“Black Wings Has My Angel” by Elliot Chaze

PattyRecommended by Pattyblack wings

I’m dying for something good to read! I say this all the time. So then, what to do?

We all have our ways of finding the next good book to read. You ask that one friend. You go to NPR books. You stop in the library and browse the shelves. Maybe now you even go to Ritter Recommends. (Aw, thanks!)

So here’s what happened to me recently. I was dying for something good to read. So I started googling around. Down the rabbit hole and next thing you know I’m at the New York Public Library’s twitter feed (how’d that happen?) and here’s what I came up with – a very enticing title, “Black Wings Has My Angel” by Elliott Chaze.

I’m not above choosing a book just because the title sucks me in. But when I looked a little further, I found this crime novel was originally published in 1953. Hmm, interesting. What would an old-fashioned, pulp fiction written by an old-school newspaperman read like? (Chaze was a reporter for the Associated Press.)

Turns out, really noir, pretty cool:

“Twenty-seven may be too young to die, but it isn’t too young to die like a man,” says the tough guy. About the dame he’s seeing, “She was a lousy little tramp. God knows I’m an authority on tramps.”

And she says to him, “You move around like a damned tormented tomcat and your eyes aren’t right. You’re just about perfect. And you’re just about horrible.”

So much fun!

The sex scenes are vintage too: “She kissed the way an expert dancer follows the lead, giving and taking at exquisitely the right moment… If she could drive the way she loved… I gave her the wheel and she curved out of the gravel drive as slick as anything you’d want to see. She handled the hydramatic shift without self-consciousness and she fed the heavy car the gas in a nice soft gush.” Gosh! And I’ve never even heard of a hydramatic shift.

Here’s one period reference that stumped me: When the tough guy tries to track down the broad, he says, “By midnight, I’d combed more restaurants and bars than Duncan Hines covered in a week.” Huh?

Well, before Duncan Hines was a cake mix, he was a travelling salesman, eating in restaurants across the country throughout the 1930s and eventually publishing a book, “Adventures in Good Eating.” See what I mean about dropping down that rabbit hole?

Chaze’s writing isn’t cartoonish: “You’ve never heard a siren until you’ve heard one looking for you and you alone. Then you really hear it and know what it is… You sit in your living room and hear a siren and it’s a small and lonesome thing… But when it is after you, it is the texture of the whole world. You will hear it until you die. It tears the guts out of you like a drill against a nerve.”

I recommend that when you’re dying for something good to read, you spend some time with Elliott Chaze.

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