DEATH WISH: A STORY OF THE MAFIA 1977 ICEBERG SLIM

The late Robert Beck (aka Iceberg Slim) is of course most well-known for his remarkable, confessional autobiographical novel PIMP (1969). I've read a few more of his books now, and would class him as an energetic, dramatic writer who often makes up for a lack of subtlety, with memorable imagery, a fast pace and a punch-in-the-gut compulsion to keep turning those pages. This certainly rings true for DEATH WISH, a very trashy black street-gang vs. the Italian Mafia tale of pungent quality. There is certainly no paucity of sleazy sex and gory violence here, it sometimes feels as if Slim if gleefully rubbing your nose in filth just to raise your heckles. All the characters are cartoonish in the extreme, but the black characters at least feel derived from some sense of authenticity. The Mafia are all leering, despicable stereotypes. And that's just fine, but you should be aware of what you're getting into. Highlights include a scene in which a dog to be sacrificed is lured by a Voudou Priestess with a promise of sex (!), and a nasty bit of scalding water torture. If this had been adapted for a movie, it would have starred Fred Williamson and John Saxon, as directed by Bruno Mattei, and it would have ended up on the UK "video nasties" list!

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