Black Wings Has My Angel (1953)
Lewis Elliott Chaze was a journalist and author born in Mamu, Louisiana in 1915. A veteran of World War II, Chaze worked as a news editor in New Orleans and Denver before settling in as a reporter for the Hattiesburg American in 1951. He went on to become City Editor of the American from 1970-1981. In addition to his journalism, Chaze was a writer of fiction and nonfiction, publishing articles and stories in magazines such as Life, Redbook, Cosmopolitan, New Yorker, and Collier’s. He published several novels over the course of his life as well, the most well-known being the novel Black Wings Has My Angel.
This cult classic novel was originally published as a Gold Medal Paperback by Fawcett Publications in 1953. Gold Medal Books were paperback originals that had a reputation for pulp style and content, rather than being highbrow literary works. Writers like John D. MacDonald, Louis L’Amour, and Richard Matheson each published paperbacks under the Gold Medal label. Chaze’s novel fit the Gold Medal profile in terms of pulp content—it’s about an armored car robbery in Colorado—but unlike many of the Gold Medal paperback originals of its time, the book has been reprinted in multiple editions and has maintained relevance with readers of crime and mystery fiction. The novel is often noted for its dynamic prose style. Writer Barry Gifford calls the novel “…an astonishingly well written literary novel that just happened to be about (or roundabout) a crime.” The publisher New York Review of Books (under the NYRB Classics imprint) will release a new edition of the novel with an introduction by Gifford in January of 2016.
A first edition, first printing of Black Wings has My Angel is located in the Mississippiana Collection, located on the 3rd floor of McCain Library & Archives at the University of Southern Mississippi. For more information about this item, contact Andrew Rhodes at Andrew.Rhodes@usm.edu or 601.266.6765. To see more Items of the Month, click here.
Templeton, Kara. “Elliott Chaze: A Biography.” http://www.mswritersandmusicians.com/mississippi-writers/lewis-elliott-chaze
Gold Medal Books. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gold_Medal_Books
Text by Andrew Rhodes, Special Collections Specialist