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Falling Angel

3.94 of 5 stars 3.94  ·  rating details  ·  1,564 ratings  ·  146 reviews
A spellbinding novel of murder, mystery, and the occult, Falling Angel pits a private eye against the most fearsome adversary a detective ever faced. A routine missing-persons case soon turns into a nightmare of voodoo and black magic. Each book is signed by William Hjortsberg.
Hardcover, 302 pages
Published August 1st 2010 by Centipede Press (first published 1978)
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I really liked this book. It starts out as a typical detective yarn (stereotypical even?) that spins itself into an occult tale of voodoo and satanism. The detective, Harry Angel, agrees to search for and find Johnny Favorite, a popular singer that made the circuit prior to World War II.
Angel interviews a cast of characters and the story seems to take on a run of the mill "interview and look for loopholes in the story" plot. The occasional gruesome murder that seems to dog Angel keeps the story
4.5 stars!

There are two reasons I bought this book. 1. I bought it at my favorite brick and mortar bookstore, Bunch of Grapes(, because I wanted to contribute in some small way to their beautiful store. 2. Because my friend Marc has been hounding me to read it for a couple of years now. He was right, and I now wish I had read this book sooner.

This is a crime-noir novel, written in the 70's but actually taking place in the early 50's. As such, there are some racist comm
William Hjortsberg's Falling Angel was the basis for the movie Angel Heart, and, Mickey Rourke notwithstanding, it's a mighty fine adaptation. Even if you've seen the movie, the book is well worth a read, but those of you who haven't seen the movie are in for a special treat.

Falling Angel tells the story of Harry Angel: a P.I. hired by a mysterious stranger to find out the whereabouts of 1940's crooner Johnny Favorite. What seems fairly straightforward at first glance becomes more and more compl
Camille Stein

Mickey Rourke / ‘Angel Heart’ (1987) / Alan Parker & William Hjortsberg -

Por muy taimadamente que te acerques a un espejo, tu imagen siempre te mira directamente a los ojos.

—Es un título de abogado —respondí—. Perteneció al fundador de esta agencia. Ya ha muerto.
—¿Sentimental? —farfulló Sterne entre sus apretados labios de ventrílocuo.
—Pone un toque de distinción.
—¿Qué dice? —preguntó el sargento Deimos.
—Lo ignoro. No entiendo el latín.
—De modo que es eso. Latín.
—Eso es.
Tim Mayer
I first read Falling Angel in 1983. Right after the KEW list was published in the old Twilight Zone magazine. Naturally, I went to the public library in search of the books on the list. Wagner being the obscure literature fan, I didn’t find too much. The exception was Falling Angel, which I took home and read over a matter of days.

In preparation for this review, I read the book again. I don’t usually re-read books as there’s too much out there I haven’t read. But I felt the passage of 30 years w
Ben Loory
on the one hand, i think it's a perfect book. on the other hand, it was ruined a little bit by the fact that i'd already seen the movie angel heart, which was based on it, and so a lot of the power was lost. on the third hand, since so much power was lost simply because i knew what was going to happen, it's probably not a 5-star book (The Maltese Falcon and The Chill, for instance, just get better with each reading/viewing). but on the fourth hand, it's fucking genius, so fuck the third hand. 5 ...more
At one point in William Hjortsberg's masterful horror novel "Falling Angel," 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 ...more
I was on the phone the other day with a musician friend. He recommended this to me. “You'll love it!" He told me. “It takes place in The City and it's all places you know – PLUS there's a lot of jazz references you'll catch too. I read it in two days.”

When I got off the phone I checked Kindle and there it was. I downloaded it and began reading. I read it in two days also.

