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Falling Angel Mass Market Paperback – Jul 15 1996

30 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 289 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Paperbacks (July 15 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312957955
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312957957
  • Product Dimensions: 10.8 x 1.9 x 17.1 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 163 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,694,927 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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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

4.7 out of 5 stars
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Alexanderplatz on 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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Format: Kindle Edition
Falling Angel by William Hjortsberg (1978): Top-notch melding of the horror and hard-boiled detective genres by Hjortsberg, whose bibliography seems to contain more unproduced screenplays than anything else. He did adapt this novel into the 1987 movie Angel Heart (a.k.a. the movie with controversial nude sex scenes featuring The Cosby Show's Lisa Bonet as a 17-year-old voodoo priestess), though there are significant differences between the two works. In terms of location, the novel stays pretty much in New York while the movie headed to New Orleans, I'd assume to make the voodoo action more... location-plausible?

Hjortsberg nails the cynical prose-poetry of the classic hard-boiled detective novel, with P.I. Harry Angel handling the world-weary, occasionally cruel but mostly well-meaning first-person narration. Angel comes across as the world's oddest New York City tour guide as we move in and around the New York of the late 1950's.

A mysterious client hires Angel to track down a popular singer in the Frank Sinatra mode who was supposed to be in an upstate mental asylum after injuries sustained during World War Two left him mentally and physically disabled. The only problem is, the singer -- stage name Johnny Favorite -- isn't at the asylum, and hasn't been for years. And the trail is cold. But as Angel pursues Favorite, everything starts to heat up, and people start dying in increasingly horrible ways.

Variations are worked on the usual suspects and usual characters of hardboiled detective fiction and film, from shadowy businessmen through shady lawyers to jilted heiresses. As Angel's case proceeds, odder characters arise, and previously introduced characters get odder. There will be voodoo. There will be Satanism.
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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, and delivery could take up to four months. On, 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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By J R Zullo on 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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