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Falling Angel

3.94 of 5 stars 3.94  ·  rating details  ·  1,484 ratings  ·  138 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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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...more
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...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...more
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...more
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...more
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...more
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...more
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...more
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...more
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
Justin Garron
From the moment the main character, Harry, begins his first person narration you can hear the timbre of a saxophone in the background. This book maintains that feel of a classic detective mystery until the last 15 percent where you are encountered with a more grotesque and sadistic theme. A very well written story, although it would've been much shorter if the protagonist didn't eat and drink so much. Overall I enjoyed reading it, save the parts which had me blushing or cringing.
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...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'...more
Eric Arbour
I'm reviewing this book after having heard of it from the article Horror Fiction Books for "True Detective" Fans:

This is a pretty light read so you're not committing yourself to much if you decide to check it out. It's only about 250 pages and the chapters are all about 3-8 pages.

Overall, I don't think this book holds up to a modern audience. The topics of satanism and voodoo might have shook up readers back in the 80s when this was written, but I suspec...more
This is supposed to be a horror story, but I think the only reason it gets away with it is because it came out in the seventies, long before urban fantasy was a thing. If it were published today, thought, it would definitely be considered uf. The writing is reminiscent of hardboiled noir novels, the first person narrative really works wonders and the characters are interesting and well crafted; especially Angel, Louis and Epiphany. The plot is really good and the author's attention to detail is...more
Grant Howard
Like most, as it would seem from the other reviews I came to this from the film "Angel Heart" which has been one of my favourite films since my teens.
No doubt if you're in the same boat you'll be wondering if knowing the ending will mar the experience of the novel. IT DOES NOT. The book is quite different to the film in many ways. The noir style first person narration and the author's turn of phrase are fantastic.
I'll just point out here that the film is very faithful to the first couple of cha...more
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
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...more
Shawn Baker
Fantastic! I'd known Angel Heart, the film based on this book, for a long time. It's one of a handful of movies from the 80s that always struck me as a unique pocket inside the realm of horror/thriller (along with the likes of Jacob's Ladder, Flatliners and Serpent and the Rainbow). When the film recently came up in conversation a friend mentioned he'd read the novel the film was based on and it occurred to me that I had never bothered to seek thsi out. Quickly I remedied this by having my frien...more
The book itself was interesting enough for its genre. That EFFING ENDING THOUGH is going to make me beat bellafiga with a shoe when she gets here tomorrow. Jeebus. ACK! WHY THE FACE??!

I feel a little mentally violated right now, I'm not gonna lie...

Inspired writing and chilling plot as the PI is hired to find a crooner from the days of swing whose gone missing for fifteen years. Soon the plot thickens with voodoo, Aztec sacrifice and black magic. People our PI, Harry Angel talks to keep dying in sacrificial ways. The book centers around the question will he find this crooner, or be the next to die? The only reason I didn't give it five stars was it was too easy to figure out the ending. I guessed who Cyphre was at the beginning. I...more
Carlos Río
Esta novela hizo que durante un par de noches me acostara a las tantas. Los puntos fuertes que tiene son una trama endiablada, que se va complicando por momentos, con unos giros excelentes y que cada vez resulta más interesante (el lector va descubriendo las pistas al tiempo que el protagonista, y cada vez todo es más extraño y peligroso); el retrato que hace del Nueva York de la época, en el que mezcla detalles y lugares reales con otros inventados (hay ritos vudú en un parque, misas negras, un...more
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.
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...more
The most interesting thing about this book is that I got it at a library sale in Sligo, Ireland, and kept it for 22 years before finally reading it. All that time I was worried the book would not be as good as I hoped it would be, and I was right. I kept it around because I thought it might redeem the movie adaptation, which I did not enjoy but did give me a feeling there was more in the source material.

The most interesting thing about this novel, though, was weird trivia about New York City and...more
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
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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...more
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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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