"'Black women are better whores,' proclaims a character — who is one herself — in I, Stagolee (North Atlantic, $15.95), Cecil Brown's second book about an 1895 murder that spawned a ballad that some say spawned rap. Brown's Berkeley Ph.D is in narrative African-American literature and folklore; this rich tale probes a sensitive, intelligent pimp — "We pimps ... protected our women against the brutal police. ... Never hit a woman and she will always find her way back to you" — who owned sixty Stetsons and killed a man for a hat. The word "mack," we learn, comes from the French maquereau — mackerel, snif snif."—East Bay Express"I, Stagolee puts the 'e' in enjoyable and the ‘e’ in exquisite. A great novel."- film director Melvin Van Peebles"Cecil Brown’s brilliant book provides a historical context for the current pimp craze."-novelist Ishmael Reed"With humor, zest, imagination, and affection, Stagolee (storyteller and participant) tells us straight out who really shot whom and why. This is imaginative fiction at its best."-Al Young, novelist and Poet Laureate of California (2006)"Cecil Brown has captured the underside of political intrigue and corruption that unfurled within complex racial patterns at a time when prostitution was legal and black men could still wield influence during elections..."-Kathleen Cleaver, Senior Lecturer, Yale University and Emory Law School, editor of Target Zero: A Life in Writing by Eldridge Cleaver"I, Stagolee reads like an imaginative, elucidating, and heartfelt set of liner notes to this haunting tale of the original black anti-hero."-Paul Beatty, editor and author of Hokum: An Anthology of African-American Humor and author, The White Boy Shuffle
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It's the birth year of Ragtime music, 1895, and Lee "Stagolee" Shelton, a St. Louis pimp, murders Billy Lyons, a political gang member. Afterwards, Stagolee makes a deal with Judge Murphy to bring order to the underworld. As a member of a group of pimps called the "Stags," Stagolee makes alliances with the Democratic Party and votes for a Democratic Mayor. Later, the Stag Party, along with the Democratic Party, elects St. Louis's first black policeman. It is this policeman who is sent to arrest Stagolee for the murder of Billy Lyons. Now, nearly 50 years after singer Lloyd Price introduced mainstream audiences to the "Stagger Lee" story, Cecil Brown portrays the events that gave rise to this mainstay of African-American popular culture. This follows the successful Stagolee Shot Billy, Brown's nonfiction account of the same story.