Thursday, March 14, 2013

Book Review: Elliott Chaze, Black Wings Has My Angel (1953)

In 2013, Elliott Chaze’s Black Wings Has My Angel reads like a compendium of noir clichés. This is a partial list: our narrator/antihero—a WWII vet with a permanent head injury who has a mutually abusive relationship with a hooker turned femme fatale—is straight out of Jim Thompson; the armored car heist could come from Richard Stark; the sadistic smalltown cops might have wandered in from Cornell Woolrich; and the novel’s intentionally telegraphed sense of doom could be channeled from David Goodis or Gil Brewer or any of a dozen other Gold Medal novelists. But here’s the thing: Black Wings Has My Angel was published in 1953, before these things had become noir clichés (and when Richard Stark was still nine years away from publishing his first book). Thus, Elliott Chaze did something truly remarkable: He surveyed the world of noir, which was just entering its greatest decade; he discerned those things that made it the blackest; and he blended them into his only noir novel. And then he walked away. Grade: A-

1 comment:

  1. It took me years to find the GOLD MEDAL edition of BLACK WINGS HAS MY ANGEL. It's a terrific book and I'm glad STARK HOUSE has reprinted it!