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Black Wings Has My Angel Paperback – May 18, 2009

4.6 out of 5 stars 29 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

An astonishingly well written literary novel that just happened to be about (or roundabout) a crime. --Oxford American

The protagonist, ex-convict Tim Sunblade, is a quintessential antihero, an unrepentant bastard who executes a daring armed-car robbery in Colorado with the help of a call girl, Virginia, whom he picked up in a backwoods Mississippi motel. 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. --Bill Pronzini, Mystery File --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Elliot Chaze was a well-regarded novelist and newspaper man who lived in the Mississippi area. His two forays into crime fiction, Black Wings Has My Angel and Wettermark, are considered classics. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 154 pages
  • Publisher: Black Mask (May 18, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1596542136
  • ISBN-13: 978-1596542136
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.4 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,222,557 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a great mid-century "pulp" novel that, like James Cain's "Postman Always Rings Twice," has been celebrated for it's skillful writing (the 1934 "Postman" was much earlier, however, than this 1953 work). In addition to the action, which is deftly conveyed, Chaze makes the surroundings come alive as well. The suburbs of Denver, the abandoned gold mines nearby, the American road just before the Eisenhower freeway system, the smells of the South, the lack of smells in the West...it's rich, but not in purple or overstuffed prose. The writing wasn't groundbreaking, it wasn't Hemingway, but it was quite good, certainly for a pulp.

The narrator is an interesting mix of hard guy, college boy who didn't make good, and amoral alcoholic depressive. His "angel" is more two-dimensional, as she's perfectly formed physically and has a perfectly icy heart ("made of dollar bills" as the cover says). There's a wonderful back and forth between them, as their trust in each other and desire for each other shifts from day to day. Here's an example (the two are swimming in a quarry pool):

"....She was wonderful in the water, almost professionally good, and the water was clear because its bottom was solid rock and there was nothing to stir up and cloud it. It must have been about nine feet deep and cold, achingly cold. It felt so fine to my head I'd take a deep breath and go limp and sink down to the bottom and squat there. From below the surface was a sheet of mercury and then I'd see it break roughly as she kicked against it coming down to me. It was like watching her through a sheet of clean green cellophane. She came and curved around me and slid along my back and shoulders. A futuristic kind of love. Love with all the heat taken out of it.... (p.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This was a great, Jim Thompson-esque noir novel I highly recommend. But my enjoyment of the text was marred by the poor presentation by publisher Blackmask.com. Inside, and on the back cover, there are a fair number of distracting typos. Chapters are crammed together when they should be spaced out. Despite the substandard presentation, I loved the novel itself, so I bought Seven Slayers from Blackmask.com, thinking that there was no way the publisher could screw up like that again; it had to be a fluke, right? Wrong! Seven Slayers is put together a hundred times worse. The cramming together of freaking paragraphs (where scenes and characters have abruptly changed) makes Seven Slayers virtually incomprehensible. Unlike the reasonably crisp, oversized reproduction of the original 1950s paperback cover on Black Wings Has My Angel, the cover of Seven Slayers is an embarassingly bad, tiny pixellated .jpg of the 1950s paperback cover (obviously taken off the internet).

My advice is to go ahead and buy Black Wings Has My Angel (knowing it has a fair number of typos), but to avoid buying anything else from Blackmask.com if you can obtain a reasonably-priced copy elsewhere. Unfortunately, that may be hard, considering their rarity. Note that Blackmask.com offers FREE electronic downloads of many pulp fiction stories and noir novels; check their site for free downloads before you buy hardcopies or downloads.

I really wish Blackmask, whose heart is in the right place in rereleasing these lost classics, would clean up its act and actually put some effort into their presentation/packaging so the books looked good and read easier. As it is, their releases look like no budget, amateur hour junk. These novels deserve better! I'm proud to display my old Black Lizard reprints, but the Blackmask books? Forget it!
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is one of the very best -- perhaps the best -- of the noir crime novels in American letters, and much more than a crime story, but a psychological study of two very interesting people.

It has recently been re-published by NYRB Classics in both paperback and Kindle editions: see Black Wings Has My Angel .n

It fully deserves that honor and one can only hope that it will reach a much broader audience. (This edition has been carefully edited so that the many typographical errors in this Kindle version and in the earlier paperback editions have been corrected. Personally, I found the typos rather charming, consistent with the pulp crime magazines and paperbacks of my young adulthood. But the sanitized version is still wonderful and well worth purchasing.)

Others have described the plot and the characters as well or better than I can. For me, this is a book to read and re-read with great pleasure, and I concur completely with Barry Gifford who wrote the Forward to this edition:

"When I was the editor of Black Lizard Books between 1984 and 1989, the one novel I wanted most to publish in the series was Elliott Chaze’s Black Wings Has My Angel. The book was brought to my attention by Edward Gorman and Max Collins, both of whom had written admiringly about it. I read it and was floored. Black Wings was an astonishingly well-written literary novel that just happened to be about (or roundabout) a crime. It was a perfect fit for what the publisher and I were doing at Black Lizard, putting out books that were psychologically provocative, on the edge, and, more often than not, over the edge.
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