Noir, Jazz, Mystery, Voodoo, The Occult, familiar locale and even a real life character I remember. That's a five star formul
Twenty-five years ago I saw the movie "Angel Heart". I remember it being a very atmospheric film. Twenty-five years later, I read the novel that would become that movie. This is one of the best, noir, hard-boiled gumshoe novel's I've read. Hjortsberg also does a wonderful job on the atmosphere of New York City in the '50's. Throw in the case Harry Angel is working that involves, black magic, voodoo, and some gruesome murders, you have a very different hard-boiled novel. Getting in to this story, ...more
Tony Gleeson
Hjortsberg is a difficult author to find on the shelves. IMO he's well worth searching out.
After probably twenty years or so, I decided to pick this up and read it again. It stood the test of time quite well-- possibly since I have in the interim read a lot of other authors, his literary allusions might stand out better to my mind now. The tale begins as a first-person narrative by a private detective, told in the now-familiar manner of Chandler and Ross MacDonald. The action takes place over
Jenny Twist
I tried to get hold of this book when I first saw ‘Angel Heart’, still the best film I have ever seen, but failed to find it. What a joy to discover it is now available for Kindle.
Like many of the previous reviewers I thought it might be spoilt for me because I already knew what happened at the end. Not so. The language is stunningly beautiful.
How’s this for an opening sentence? ‘It was Friday the thirteenth and yesterday’s snowstorm lingered in the streets like a leftover curse.’
Or this for a d
I wish I had read this book before seeing the movie "Angel Heart". But, as it has been over 20 years since I have seen the movie, I had forgotten most of the details (except a pretty steamy sex scene with Lisa Bonet (We're not in "Cosby" anymore, Theo! WOW!)). And of course, I remembered the ending. That being said, it did not much detract from how damn good this book is!

5 STARS, favorited
Randolph Carter
If you like your horror laced with more than a little private dick noir then Falling Angel is the novel for you. Sucker private eye Harry Angel should have brushed up on his basic satanist symbolism as his "client" Louis Cypher (get it?) has him trying to find out if missing vegetable crooner Johnny Favorite is alive or dead and where he is. See Johnny "owes" something to the not so enigmatic Mr. Cypher.

The symbolism was a little heavy handed in this one and the fact that Angel doesn't know what
Andre Farant
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 i
Until the last 30 pages, there was nothing in this that made me want to keep reading. I only managed to by taking a long break, and then forcing myself since the book was short. The last 30 pages are okay, but even they aren't enough to recommend this. If you've read any pulp horror mags or reprints from the 1930s, you could take those and combine them w/ Rosemary's Baby, and you'd have this book.

The author went overboard in his attempts to remind you that the story is set in the 1950s. If he h
Falling Angel is the story of Harry Angel, a private investigator in the Big Apple during the 1950s. Imagine your quintessential private eye—hardnosed, problems with authority, a little bit slovenly. That’s Harry Angel. He fought during WWII in North Africa and has the fake nose and plastic surgery scars to prove. He’s hired by a wealthy businessman named Louis Cypher to track down a once-famous crooner known as Johnny Favorite. Cypher and Favorite had some business deal back when the singer was ...more
Nancy Oakes
I'm a huge fan of noir crime fiction, and someone recommended this book as one I'd like in that genre. And sure enough, it held up as a fine noir novel. There's the private detective, Harold Angel, working out of a crappy little office, dressed sloppily, with stains on his tie; places that people wouldn't go to after dark; a private hospital in the country, characters involved in the dark world of voodoo and black magic etc. etc. And Angel's been hired by someone to find a missing singer who's b ...more
Joanne Parkington
Well, what a cracking good read that was .... at first i struggled with the lingo & obviously didn't recognise the places but after a few chapters the jargon & the landscapes slotted into place and the mounting tension & whole advancing seediness overtook me ... there's a darkness lurking behind the lines & it seeps out of every page. I never write reviews detailing what books are about .. What's the point ?? Thats what the covers do so its a waste of time repeating tag lines... ...more
I don't know why it took me so long to discover this book as I've loved the film version (Angel Heart) since the 80s. At any rate, I'm glad I did! This book has everything a horror/suspense fan could want: violence, murder, missing persons, voodoo, devil worship, and a hell of a twist at the end. Even knowing the ending from watching the movie didn't spoil the book for me.

Hjortsberg's main character, Harry Angel, is a likable, salt of the earth P.I. The author's knowledge of 1950s era New York
I enjoyed the movie so much I wanted to read the book. Skip the movie and read the book. Now this is a what a good Noir novel with voodoo and the Devil thrown into the mix is all about.
Aaron Martz
All style, no substance, this book is heavy on atmosphere but thin on plot and runs out of gas after about a hundred pages and starts padding itself with repetitious chase scenes and needless expository dialogue about voodoo. You could do worse if you want to know what it was like to live in New York City in the '50s - all the details, in fact way too many details, are there - but that's not why I read the book. The movie version, Angel Heart, concentrates what is here and tells the story in a m ...more
Simon Woodward
I found it difficult to write this review as I came to the book film-first. Angel Heart, starring Mickey Rourke, was released while I was at university and a politics and anthropology degree left plenty of time for cinema visits. I the case of Angel Heart, multiple visits. It was the start of a screen bromance with Mickey that quickly took in Diner, The a Pope of Greenwich Village, Barfly. If Mickey was in it, I was on it.

