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. It is fast-paced, hugely accessible and sure to satisfy fans of mysteries as well as horror.
Along with the titles mentioned above, Falling Angel is a must read for lovers--and especially writers--of horror literature.