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Falling Angel [Mass Market Paperback]

William Hjortsberg
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)

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Book Description

July 15 1996 Dead Letter Mystery
For New York private investigator Harry Angel, it's just another job for the missing persons file. An enigmatic client wants him to track down famous 40s crooner Johnny Favorite. The problem is, the singer was last seen in a hospital upstate more than fifteen years ago. And Johnny's current whereabouts-and his fate-are shrouded in mystery.

With a trail as cold as stone, Angel delves into Favorite's murky past, discovering the singer had shocking connections to seamy carnival sideshows, black magic, and a grisly voodoo cult. And the deeper Angel digs, the further he descends into a dark underworld, where someone as evil as the blackest of shadows holds all the chilling answers.

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Product Details

Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Originally published in 1978, Hjortsberg's debut mystery was the basis for the film Angel Heart.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.


"Terrific...One of a kind...I've never read anything remotely like it." --Stephen King

"A near-perfect book...Not since Psycho changed the bathing habits of thousands has a novelist so completely turned preconceptions inside out." --Los Angeles Times

"A compelling, page-turning story in the best private-eye tradition, with brilliantly nightmarish scenes of black magic and voodoo." --Washington Post

"A tight, suspenseful story...Not for the timid." --Miami Herald

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I saw the movie first but I still loved the novel Sept. 20 2003
Format:Mass Market Paperback
This is a hard book to review without giving too much away. Like many people I saw the film "Angel Heart" first and then read the book, so I knew the ending. But nonetheless I loved this book and in fact I could hardly put it down. I'd get home from work and the first thing on my mind was getting back to "Falling Angel."
If it were not for its macabre and graphic content this book might make excellent classroom reading for high school students, as it makes use of many bread-and-butter literary elements such as foreshadowing and dramatic irony, and it has some echoes of Greek tragedy and certain Elizabethan plays. At the same time it is a fast, easy read. The chapters are short, and each one advances the plot or our understanding of the characters with an efficiency that would make any creative writing teacher proud. Whether you call it horror, detective fiction, or a psychological thriller, this is a great read.
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By Andre Farant TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Falling Angel was originally published in 1978. So why review it here and now? For one thing, it's an excellent novel that blends noire-style mystery with Exorcist-level horror. Secondly, the book's importance is criminally under-appreciated. For instance, a single edition of Falling Angels is available on amazon.ca, and delivery could take up to four months. On amazon.com, there are apparently no new copies available at all. Just think: know anyone who's read it? Had you even heard of it?

Fact is you probably do know of it, or have at least heard of it. In 1987, Falling Angel was adapted to the big screen as Angel Heart. The film was directed by Alan Parker, starred Mickey Rourke, Robert DeNiro, and Lisa Bonet, and, like the book, was about a private detective named Harry Angel (Rourke) hired the mysterious Louis Cyphre (DeNiro) to find a man who may have been involved in voodoo and the Occult. As it is with too many great novels, more people have probably seen the movie than have read the book.

So what if you have seen Angel Heart (and if you haven't--what are you waiting for)? After all, in addition to being beautifully shot and often disturbing (it is proof that not all horror films of the eighties were without artistic merit), Angel Heart is known for its shocking twists. If you know how the movie ends, is it still worth seeking out and reading the novel?

