Black Wings Has My Angel

Black Wings Has My Angel

by Elliott Chaze, Barry Gifford

Price: $12.95(Paperback)
Published: January 19, 2016
VN:RO [1.9.20_1166]
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From the Publisher:

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.

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What We Say

About the only wrong note in this long-lost noir gem is the title: "Black Wings Has My Angel" is arch and pretentious and calls attention to itself. Call it "Black Wings" and ignore that very minor cavil when you dive into this bleak masterpiece. The backstory is the usual thing: unheralded author with a string of novels, one undisputed great work and a whole lot of bitterness. Elliott Chaze was almost rediscovered in his lifetime when writer Barry Gifford was determined to republish "Black Wings" but corporate machinations prevented it before Chaze died. For many years, it was only available in France because the French know their noir. Now New York Review Books has added it to their distinguished line and it proves to be every bit as good as you could hope. Tim Sunblade is out of prison and ready to pull off the apparently mythical "one, last, foolproof heist." Other than hiding an armored car inside a specially built trailer, there doesn't seem to be anything particularly clever about the robbery he has planned. But most robberies just need nerve and the willingness to kill anyone in your way to work, at least for a while. Still, Tim does need a driver and he finds a doozy in Virginia, a hooker who knows how to handle a wheel. She's a knockout of course, dangerous and intoxicating like only a dame in a noir can be. It's a race to see who can betray whom first and that's half the fun. Chaze's work has the hard-bitten dialogue you expect from great noir and a level of bleak psychological insight that turns these two criminals from Hollywood-style "types" into real flesh and blood folk haunted by what they've done. When someone says they've discovered a lost masterpiece, this is precisely what you hope they'll be offering: a novel worthy of standing alongside the acknowledged classics. Gifford insists there isn't much else of Chaze's worth looking into but it seems hard to believe someone this good didn't deliver on his talent more than once. But after all, if you want immortality all you need is one perfect, foolproof heist. And Chaze pulled it off. -- Michael Giltz

What Others Say

“[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

"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


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About The Author
Elliott Chaze, Barry Gifford

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.

Release Info
  • $12.95 (Paperback)
  • January 19, 2016
  • NYRB Classics
  • 224
  • 1590179161
  • 9781590179161