Wed 4 Apr 2007
Chaze is known in pulp circles for his flawless novel Black Wings Has My Angel, which many people feel is the single best novel Gold Medal published during its heyday. As Bill details, Chaze also wrote several other novels, a few of which are also fine books.
As I was reading the Chaze piece last night, I started remembering the two or thre phone calls I had with him. At that time the original Black Lizard Publishing Company seemed to be flourishing. Both Barry Gifford, the line’s editor, and I wanted to get Angel back into print. I agreed that I’d try and track Chaze down. Took a while but I finally got a phone number.
He seemed almost amused that anybody remembered Angel with such respect and interest. He talked first about a few of his other books. My interpretation Ė and I may be wrong here Ė is that he felt hardbacks published by major houses should be of more interest than a paperback original.
But as we talked, I kept bringing up scenes from Angel. And finally he began speaking enthusiastically about it. That is, until I told him what we could pay him for it. He then went into a low key but bitter story about how “New York” screwed writers at every turn. They didn’t pay much, they didn’t promote, they cheated you on royalties. While these were all standard writer complaints, he delivered them with singular ferocity.
He assured me several times that he liked me, that he just might have to look up one of my books, that he’d appreciate seeing some Black Lizard novels to look over. He obviously didn’t want to end on a bitter note. He even invited me to call him again, which I did. The next call we mostly talked books and movies we liked. And toward the end about his career as a journalist in the South during the most turbulent decades since the Civil War.
He was a bright, gifted man. We never did reprint Angel because the line was sold suddenly. But I sure wish we had. I can see it with one of those great Kerwan covers on that shiny stock the Lizards used. Chaze would have been right at home with the other hardboiled greats, Fredric Brown, Peter Rabe, Jim Thompson, Charles Willeford and many others Ė Barry had developed, for my taste, the best reprint line of American hardboiled fiction ever offered anywhere.
>> Bill Pronziniís reply: I envy Edís contact with Chaze, who was clearly a writer after my own heart. I’d have enjoyed knowing him, I’m sure. His experiences with and feelings toward publishers and publishing pretty much mirror mine.