Murder With Southern Hospitality:
An Exhibition of Mississippi Mysteries

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Hard-Boiled & Noir

Elliott Chaze

Born in Mamou, Louisiana in 1915, Elliott Chaze worked for the New Orleans bureau of the Associated Press after college. During World War II, he was a paratrooper in the 11th Airborne Division and served in the Army of Occupation in Japan. Returning to civilian status, Chaze worked for the Associated Press until 1951, when he moved to Mississippi and joined the newspaper staff of the Hattiesburg American. From 1970 to 1980, he occupied the city editor’s desk.

Chaze wrote nine novels over the course of his lifetime. His third work, Black Wings Has My Angel, has become an elusive and expensive cult classic to acquire. Published in 1953 as an original paperback, the tale of prostitution and armored car robbery received the Fawcett Gold Medal Book Award. Gold Medal revolutionized the paperback market in 1950 when it began to consistently publish original stories in a format that previously only reprinted hardcover editions. Due to higher payments and guaranteed royalties, the company attracted established and quality authors. Gold Medal, however, retained the right to alter titles as it did with the manuscript submitted by Chaze called “Red Wings Has My Angel.” The darker hue demanded by the publisher provided a literal cue to consumers of the noir content associated with Gold Medal. A French edition appeared in 1954, and Jean-Pierre Mocky directed a movie based on the novel.

In 1969, Charles Scribner’s Sons published another Chaze mystery entitled Wettermark. The narrator is Cliff Wettermark, a small-town Mississippi newspaperman whose obsession with a bank robbery leads to his own downfall. In the 1980s, Chaze wrote three volumes in a Mississippi mystery series featuring city editor Kiel St. James: Goodbye Goliath (1983), Mr. Yesterday (1984), and Little David (1985).

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