Mississippi Writers and Musicians
MISSISSIPPI WRITERS: Lewis Elliott Chaze


Lewis Elliott Chaze Elliott Chaze, Photo from The Clarion Ledger

Major Works

  • The Stainless Steel Kimono  1947
  • The Golden Tag  1950
  • Black Wings Has My Angel  1953
  • Two Roofs and a Snake on the Door  1963
  • Tiger in the Honeysuckle  1965
  • Wettermark  1969
  • Goodbye Goliath  1983
  • Mr. Yesterday  1984
  • Little David  1985

---------------------------------------------------

Elliott Chaze: A Biography
By Kara Templeton (SHS)

Kara Templeton (SHS)
Twentieth century Mississippi author Lewis Elliott Chaze penned nine novels about rural life in the South before he died in 1990.  Chaze, pronounced "shayze,"(May  89) was born to Lewis and Sue Chaze on November 15, 1915, in Mamu, Louisiana.  He went to Bolton High School in Alexandria, Louisiana, and graduated in 1932 (Keys 87).  After high school he attended Washington and Lee (1932-1934), Tulane University (1935), and received his B.A. from Oklahoma University (1937) (May 89). Chaze’s first career in journalism was for the New Orleans Bureau of the Associated Press (Keys 87). He served a stint in the U.S. Army during World War II in the 11th Airborne Divison as a technical sergeant (May 89). After World War II he remained in Japan for a time while American troops occupied the country.  Later, he transferred to the Denver, Colorado,  Associated Press Bureau. In 1951, Chaze began a long career with the Hattiesburg American (Hattiesburg, Mississippi),  first as a reporter and later as city editor from 1970-1980 (Keys 87).

Chaze’s novels are based on his own life experiences. His first novel (1947), The Stainless Steel Kimono, is a fictional novel based on the lives of seven paratroopers in Japan during the war. The Golden Tag, his second novel (1950) highlights the life of a young wire service reporter and would-be novelist in New Orleans. Both of these novels closely resemble Chaze’s own life. Chaze penned his third novel in 1953, Black Wings Has My Angel, about an armored car robbery that takes place in Colorado. In the late 1960’s when Chaze reported for the Hattiesburg American, he wrote two novels, Tiger in the Honeysuckle and Wettermark. Both novels chronicle the lives of young newspaper reporters in Mississippi (Keys 87).  His last novels, Goodbye Goliath and Mr. Yesterday, were published five years before his death in 1990 (May 89).

Black Wings Has My Angel, awarded the Fawcett Gold Medal Paperback Award, became Chaze's first award for his fictional writings (Bertram F2).  A prolific writer, he also authored many articles and short stories for popular magazines including Life, Reader's Digest, New Yorker, Redbook, Collier's, and Cosmopolitan.  As a newspaper writer, Chaze was honored with the Hal Boyle Memorial Award for the best personal column in the Louisiana-Mississippi sector (May 89).  His column, On the Lopside, appeared in a number of newspapers, and he received awards for the column.

Chaze married the former Mary Vincent (May 89).  They had five children, Mary Elliot, William, Kim, Jessica, and Chris.  An active author until his death, Chaze died in 1990 at the age of 74 (Keys 87).  Chaze described himself as a "skilled speaker of dog-latin."  Regaring his success and motivation, Chaze made this statement, "My motivation, if there is any discernible, is probably ego and fear of mathematics, with overtones of money.  Primarily I have a simple desire to shine my ass - to show off a bit" (May 89).

His books are currently out of print but that will change in 2001, when California publisher Donald S. Ellis reprints Black Wings Has My Angel through his Black River Books.  Barry Gifford, in the January/February issue of the Oxford American,  says the this novel is "an astonishingly well written literary novel that just happened to be about (or roundabout) a crime."  The book is called a "cult classic" and is about a robbery that involves murder and prostitution and mystery.  The narrator sets himself up for his own  fall.  Chaze, newsman and suspense writer, will soon be available for readers again.

Update: Chaze's long-lost classic, Black Wings Has My Angel,a legend among noir buffs, has now become available. It is published by Blackmask publishers.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Timeline

Year Event Additional Information
1915 Born November 15
1932 Graduated High School Bolton High School, Alexandria, Louisiana
1932-34 Attended Washington & Lee   Lexington, Virginia
1935 Attended Tulane University New Orleans, Louisiana
1937 Graduated Oklahoma University B.A. degree in Journalism
1941-43 News Editor Associated Press, New Orleans, Louisiana
1943-45 U.S. Army 11th Airborne Division, Technical Sergeant
1945-51 News Editor Associated Press, Denver, Colorado
1947 The Stainless Steel Kimono Fictional novel based on 7 paratroopers in Japan
1950 The Golden Tag Fictional novel about a young wire service reporter/would-be novelist in New Orleans
1951-1970 Reporter Hattiesburg American, Hattiesburg, Mississippi
1953 Black Wings Has My Angel Fictional novel about an armored car robbery in Colorado
1965 Tiger in the Honeysuckle Chronicle of the lives of Mississippi Newspaper reporters
1969 Wettermark Chronicle of the lives of Mississippi Newspaper reporters
1970-1981 City Editor Hattiesburg American, Hattiesburg, Mississippi
1990 Died
 
Age 74

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

A Review of Little David
by Kara Templeton (SHS)

In the great Mississippi classic, Little David, by Elliott Chaze, the protagonist shows the Southern fire that is inside us all.  A struggling journalist in Cathryne, Alabama, Kiel St. James is faced with trying  to figure out a murder based on Biblical background.  St. James, age 70, had been a reporter earlier in his career, and  the town detective, Boles, phones him with a request to help solve the mystery.  C.B. Barrington, the town commissioner, has been  killed by a headwound by the mysterious "Little David."  As you read, you learn that he was killed with a stone in the center of his forehead, just as the Biblical character Goliath was slain by David.  The murderer leaves the town without substantial clues of who he is,  leaving the town asking questions such as "How in God's name could anyone sink a rock that size in the bone?"   The town waits in anticipation to see when and if he will strike again.  In an effort to solve the mystery, St. James interviews the townspeople.  While trying to solve the first murder, a second one is committed.  This time Mayor Leon Link, the old, crazy mayor previously interviewed by St. James is murdered.  After the second murder, St. James discovers where the stones used in the murders originate.  While St. James is trying to solve the murders, interesting people and relationships evolve throughout the book.  Chaze weaves an interesting tale of  small town murders, characters, and relationships in the rural South.  Read this entertaining mystery to find out who Little David is.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Related Websites

Bill Pronzini on ELLIOTT CHAZE on Mystery File blog.

Amazon reviews of Black Wings Has My Angel.

"A few words can say so much" by Rick Cleveland tells of Cleveland's experiences working with Elliott Chaze at the Hattiesburg American.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Bibliography

Bertram, Jack.  "Return of a Classic."  The Clarion-Ledger 19 March 2000: F1 F2.

Chaze, Elliott.  Little David.  New York:  Charles Scribner's Sons, 1985.

"Elliott Chaze."  [online]  Available http://www.mpl.org/files/readers/great.html, April 14, 2000.

"Elliott Chaze."  [online]  Available http://home.pix.za/es/es11/goldmetal/othe.html, April 14, 2000.

Keys, Marshall.  Lives of Mississippi Authors.  Ed. James B. Lloyd.  Jackson, MS:  University Press of Mississippi, 1981. 87.

May, Hal.  "Lewis Elliott Chaze." Contemporary Authors.  1985 ed. vol. 113. 89

---------------------------------------------------------

-----------------

 

t

Last updated in January 2008
This site is maintained and edited by . Send comments and additions .