Listened To: Whoreson by Donald Goines, 1972, Overdrive download.
I was scanning available titles on Overdrive and figured to try out a Goines novel. Whoreson could also be known as My life as a serial abuser and rapist. The narration was really well done.
Whoreson Jones is born to a young prostitute in a local Madam's apartment. Jessie Jones goes into labor as she is street walking during the Detroit winter of 1940. She is rushed upstairs to the Madam's apartment and in a fit of anger, despair, or whatever she names her son Whoreson immediately after his birth.
Whoreson is pronounced as one word with emphasis on the first syllable HOR-sun. Jessie dotes on the boy and buys him whatever he wants. Whoreson loves his slum neighborhood and as a child does not recognize the crime and poverty he lives in. His mother starts calling him her 'little pimp' when he is a boy and teaching him in street skills. She has a local gambler teach Whoreson and Whoreson's friend how to cheat at cards and dice, simple short cons like cheating store cashiers, and shoplifting skills.
As he grows older Whoreson and his friends start to use other girls as sex objects. Grabbing them, bossing them, commenting on their value, etc. When Jessie dies of TB Whoreson starts working as a pimp when he is only 15 years old.
The story runs over the next ten years of Whoreson's adventures: aspiring to pimp hard, beating prostitutes with his fists and wire coat hangers, drinking/smoking/snorting/pill-popping, fleeing the police, cutting the face of a woman in a bar fight, serving prison time where he preyed on and raped other convicts, going out for revenge against the friends and prostitutes he saw as screwing him over.
This could be a real tough book to listen to. Whoreson starts his criminal career hi earnest when he should have been in high school. He thinks of himself as being a strong pimp who others will not cross and whose women will fall in line when told. But, Whoreson the narrator is truthful. He tells us of his crimes and the learning curve of dealing with street people, other pimps, crooks, and prostitutes. The mistakes he makes along the way along with the work he is proud of.
I was disgusted by Whoreson's actions but the story was compelling and interesting. The relationships are mostly about power and control. The women are verbally and physically abused but attach themselves to the pimps like the battered women they are. To leave the pimp is to risk death or disfiguration and to leave their only home, their friends, and all their belongings behind.
Pimps strive to control everything about the women who work under them. Where they live. When and where they work. When and what they eat. All the money they earn, Their behavior at any place and time. Subservience is required but each woman is given lead to act out and up. The pimp wants the women to feel fear as well as love.
Love and loneliness play a strong part of what goes on. Whoreson is alone in the world after his mother and surrogate grandmother die. He never had a father and has no siblings or extended family. Whoreson works to have no feelings for the women. He teaches himself that he must work them and use them. He is sexually and emotionally attracted to them but cannot let that effect business.
Anyway. There is a sort of upbeat ending. Whoresone cons an older married woman into a fake marriage to get her $20,000 and flees to New York. While there he tries going straight, hooks up with a neighborhood friend who is a rising singer, gets busted by the Feds, thinks positively about starting a family once he is out of prison.
1. According to the Wikipedia entry Goines was an Iceberg Slim fan. I still, still, have not read any Iceberg Slim novels.
2. Not that I have much faith in Wikipedia but the article says Goines lived in Junction City for a while. I suppose that would be a great spot for prostitution because of Fort Riley being next door. My times in Junction City were almost entirely limited to using the exit and on ramps from US77 to I-70. The one or two times I did go through JUnction City I was surprised by all the pawn shops and cruddy apartment buildings.
3. Goines writing career is pretty damn impressive. He was murdered at 36-years-old but put out several very popular novels. Kinda like Robert E. Howard (although I keep thinking E. Howard Hunt.)
4. I looked E. Howard Hunt up and that draws me into all the fascinating JFK conspiracies and reminds me of James Ellroy's 1960s novels.
5. Excellent narration by Kevin Kenerly. Kenerly puts a lot of character into Whoreson. He draws out the dialogue in a street slang style that sounds genuine to me. But, it's not like I would know, I live in rural(ish) Wisconsin. I'm so white I'm pearlescent.