This lost classic of noir is maybe the best work of crime fiction you’ve never heard of. Long hard to find, it ranks right up there with the best of Chandler, Hammett, and other masters. Hopefully, now Chaze (who spent most of his career as a journalist in Hattiesburg, MS) will finally get the recognition that he deserves.— Cody M.
This lost classic of noir is maybe the best work of crime fiction you’ve never heard of. Long hard to find, it ranks right up there with the best of Chandler, Hammett, and other masters. Hopefully, now Chaze (who spent most of his career as a journalist in Hattiesburg, MS) will finally get the recognition that he deserves.— From Cody's 2016 and older picks
During the 1950s, Gold Medal Books introduced authors like Jim Thompson, Chester Himes, and David Goodis to a mass readership eager for stories of lowlife and sordid crime. Today many of these writers are admired members of the literary canon, but one of the finest of them of all, Elliott Chaze, remains unjustly obscure. Now, for the first time in half a century, Chaze’s story of doomed love on the run returns to print in a trade paperback edition.
When Tim Sunblade escapes from prison, his sole possession is an infallible plan for the ultimate heist. Trouble is it’s a two-person job. So when he meets Virginia, a curiously well-spoken “ten-dollar tramp,” and discovers that the only thing she cares for is “drifts of money, lumps of it,” he knows he’s met his partner. What he doesn’t suspect is that this lavender-eyed angel might just prove to be his match.
Black Wings Has My Angel careens through a landscape of desperate passion and wild reversals. It is a journey you will never forget.
About the Author
Elliott Chaze (1915–1990) was born in Mamou, Louisiana, and attended Washington and Lee, Tulane, and the University of Oklahoma before joining the New Orleans bureau of the Associated Press. He served in the army during the Second World War and was stationed in Japan in the early days of the American occupation, an experience that informed his first novel, The Stainless Steel Kimono (1947). After returning to the United States and living for a time in Denver, Chaze moved to Mississippi, where he would spend the rest of his career as a reporter, columnist, and city editor at the Hattiesburg American. In all, Chaze wrote nine novels, including Goodbye Goliath, Wettermark, and Tiger in the Honeysuckle, and contributed articles and short stories to Life, Reader’s Digest, The New Yorker, Redbook, Collier’s, and Cosmopolitan.
Barry Gifford has written fiction, nonfiction, poetry, screenplays, and librettos, and has contributed to many publications, including The New Yorker, Esquire, Rolling Stone, Brick, Film Comment, and The New York Times. His film credits include Wild at Heart, Perdita Durango, Lost Highway, City of Ghosts, Ball Lightning, and The Phantom Father. Among his most recent books are Sailor & Lula: The Complete Novels, Imagining Paradise: New and Selected Poems, The Roy Stories, The Up-Down, and Writers.
"[W]hat remains unforgettable is [Chaze’s] lovers’ cat-and-mouse relationship, as high-voltage as the one depicted in James M. Cain’s The Postman Always Rings Twice. Everything — murder, betrayal, self-sacrifice, great physical and psychological suffering — ultimately comes to seem trivial compared with the visceral intensity connecting Tim and Virginia.” —Michael Dirda, The Washington Post
“[An] underappreciated hard-boiled masterpiece...The novel features everything we've come to love about noir crime fiction. The dialogue is crackling, stylized and often funny….Chaze's characters are more memorable than you often find in hard-boiled fiction….What makes Black Wings Has My Angel truly great is Chaze's writing, which is simple but elegant...Chaze's gift with words, combined with a plot that moves quickly toward its brutal, startling conclusion, makes Black Wings Has My Angel a trip worth taking for anybody with a taste for the darker side of crime fiction.” —Michael Schaub, NPR Books
“Probably the most cinematic story that’s never been filmed.” —Peter Lewis, Medium
“The exquisite writing is surprisingly contemporary, which makes it hard not to get sucked into this violent, vintage world…[Chaze] clearly knew the power of a good story, but more importantly, he had the style, in spades, to tell it with. This demonic artifact is the real deal; with its reemergence, fans of both pulp and literary fiction have reason to rejoice.” —Molly Boyle, Pasatiempo
"Black Wings Has My Angel is an indisputable noir classic, arguably the best of all the crime novels published by Gold Medal during its glory years...The details of the crime and its aftermath are vividly described, and the love-hate relationship between Sunblade and the woman and the demons in both that lead to their downfall are masterpieces of dark-side character development...Elliott Chaze was a fine prose stylist, witty, insightful, nostalgic, and irreverent, and a first-class storyteller." --Bill Pronzini
“Chaze was an electrifying hard-boiled prose stylist. There was clearly a humorous glint in his eye when he wrote, though he never allows the sleaze to get out of hand or undercut his story’s existential drift or its Cain-like fatalism.” —Graham Fuller
"Chaze is known in pulp circles for his flawless novel Black Wings Hath My Angel, which many people feel is the single best novel Gold Medal published during its heyday." --Ed Gorman