Friday, April 23, 2010

26. Street Players by Donald Goines

Everybody needs to read at least one Donald Goines in their lives. I'll pick one up every couple of years or so and drop into his slightly romanticized, brutally violent and harsh world of pimps, gangsters and whores in 1970s black america. He has a blunt, almost naive writing style that is flashy and effective. His writing reminds a bit of the way his pimp characters dress themselves up and preen, considering themselves at the top of the world, but always knowing in some corner of their mind that a greater, darker force is always out there and is going to crush them one day. Goines himself was shot down with his wife at the age of 37. This is some dark, harsh shit, but with a lot of real passion and love flowing through it. The guy tells a story.

Street Players is not the first of his I'd recommend though. It's about a pimp whose shit slowly falls apart, not really through any fault of his own. The narrative is straightforward and rather uninteresting. The relationship between him and his whores is fascinating and actually quite moving. I really don't know how much of this pimping and turning out is real, but the picture he paints is a convincing one. It's a world with limited safety and economic options for black women and it makes sense that they would turn to the stability of a strong pimp, even if it means walking the streets and all that entails. And I guess it follows that they would be in love with their pimps, despite him having a harem and beating them (though Earl, the protagonist, is portrayed as a pimp who only beats his women as a last resort). The relationships are quite fascinating and following a pimp around in his day to day business dealings in all the dark and interesting little corners of the ghetto is compelling. But I'd recommend Daddy Cool if you've never read any Donald Goines before. I reiterate also, that his books are not for the squeamish.

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