Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Cash and Carried Away

This is amazing to learn, I know, but I’d never gotten around to reading Elliott Chaze’s 1953 heist novel, Black Wings Has My Angel, until New York Review Books Classics re-released it last month. What a striking and finely composed yarn Chaze unrolls in that slim work! It bowled me over so much that I decided to devote my latest Kirkus Reviews column to Black Wings. As I explain:
From the outset, we’re propelled into a noir-ish world—bleak, desperate, and haunting. There we encounter our antihero protagonist, a mid-20s prison escapee and car thief who calls himself Tim Sunblade (not his real name, of course). After four months of “roughnecking” on an oil rig that punctuates Louisiana’s Atchafalaya River, he’s more than ready for a “hot-water bath” and some fragrant female companionship. So he takes a room at a forgettable little hotel in a forgettable little town, and before he soaps up, he asks an obliging bellhop to find him a hooker for the evening. He’s more than a bit surprised when the porter returns with Virginia, an intriguingly well-spoken “ten-dollar tramp” boasting lavender-gray eyes, hair of a “light creamy gold,” and legs that go all the way down to the ground and then some. Sunblade had figured to exhaust one night of booze and sex with this woman, but that isn’t quite what happens.
Click here to enjoy the full critique.

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