trying to act. I want to see great actors/actresses bringing this book to life. You should def check this out and picture your own selection of actors for these characters. It made the reading experience better for me.


  2. I AM ALL FOR THIS HONEY! I love a good story with some effed up characters, and this seems like it has ALL that and then some! I’m laughing because it absolutely sounds like something Denzel Washington would star in, and would OWN! When I read the words ” drugs, prostitution, and crime, ” I just knew I needed this book! Lord knows I don’t need to add anything else to my never-ending TBR lmao.


    • It’s a great book to read if you’re into black street literature. There are just too many foul words and that made me cringe. Still, I get it. It’s supposed to be like this. Great crime thriller!


  3. Oh wow, this does sound like it ends up being a very tough book to get through. But then again, it sounds just like the thing for me. I am interested in books about gangs because I am always intriguing by their family like mindset and how they work. As well as that, I love rap and can relate to being African-American in some ways, so seeing the culture of that play out into a crime mystery sounds just for me. I am going to try this one!


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