Black Wings Has My Angel

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Black Wings Has My Angel
BlackWingsHasMyAngel.jpg
Author Elliott Chaze
Country United States
Language English
Subject Mystery
Suspense
Crime
Genre Crime Fiction
Noir Fiction
Publisher Gold Medal Books
Publication date
1953
Media type Print (hardcover, paperback)
Pages 154
ISBN 1-59654-213-6
OCLC 37231349
813.54

Black Wings Has My Angel is a fictional crime novel by American novelist Elliott Chaze, published by Gold Medal Books in 1953. It centers on an escaped convict, Tim Sunblade, and his plot to rob an armored truck while being wrapped up in a love/hate relationship with Virginia, a call girl he meets in Mississippi.

Plot[edit]

Narrated in first person by con "Tim Sunblade", after escaping from prison, Tim starts off in a backwoods Mississippi motel after working on a drilling rig on the Atchafalaya River when he meets "Virginia", a call girl whom he hired to satisfy his needs. After spending several days in the motel together,[1] they head out together down the interstate with Tim thinking of when and how he is going to ditch her. He recalls his escape from prison and the plan to obtain large amounts of money when his partner in crime, Jeepie, is killed during the escape. Circumstances lead the couple, after trying to get away from each other, back together. The two duke it out to get Tim’s money, which they have sewn into the panels of a pink girdle. They settle into a love/hate relationship when Tim realizes that she might be the perfect person to help him pull off a heist. The two wind up in Colorado where Tim discovers a part of Virginia’s past and what she is truly running from and the people after her. He lets her in on his plans and they plot to rob an armored truck.

They pretend to be a married couple and buy a house in a suburban part of Denver while Tim looks for a job and finally obtains one at a factory as a steel cutter. He does his homework on his off time, at a bank, watching the armored truck that rolls in and out of there. There is one night that Tim and Virginia go to an old haunt of Virginia’s, where an old friend of hers, Mamie, calls her "Jennie" and talks about how Virginia used to be a debutant and came from a good family. After spending weeks idly waiting for the right opportunity, they practice the heist. He has studied the armored truck and knows everything from the stops it makes, to how long they are at each location, to when the truck is left in the best position to rob. The time finally comes and he steals the truck, killing one of the guards that sits in the back with the money. He takes off while the driver is inside the building and meets up with Virginia. They start driving and while she drives, he counts the money in the back. A cool $89,000.[2] They get to a secluded place out in the woods, Cripple Creek, where they had previously stayed that has a mine shaft and they push the armored truck and the trailer that hauled it, into the shaft. As Tim narrates, he lets on that this story is his confession as he's writing it in his prison cell and continues on how they made their way to New Orleans.

In New Orleans, they meet Eddie Arceneaux and his sister, Loralee, a couple of youngsters from a wealthy family. Tim finds that he and Virginia are becoming the snobbish, rich people types, the types that he hates. Buying everything and anything they want. Virginia is becoming too high maintenance and spoiled for her own good.

I was sick of Virginia, too, and of what the money had done to the both of us, changing a tough, elegant adventuress with plenty of guts and imagination into a candy-tonguing country club Cleopatra who nested in bed the whole day long and thought her feet were too damned good to walk on.[3]

Nothing is going the way they planned after they got the money and Tim finds himself face to face with his past when he runs into old neighbors from his hometown that call him "Kenneth McLure". Eddie proclaims that he is going to seduce Virginia and they’ll run away together, and Tim starts to believe they really will after he finds the room empty after Loralee tries and succeeds to seduce him in the bathroom of their hotel. Virginia, however, returns alone and Tim forces her to leave New Orleans.

They make their way to the Gulf of Mexico and end up in Tim’s hometown of Masonville, Mississippi. He wants to check out Nona Hickman, an old girlfriend’s, house when they are stopped suddenly by a cop. Instead of stopping, they make a run for it, and start a police chase that ends in Virginia killing the first cop and Tim getting out of the car while Virginia panics and drives off leaving him with the other cop. Tim in defense, shoots the other cop and makes a break for it before he is eventually caught and badly beaten, burned with cigars and thrown in jail. The cops stopped them because they thought they were the suspects of a grocery store robbing. They question him but he refuses to give up Virginia or the color of their car. For being a cop killer, the cops that have Tim in custody beat him severely, breaking each finger separately and dislocating his shoulder. It isn’t too long before Virginia is caught and thrown in jail. They form a story together to blame another person for the shootings but they escape the jail when one of the guards lets himself into Virginia’s cell one night and she hits him over the head with a stool and takes the keys and her and Tim fly to Denver.

In Denver, they stay at the hotel in the secluded part where the old mine shaft is. They blend in with the tourists, going skiing and finally renting a house out there. Virginia starts to obsess about death and being in the electric chair. One day, they go out skiing and for a picnic near the mine shaft. They both feel drawn to it and feel like if they don’t look down inside it, it’ll eat at them forever.

