The old adage about suffering breeding creativity may be true after all. One of the O.G.'s of the "street lit" genre- author Wahida Clark, best known for her 2002 Essence best-seller Thugs and the Women Who Love Them - returns with Payback is a Mutha. Published by the Kensington Publishing imprint Dafina Books, Payback is another unlikely hit, blazing up the sales charts.

The ever-growing genre, scoffed at by stuffy literary types, has proven to be a popular and lucrative niche market. "I came up in the 'hood and I know how it is: survival of the fittest," says Clark, 42, from Alderson prison in West Virginia. "I got 125 months for conspiracy and money laundering, mail and wire fraud...After I got in, I was racking my brain to figure out how I could [continue to work]. My job at that time was prison librarian, so I spent my time reading magazines. In the magazines I would read any interviews I saw with black authors. I told myself, 'I can do that.'"

Continue reading this story in the September 2006 issue of KING (#34).