Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Black Wings Has My Angel; The Plastic Nightmare

Centipede Press has finally given the most lauded Gold Medal of all time the home it has always deserved--a collector's edition of true bookmaking excellence and permanence.


Here are some excerpts from the excellent introduction by Bill Pronzini. Bill discusses not only Black Wings but also the life of its author, Eliot Chaze.

"...Yet the novel that many contemporary critics and aficionados consider the best of all the Gold Medal originals‹and one of the best noir crime novels ever written‹was a one-shot by a newspaperman and mainstream novelist who did not publish another piece of crime fiction for sixteen years.

"That novel, of course, is Black Wings Has My Angel.

"Originally published in April 1953 as Gold Medal #296, it had the usual lurid paperback cover art of the period and a typically provocative teaser line: She had the face of a madonna and a heart made of dollar bills. The brief back cover blurb was equally melodramatic:

"None of the above gives the slightest indication of the novel¹s power and intensity, the depth of its dark-side character development, its bleak social commentary, the existential savagery of its dénouement. Barry Gifford, in an article in the Oxford American, called it ³an astonishingly well written literary novel that just happened to be about (or roundabout) a crime,² but not even that encomium does it complete justice. 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."


The Plastic Nightmare was published as an Ace original in the late 1960s. It was a book I never forgot for the simple reason that several of its characters were upper class sociopaths so common in the noir films of the 1940s. Think "Laura." Now Centipede has brought it back in a beautiful collector's edition. I write the introduction and there's a long and excellent interview with Neely conducted by Mike Pettengell.

Here's a piece of of my introduction:

"I was thinking of Neely last night because I was finishing up his novel The Plastic Nightmare, which became an incomprehensible movie called Shattered. Neely loved tricks as much as Woolrich did and Plastic is a field of land mines. He even manages to spin some fresh variations on the amnesia theme. It's as noir as noir can be but mysteriously I've never seen Neely referred to on any noir list. My theory is that his books, for the most part, were presented in such tony packages, they were bypassed by mystery fans. They looked mainstream."

For complete information on these editions go here:


Cullen Gallagher said...

If only I had the extra cash to pay for those nice hardcover editions. Hopefully they'll release paperbacks soon (their PB of "Here Comes a Candle" and "Nightfall" are quite gorgeous as well, so no complaints there).

David Cranmer said...

Yeah, this is my kind of reading. Thanks for posting and the links.