This is a great mid-century "pulp" novel that, like James Cain's "Postman Always Rings Twice," has been celebrated for it's skillful writing (the 1934 "Postman" was much earlier, however, than this 1953 work). In addition to the action, which is deftly conveyed, Chaze makes the surroundings come alive as well. The suburbs of Denver, the abandoned gold mines nearby, the American road just before the Eisenhower freeway system, the smells of the South, the lack of smells in the West...it's rich, but not in purple or overstuffed prose. The writing wasn't groundbreaking, it wasn't Hemingway, but it was quite good, certainly for a pulp.
The narrator is an interesting mix of hard guy, college boy who didn't make good, and amoral alcoholic depressive. His "angel" is more two-dimensional, as she's perfectly formed physically and has a perfectly icy heart ("made of dollar bills" as the cover says). There's a wonderful back and forth between them, as their trust in each other and desire for each other shifts from day to day. Here's an example (the two are swimming in a quarry pool):
"....She was wonderful in the water, almost professionally good, and the water was clear because its bottom was solid rock and there was nothing to stir up and cloud it. It must have been about nine feet deep and cold, achingly cold. It felt so fine to my head I'd take a deep breath and go limp and sink down to the bottom and squat there. From below the surface was a sheet of mercury and then I'd see it break roughly as she kicked against it coming down to me. It was like watching her through a sheet of clean green cellophane. She came and curved around me and slid along my back and shoulders. A futuristic kind of love. Love with all the heat taken out of it.... (p.39)"
When they get out of the pool, you don't know if they'll be making love or trying to run each other over with the Packard next. Probably, they'll do both.
"Black Wings" has also been one of the rarest pulps of note, and 52 years after it's last publication, it's finally back on the market.
I second everything "Baron Von Cool" wrote earlier about this particular edition. While there may have been typos in the original Gold Medal version (which any decent publisher would silently correct), there are clearly plenty of new ones introduced here. Some errors in this reprint seem the result of Optical Character Recognition (OCR), used to digitize paper texts. For example: the lower case "l" starts a sentence where the pronoun "I" is clearly intended (p.19). Or this beauty: "In the South the roses explode out of the weeds in the yards o&.pound; the poorest shanties." (p. 21). Somehow the html coding for "£" got printed instead of the British pound symbol, which was how the publisher's stupid OCR software read the letter "f" on the original page. The sentence must have originally read "...in the yards of the poorest shanties." But you'd never guess that without typing the raw text into a web brower and then publishing it on Amazon, whereupon the "£" sign magically appears and you figure out what the **** all that garbage in your novel was.
Unfortunately, there are more than a few typos. They leave you scratching your head and wondering "what letter, if I changed it, would make this sentence make sense?" Then, for instance, you'll realize that the characters "ni" are in the place of what is supposed to be an "m", and the meaning becomes clear. Meanwhile, you've been thrown out of the reality that Chaze has skillfully created for you.
And then there's the page and chapter layout that looks like a seventh grader did all the book design in Microsoft Word, with no special templates or section formatting ("amateur hour," like the Baron says). The title page is numbered at the top, the story begins on page 4, the sections and chapters are crammed together with no white space, and so on. All these little things really do distract the reader, bringing things to a grinding halt on occasion.
Of course, a crummy version of a lost classic is better than no version at all or paying an outrageous sum for an original copy. I am greatful that someone out there bothered with a book that probably isn't going to bring in much of a financial return. Buy the book while it's around--it's not beyond redemption in this form.
Edit: Turns out Blackmask publishers is/was run by David Moynihan, a Don Quixote-esque guy battling The Man for the public's right to publish works that should properly be in the public domain. He's published hundreds of public domain texts on his website, so he's certainly due his props. It doens't change the sloppy presentation of "Black Wings...", but I suppose it's a mitigating factor. Good luck, David. May your mission continue.