I certainly went to the see film three times, sucked in by Mickey's (wer'
John Dizon
Johnny Favorite Begins? Well, not really. Now we know where I got my nom de plume. The hit movie Angel Heart was based on William Hjortsberg's award-winning novel, and it took me this long to see what it was all about. Just like all great novels, it stands on its own without having to rest on the laurels of the movie version. And that makes it a great bet for horror fans looking for a great read to see what made it stand out within the perennially overcrowded genre.

Harry Angel is a WWII vet tur
Lawrence FitzGerald
Not quite a four really, more like a 3.5.

Yeah, I liked the movie (Angel Heart) and the movie follows the book pretty well, although there are some major differences (the book takes place almost entirely in NYC).

The strength of the novel is the story; it has a marvelous twist and Hjortsberg pulls it off well. Hjortsberg also knew the time (1959) and the place (NYC) and used this knowledge to good effect.

The novel was originally published in Playboy in condensed form and it is easy to believe that
Theresa Glover
I've posted Something Like a Review for this book on my blog. Here's a sample, but to read the whole thing, please click here.

In general, I like the idea of the pulp private investigator/detective fiction of the 30′s and 40′s. There’s a romance and mystique around the ramshackle offices with tar-streaked walls, the jaded, bitter detective questioning some knock-out in heels and an ermine-trimmed coat that simply reeks of trouble. There’s a certain comfort of knowing that after he knocks back a d
David Jordan
Probably the ideal novel for me. Almost every sentence contains some allusion or joke. What's amazing is that book is so short and such a quick and exciting read, but every page is in the shadow of everything I've ever learned or heard about relating to Black Magic and the Occult. By the end, the relentless logic and inevitability of the conclusion is so sweetly satisfying. The implications for all the characters are pleasantly gross.

Even though I've seen the movie based on this, "Angel Heart,"
In 1959 New York, Harry Angel is hired by the mysterious Louis Cyphre to track down Johnny Favourite, a crooner who’s been holed up in a hospital since the war. When Angel discovers that the singer is missing, everyone he speaks to on the trail to find Favourite ends up dead. And all the time, the mysterious Cyphre seems to pop up everywhere, not least haunting Harry’s dreams. A hard-boiled private detective novel, employing (and enjoying) every staple of that genre, this takes things into far d ...more
Kevin O'Keeffe
1987's "Angel Heart" is one of my all-time favorite movies, so I've been meaning to read this novel (which I saw mentioned in the credits the first time I saw it, when it first came out on VHS) since probably 1988, or '89 at the very latest. And now I have finally gotten around to doing so.

I must say, I significantly prefer the storyline from the novel. I like the way the entire story takes place in New York City (instead of a totally unnecessary jaunt to New Orleans, as per the cinematic adapta
Martyn V. (aka Baron Sang-Froid) Halm
If a mystery gets mixed with the occult or the supernatural, the result is often disastrous for the 'willing suspension of disbelief'. Falling Angel is an exception to the rule.

Struggling private investigator Harry Angel is hired by a foreign client, Louis Cyphre, to find Johnny Favorite, a crooner from before the war. Favorite is supposed to stay at a private hospital in upstate New York, where he is treated for 'shell shock' sustained in the war, but when Cyphre tries to visit him he gets the
Jack Felson
Wow! When I remember this story I immediately get chilled... imagine you are a very common detective and you get hired by the Devil Himself? And you take the job? This is one of my favorite books. It's much better than the movie which I saw first and still like a lot. But the book has so many better things for it: it's much better told - the story is kept in NY instead of transferred in New Orleans, I have to ask Alan Parker why he did that in his film adaptation - and it goes straight to the po ...more
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William Hjortsberg (b. 1941) is an acclaimed author of novels and screenplays. Born in New York City, he attended college at Dartmouth and spent a year at the Yale School of Drama before leaving to become a writer. For the next few years he lived in the Caribbean and Europe, writing two unpublished novels, the second of which earned him a creative writing fellowship at Stanford University.

When his
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“The tomb lies at the end of every path. Only the soul is immortal. Guard this treasure well. Your decaying husk is but a temporary vessel on an endless voyage.” 0 likes
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