Friday, August 23, 2013

FFB Review: "Black Wings Has My Angel" by Elliot Chaze---Jack Hardway 2006 edition

This edition copyrighted in 2006 was created by Jack Hardway who also wrote the introduction to the book. An introduction that not only explains the concept of “noir” to readers who may not be familiar with the term along with examples, it also explains the place in history for Black Wings Has My Angel by Elliot Chavez.

As the book opens, our hero (who we will later come to know as Tim) is finally getting a much overdue bath in a little hotel in Krotz Springs after spending weeks working on an oil drilling rig in the Atchafayala River.  For nearly four months he has been working on the rig doing heavy labor at the cost of his back and guts. The boss liked the job he did and wants him to come back in a couple of months when they get the rig going, but he doesn't want that. In fact, that is the last thing he wants to do.

Tim has big plans for his future. He also plans on spending some money and some time with a hooker. According to a bell hop that brought her, the woman standing in the hallway before him is the best hooker in all of Krotz Springs. Maybe she is and maybe she isn't. He doesn't know. He does know she is gorgeous and he has no idea why she would be in this crummy town on the Atchafayala River when she could be in New Orleans or just about anywhere.
(image at referenced below)

After Tim tipped the bell hop the requisite dollar, she joined him in his room. While he is struck by her beauty, Tim is just another job for Virginia. A job that eventually stretched across several days and cost Tim some money. On more than one occasion she makes it abundantly clear that as soon as the money runs out she will be gone. She will be gone sooner than she plans if Tim has his way as he does not plan on keeping her around long enough for the money to run out.

But, things gradually change as beyond the business relationship there is an odd chemistry at work between them. A chemistry between the two that ignites and causes them to leave the hotel together in his Packard and hit the open road. A chemistry that, at times, will work against them and result in heated arguments and situations and yet compels them to again join forces and be together.  A chemistry that will help fuel a plan Tim is putting together that will bring them both an incredible amount of money.

This is a dark read explained by Tim in bits and pieces with the ability of his hindsight. Whether he is sane or not is open to reader interpretation. Nuggets of information are tossed here and there in a narrative flow that moves back and forth in time and often a bit surreal. Violence is a constant companion throughout the book as it is almost always present below the surface before it erupts between either between Tim and Virginia or is inflicted upon others by them.

In short, this is a complicated book that is not easy to explain at all. A very complicated read that explores lust¸ greed, obsession, free will, and much more as it realistically portrays a dark compulsion that affected so many lives.  It is a powerful book and one that provides quite the read.  Jack Hardway notes in the introduction that despite the fact it has been out of print for decades it has ascertained a cult following. After reading the book it is easy to see why---- it is good.

While the particular edition I have does not seem currently available online, Mr. Hardway has provided this public domain work (without the intro) for free at the following link:  

I received an e-book copy from Barry Ergang quite some time ago with the instructions to read this as well as a number of other books he provided. I’m very behind.

Kevin R. Tipple ©2013


George said...

I searched for BLACK WINGS HAS MY ANGEL (the original Gold Medal edition) for years. I finally found a copy in a used bookstore in Milwaukee. I'm glad to see STARK HOUSE has reprinted BLACK WINGS HAS MY ANGEL so more readers can enjoy it.

Barry Ergang said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Barry Ergang said...

If it's any consolation, Kevin, I haven't gotten to this one yet.

Kelly Robinson said...

Wow, this is going straight on my must-have list. Thanks for the review. Sounds right down my gloomy, dirty alley.

Kevin R. Tipple said...

Thought it was good and I thank Barry for giving me a copy. I am shocked he has not read it yet.