In a word: absolutely. The movie follows the novel's first third almost scene for scene but, past that, the book and novel are quite different. The surprises are the same, but Hjortsberg's tight prose and complex plotting go beyond a few twists and a shock ending. The book is worth reading because it is an excellent piece of horror lit. It ranks up there with Levine's Rosemary's Baby and Blatty's Exorcist.
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5.0 out of 5 stars not for publication Jan. 29 2004
By A Customer
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Please please remove Jack Felson's review of Falling Angel from your site. It gives away the ending! (And it has no merit as a review.)
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5.0 out of 5 stars This is one gritty detective story! Feb. 17 2003
Format:Mass Market Paperback
While you read this, take what you know about the late fifties in New York City, and compare it here. This story immerses the reader superbly into the atmosphere of the setting. I swore I could almost smell cigarettes and hear the perfect, New York accents. The dialog was written well enough to do just that, make you think it is authentic New York. The storyline is fantastic. Basically, a detective is hired to find a person who has been missing for over fifteen years. Along the way, he must go through a bog of voodoo mysticism and black mass rituals until at the very end, the truth is revealed. The ending is extremely clever and there is no way I am going to spoil that. If you are into the crime - or horror - genre then there is absolutely no way you can miss this one.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing thriller Nov. 14 2002
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Detective stories are a mine field. Given the amazing numbers of this kind of books, every now and then you surely are going to step in a bomb and regret the time and money you spent in some terrible story. Fortunately, this is not the case in "Falling Angel".
Harry Angel is a private detective in the New York in the end of the fifties, hired by a misterious character to find a very famous crooner who disppeared in the middle of the WW2. During his investigation, he discovers some terrifying truths, envolving voodoo worship, satanism, black massess, and yet Johnny Favorite, the crooner, is nowhere to be found. In the end, the truth is really amazing, and Harry could never escape it.
For those who saw "Angel heart" before reading this book, I must say the surprise was completely lost. However, Hjortsberg is a fine and talented writer, the book is told in the fast-paced rhythm of New York, and the sucession of scenes is very well programed and easy to follow, and fast to read as well. This is a classic detective story, with lots of sarcasm, murders, twists, and something that you don't find in every down-to-earth detective book: supernatural elements. As strange as it seems, it doesn't spoil the story, in fact these supernaturals combine to enhance the thrilling of the plot. The final two or three chapters are amazing, and the ending is surprising and powerful.
Grade 9.5/10
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Format:Mass Market Paperback
At one point in William Hjortsberg's masterful horror novel, Epiphany Proudfoot, 17-year-old voodoo priestess, tells our detective hero Harry Angel "you sure know a lot about the city." The city in question is the New York of 1959, and if Angel knows a lot about this crazy burg, then Hjortsberg, in the course of this tale, demonstrates that he knows even more. While much has been said of this book's scary elements--its voodoo ceremonies and Black Mass meeting and horrible murders--what impressed me most about this tale is the incredible attention to realistic detail that the author invests it with. I don't know if the author grew up in this town in the '50s or just did a remarkable research job, but the reader really does get the impression that this book (which came out in 1978) was written a few decades earlier. Roosevelt Island is called Welfare Island, quite correctly; street names are given the names they had 45 years ago; subway ads are described that I can dimly recall from my youth at the time; one-cent peanut-vending machines are in the subways (boy, does that bring me back!); and on and on. This is the type of book in which if something is described, you can bet your bottom buck that it really existed. For example, at one point our hero walks into a 42nd St. theatre called Hubert's Museum and Flea Circus. I checked it out; it was really there in the late '50s! You can really learn a lot about the city as it was by reading this fast-moving tale; it's almost like a history lesson wrapped up in a hardboiled voodoo thriller.
And what a thriller this is! Even without the incredible attention to detail, this book would be a winner. In it, Harry Angel is hired by Lou Cyphre (get it?
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars No wings for this angel... - a vertiginous book
After some short science-fiction texts (like "Gray Matters"), William Hjortsberg kept some after effects from them because he put some elements in his first detective attempt. Read more
Published on Oct. 15 2003 by Jack Felson
5.0 out of 5 stars Great, credible PI noir fiction
This novel is always found in the Horror section but it is really a private eye mystery. It's as good a PI novel as I have ever read and I highly recomend it. Read more
Published on Oct. 10 2002 by Marc Clapp
4.0 out of 5 stars Worth Your Time, Movie or Not
After watching the movie _Angel Heart_ a couple of times, I thought reading the book it was based on would be enjoyable. For the most part, it was. Read more
Published on Dec 5 2001 by Sara
1.0 out of 5 stars read 20 pages and put it down
stephen king read it
i couldnt
Published on Oct. 13 2001 by William D. Tompkins
5.0 out of 5 stars Great combination of mystery and horror
Set in late 1950's New York City, FALLING ANGEL is the story about a private detective named Harry Angel who is recruited by mysterious client Louis Cyphre to find a long lost... Read more
Published on Aug. 31 2001 by Church of The Flaming Sword
5.0 out of 5 stars Very Enjoyable Read
I have to say most of the comments by the reviewers here are true! It's a powerful book. The fast pace of the book keeps readers turning the pages, until at the end they all... Read more
Published on Aug. 24 2001 by xyz
5.0 out of 5 stars A Horror Masterpiece, A Necessary Read
Falling Angel is one of the best Horror novels I have ever read, so fast paced I'm amazed there aren't scorch marks on the pages of my copy. Read more
Published on March 11 2001 by Ryan Costantino
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