Elliott Chaze touched the lives of many during his lifetime, both at the national stage and in Hattiesburg and at USM.
Readers first took note of Chaze when he started writing for the Associated Press before he turned to write his novel, “Black Wings Has My Angel,” which still has cult following.
According to IMDb, a film based on “Black Wings has My Angel” is currently in production.
“Originally published in 1953 by Gold Medal Books — known for their original crime fiction paperbacks with memorably lurid covers — Chaze’s novel has been reprinted by New York Review Books Classics, allowing a new generation of readers to discover this underappreciated hard-boiled masterpiece,” NPR Books said.
Chaze mentored young writers for The Student Printz at USM from 1972 to 1975. One writer he mentored, Larry Jones, now runs a fan page dedicated to Elliott Chaze.
“I was getting my masters and worked with Elliott every day,” Jones said. “He was a really great guy and talked as he wrote. He used very vivid language. There were occasions when he spoke that it was like listening to a poet. He was a gruff old guy, but a great gentleman. I worked with him for a year. Other students got to work with him as well. I’ve done a lot of writing in my career but at the time, I was just an editor.”
Jones said Elliott taught him more than grammar and spelling.
“He taught me to use shorter, more powerful words,” Jones said. “Ernest Hemmingway loved Chaze’s first book. He was in a great crowd of literary writers, but he didn’t publish a lot. More people today should know who he is.”
The Associated Press gave a short biography of his life and said Chaze’s first job as a writer was with the Associated Press from 1939 to 1942. He served as a paratrooper in World War II and as an editor and reporter for the Hattiesburg American.
During his time at the Hattiesburg American in the 1970s, Chaze worked alongside Brenda Trigg.
Trigg described Chaze as witty, sarcastic, irreverent, non- hypocritical, blunt, sometimes volatile, entertaining and as a great story teller.
“His writing was entertaining,” she said. “It was easy. He was not pedantic or stiff. When you read something Elliot wrote, you didn’t want it to end. He could say so much with so few words. He was a great observer of human nature.”
Trigg said she cherishes the notes he would give her on her writing. She said they included words of wisdom, encouragement and witticisms.
“I remember a note that read, ‘Did you hear about the virgin pine that wood knot do it?” Trigg said “He loved to play with words. When Bob Dylan and the Rolling Thunder Revue played at Reed Green Coliseum, I reviewed the concert. He wrote me a note [that said] something about my review: ‘You could have done a better job but no one else could have.’ What
Trigg said Chaze had a softer side, she recalls he demonstrated during the Hattiesburg American’s coverage of ‘the first day of school.’ Her teary-eyed nephew was among the images captured by the publication’s photographer.
“The photo of my nephew was precious, but he [had] a big tear rolling down his cheek. Elliott used one of another kid staring off in space,” she said. “I questioned why he chose the one he did, and he said something to the effect of, ‘This little guy had a bad day. I don’t want to make it worse by putting a picture of him crying on the front page.’
She said in that moment she was struck by the realization that he was not the heartless, crusty, hardened editor so many thought him to be.
“He could be scary with his anger but then incredibly sensitive,” she said.