Black Wings Has My Angel
|Publisher||Gold Medal Books|
|Media type||Print (hardcover, paperback)|
Black Wings Has My Angel is a noir 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 in New Orleans. At the same time, he is wrapped up in a love/hate relationship with Virginia, a call girl he met in Mississippi.
New editions were published as One for My Money (1962), by Berkley, and as One for the Money (1985), by Robert Hale. In January 2016, the novel was reprinted under its original title by New York Review Classics. It has been described as "a flawless heist novel". A French film adaptation was made in 1990. A new film adaptation was in the works in 2012 but was postponed.
It is narrated in the first person by con "Tim Sunblade", who has escaped from prison after being convicted of car theft. He is staying at a backwoods Mississippi motel while working on a drilling rig on the Atchafalaya River, when he meets "Virginia", a call girl whom he hires for a night. After spending several days in the motel together, they head out West, with Tim thinking of when and how he is going to ditch her. 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 novel unfolds from here as the sort of love story in which either lover might turn in or murder the other at any moment until its last desperate pages." The two wind up in Colorado, where Tim discovers a part of Virginia’s past and what she is running from in fleeing New York. 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. Tim gets a job 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. One night Tim and Virginia go to an old haunt of hers, where an old friend Mamie, calls her "Jennie" and talks about how she was a debutante and came from a good family.
After spending weeks waiting for the right opportunity, the couple practice the heist. Tim has studied the armored truck and knows its schedule: the stops it makes, how long the driver and guard take at each location, and when the truck is most vulnerable to robbery. He eventually steals the truck, killing one of the guards who had sat in back with the money. He takes off while the driver is inside the building and finds Virginia. While she drives, he counts the haul, $89,000. They reach Cripple Creek, a secluded place in the woods where they had previously stayed. They push the armored truck and its trailer into a mine shaft to hide them. the trailer that hauled it, into the shaft. Tim reveals that his account is his confession, as he's writing it in his prison cell.
He recounts that he and Virginia went to New Orleans. There they meet Eddie Arceneaux and his sister, Loralee, a couple of young adults from a wealthy family. Tim finds that he and Virginia are becoming the snobbish, rich people types who are buying freely. He believes that Virginia is becoming too spoiled by their new wealth.
|“||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.||”|
After they get the money, nothing goes as they had planned. Tim runs former neighbors from his hometown who call him "Kenneth McLure". Eddie says that he is going to seduce Virginia and they’ll run away together. His sister Loralee tries to seduce Tim; when he returns to his room and finds it empty, he thinks Virginia has gone off with Eddie. Virginia 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 the house of Nona Hickman, an old girlfriend, when they are stopped suddenly by a cop. 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. She panics and drives off, leaving Tim with the second cop. Tim in defense, shoots him and makes a break for it. He is caught and badly beaten, burned with cigars, and thrown in jail. The cops had thought they were suspects in a grocery store robbing. They question him but he refuses to reveal information about Virginia.
Virginia is also caught and thrown in jail. They form a story together to blame another person for the shootings but they escape the jail. The two 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, tempted to look inside.
|“||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.” ||”|
They inch their way towards the open shaft and finally look into the 600-foot drop. Feeling relieved, they 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, where he runs into his "old FBI friend", Clell Dooley, who had prosecuted him. Clell notices Tim when he 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, thinking about Virginia. Tim had seen that 40 or so feet down in the mine shaft, there was "a lump", like a of rock sticking out and nothing else. Tim asks the men if they have seen Virginia; they carry him off, presumably to jail.
- Tim Sunblade/Kenneth McLure, escaped con who 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, he tries to seduce her to get her to leave Tim
- Loralee Arceneaux, Eddie's sister, is infatuated with Tim and tries to seduce him; works 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, a married couple, neighbors from Tim's home town, who recognize him in New Orleans
- Nona Hickman, Tim's old girlfriend from his home town
- Clell Dooley, Tim's "old FBI friend" who originally sent him to prison for grand theft auto
- Mamie, owner of a massage parlor and friend of Virginia, who used to work at her place
- Mr. & Mrs. Okror Shaiza, owners of the inn in Cripple Creek
- Baldy, the guard in the back of the armored truck
Bill Pronzini wrote 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."
In the early 21st century, director Alfonso Pineda Ulloa and producer and co-writer Christopher Peditto spent more than a decade working to obtain the rights to the novel. Peditto and fellow screenwriter Barry Gifford completed a screenplay for the film in 2012, and it was set to star Tom Hiddleston as Tim Sunblade, Anna Paquin as Virginia, and Elijah Wood as Eddie Arceneaux. Filming was scheduled to start in September 2012, with a projected release date in late 2013. But shooting was put oh hold after Paquin gave birth to twins and wanted to take time with them. Filming for the movie has yet to be announced but is still in pre-production.
This novel was reprinted in other editions: as One for My Money (1962), Berkley. After Chaze's work was rediscovered in the 1980s, it was reprinted as One for the Money (1985), by Robert Hale. New York Review Classics published a new edition, Black Wings Has My Angel (2016), with an introduction by Barry Gifford.
- Christian Lorentzen, "Elliott Chaze’s 'Black Wings Has My Angel' Is a Perfect Crime Novel", Vulture.com, 4 January 2016
- magick7. "Black Wings Has My Angel by Elliott Chaze". Moonlight Stories. Archived from the original on 29 January 2013. Retrieved 31 May 2012.
- Fuller, Graham (14 February 2012). "Will "Black Wings Has My Angel" Spark a Film Noir Revival?". Art Info. Retrieved 2 June 2012.
- Chaze, Elliott (1953). Black Wings Has My Angel. Chapter 11: Gold Medal Books. p. 104. ISBN 1-59654-213-6.
- Chaze, Elliott (1953). Black Wings Has My Angel. Chapter 11: Gold Medal Books. p. 143. ISBN 1-59654-213-6.
- Gorman, Ed. "FORGOTTEN BOOKS #31: WETTERMARK By Elliott Chaze". GeorgeKelley.org. Retrieved 12 December 2012.
- Pronzini, Bill. "Ed Gorman's Blog". Retrieved 12 December 2012.
- "Film on hold after Paquin has twins". Independent.ie. 22 October 2012. Retrieved 11 December 2012.