Black Wings Has My Angel is narrated in the first person by an ex-convict using the alias Tim Sunblade. At the start of the story he has just wrapped up a season working on an oil rig and is getting ready to skip town. He just wants a nice bath and a woman to keep him company for the night. He winds up with more than he bargained for in Virginia, a hot-tempered woman on the run from some legal difficulties in New York. Tim is heading to Denver in order to complete the “perfect crime” his cellmate came up with before being shot during their escape. He figures he can just get rid of Virginia somewhere along the way but she proves surprisingly hard to part with.
As Tim becomes both impressed and infatuated with Virginia he decides she might be the partner he needs to pull off his daring robbery. The two set themselves up as newlyweds in quiet neighborhood. Tim gets a job in a factory to save up the heist’s operating costs while Virginia slowly goes insane trying to play housewife.
The heist is an armored car job. As in, stealing an entire armored car. Tim customizes a large trailer to accommodate the car and studies the driver’s route for weeks to figure out his vulnerabilities. When the time is right, he’ll kill the “custodian” in the back who’s in charge of the money, hijack the car, drive it into the back of the trailer and then dump the trailer, car, and dead guard down an abandoned mine shaft so deep the evidence could never be found.
The plan works beautifully, but still it’s the beginning of nothing but trouble for Tim and Virginia, as the money drives a wedge between them while also forcing them to stick together. The fear of getting caught by some unforeseen flaw in their plan weighs on them heavily, and so when something does go wrong as it always does in noir fiction, it goes very wrong very fast.
Elliott Chaze isn’t a writer I was familiar with. This is a novel that was sort of rediscovered a few years ago when New York Review Books published it in paperback under its original title. His prose has all the classic noir characteristics and is as dark as the more well-known works of writers like James M. Cain and Jim Thompson. It’s a worthy addition to the shelf for any fan of tough-talking dames and desperate men willing to kill for what they want.