"Before there was urban fiction there was Donald Goines. Allen examines the life of Goines, a pimp and hustler who, inspired by urban writer Ice Berg Slim, wrote about the life he lived, a life that may have contributed to his violent and untimely death. Goines, born the only son in a middle-class black family in Detroit, became a writer and chronicler of the gritty side of urban life. Goines cranked out Dopefiend (1971), Whoreson (1972), and 13 other titles while fighting heroin addiction and coping with the limited prospects for a drug-addicted black man in 1960s America. On the basis of interviews with Goines' family and friends, and correspondence left by the author, Allen offers a portrait of a tortured man who suffered a color complex because of his fair skin, a longing to get beyond the restrictions of race, the pull of a life of crime and violence, and a strangling drug addiction that both inspired and destroyed him. Readers interested in the genesis of urban fiction and hip-hop influences will appreciate this look at an early pioneer."—Booklist "It is indicative of both the explosive nature of Goines's subject matter (his works include Whoreson; Dopefiend and Black Gangster) and the timidity of the academy that Goines's achievement selling more than five million books of utterly uncompromised fiction has received little scholarly attention. Critic Allen's thorough and well-documented study will do much to change that, placing Goines's life and work in a coherent critical, historical and social frame. This book is clearly a labor of love, all the more creditable because Goines is often hard to like. A hustler, pimp and junkie who rejected his hard-working father's middle-class ethos, Goines hardly stood out from any number of doomed young men until, during a prison term, the spreading fame of Iceberg Slim reached him. The old story of redemption by art is vividly retold here, and the sense of Goines's growing awareness and ambition is well caught, as are the exigencies of paperback publication. Tragically, Goines could leave neither his addiction nor his violent past behind, and he was murdered—a case that remains unsolved—at the age of 35, in 1947. This work argues not only for a serious assessment of what Goines did achieve, but makes us mourn what he never got the chance to."—Publishers Weekly
Eddie B. Allen, Jr. has been published in The New York Times, The Detroit News and the Philadelphia New Observer. He lives in Detroit, Michigan.