I couldn't stand not to look either. I think I'm going crazy. I've got to look at it and I can't, like a woman who's known for months she had a cancer and the doctor finally tells her it's there and he tells her where to look to see it. And she must look at it but she can't.” [4]

They inch their way towards the open shaft and finally look into the 600 foot drop. After looking into it, they feel a relief and start to dance around. Virginia suddenly slips and falls into the shaft opening but lands on an unstable rubble landing 40 feet down. Tim panics and goes back to the hotel to find rope and runs into his "old FBI friend", Clell Dooley, who was the one who put him in prison. He had seen him in New Orleans but Clell didn’t see him, but Clell now notices Tim when Tim turns and runs out the door to go back to Virginia. When Clell and four or five other men find Tim, he is sitting near the mine shaft in a daze, thinking about where Virginia is. Tim recalls looking back into the hole and 40 or so feet down, and seeing "a lump", like a kind of bow of rock sticking out and nothing else. You assume he means Virginia's body. The end concludes with Tim asking the men if they have seen Virginia but they said they didn’t seem to know about her before they start hitting him and carry him off.

Characters[edit]

  • Tim Sunblade/Kenneth McLure, escaped con that goes by the name of Sunblade
  • Virginia/Jennie, once a high priced escort, fled when the ring of crime bosses she was with got caught
  • Jeepie, one of Tim's partner-in-crimes in prison
  • Thompson, the other of Tim's partners
  • Eddie Arceneaux, infatuated with Virginia and tries to seduce her to get her to leave Tim
  • Loralee Arceneaux, Eddie's sister, infatuated with Tim and tries to seduce him also to help Eddie with Virginia
  • Spano, Tim's coworker at the steel factory
  • Brannigan, Tim's boss at the steel factory
  • Mr. George & Mrs. Lila McDonald, married couple and neighbors from Tim's home town that recognize him in New Orleans
  • Nona Hickman, Tim's old girlfriend from his home town
  • Clell Dooley, Tim's "old FBI friend" that originally sent him to prison for grand theft auto
  • Mamie, owner of a massage parlor Virginia used to work at, also a friend of hers
  • Mr. & Mrs. Mackin, owners of the inn in Cripple Creek
  • Baldy, the guard in the back of the armored truck
  • The driver, the one in the armored truck that leaves the truck to make a delivery when Tim robs it

Reviews[edit]

Ed Gorman wrote "Chaze is known in pulp circles for his flawless novel Black Wings Has My Angel, which many people feel is the single best novel Gold Medal published during its heyday."[5]

Bill Pronzini said that "Black Wings Has My Angel is a book that must be experienced, not read quickly for casual entertainment. It makes demands on the reader, as any piece of quality fiction does, and those demands deliver hammerblows where other noir novels provide light raps."[6]

Film adaptation[edit]

The film adaptation of Chaze's novel was picked up by director Alfonso Pineda Ulloa and producer and co-writer Christopher Peditto, who had spent more than a decade trying to obtain the rights to the novel. Peditto and fellow screenwriter Barry Gifford have written the screenplay for the film and it is set to star Tom Hiddleston as Tim Sunblade, Anna Paquin as Virginia and Elijah Wood as Eddie Arceneaux.[2] Filming was scheduled to start in September 2012 and be released sometime in late 2013.

In October 2012, Hiddleston reported in an interview that shooting for the film that was supposed to be in September was put on hold due to the recent births of Paquin's twins and her wanting to spend time to be a mother. Filming for the movie has yet to be announced but is still in pre-production.[7]

References[edit]

  1. ^ magick7. "Black Wings Has My Angel by Elliott Chaze". Moonlight Stories. Retrieved 31 May 2012. 
  2. ^ a b Fuller, Graham (14 February 2012). "Will "Black Wings Has My Angel" Spark a Film Noir Revival?". Art Info. Retrieved 2 June 2012. 
  3. ^ Chaze, Elliott (1953). Black Wings Has My Angel. Chapter 11: Gold Medal Books. p. 104. ISBN 1-59654-213-6. 
  4. ^ Chaze, Elliott (1953). Black Wings Has My Angel. Chapter 11: Gold Medal Books. p. 143. ISBN 1-59654-213-6. 
  5. ^ Gorman, Ed. "FORGOTTEN BOOKS #31: WETTERMARK By Elliott Chaze". GeorgeKelley.org. Retrieved 12 December 2012. 
  6. ^ Pronzini, Bill. "Ed Gorman's Blog". Retrieved 12 December 2012. 
  7. ^ "Film on hold after Paquin has twins". Independent.ie. 22 October 2012. Retrieved 11 December 2012.