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Falling Angel

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  4,009 ratings  ·  450 reviews

Written in homage to the hard-boiled detective novels of the 1950s, Falling Angel follows the efforts of private eye Harry Angel, who’s hunting a missing big-band front man, Johnny Favorite. When the investigation takes a turn for the bizarre, Angel must fight for his life, sanity, and soul. The novel won a Playboy Editorial Award for Best Major Work, with Graham Greene co

Kindle Edition, 264 pages
Published 2011 by Open Road (first published 1978)
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Average rating 3.92  · 
Rating details
 ·  4,009 ratings  ·  450 reviews

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Vooooodoooo...hard boiled detective mystery, and twisted loooooooove.

Thanks Jeff- just what I was in the mood for.

FALLING ANGEL...the 2nd novel I have read this month that Mickey Rourke stared in the movie...but this time, the book was sooooooooooooooo much better than the film...and it has nothing to do with the fact that Mickey is cuter in Nine and a Half Weeks- I swear.

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New York City 1959

Private investigator- Harry Angel is hired by mysterious client- Louis Cyphre to find Johnny Favorite- a cr
Jeffrey Keeten
”’I know that you’re a natural actor,’ she said. ‘Playing roles comes easily. You switch identities with the instinctive facility of a chameleon changing color. Although you are deeply concerned with discovering the truth, lies flow from your lips without hesitation.’

‘Pretty good. Go on.’

‘Your role-playing ability has a darker side and presents a problem when you confront the dual nature of your personality. I would say that you were frequently the victim of doubt. Cruelty comes easily to you, y
Jan 24, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 70s-horror
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
James Thane
First published in 1978, this is a novel that combines a fairly traditional hard-boiled detective story with supernatural horror elements. In brief, I enjoyed the hard-boiled side of the story, the supernatural parts not so much.

The story is set in 1959. New York City P.I. Harry Angel is hired by a mysterious man named Louis Cyphre to track down a former popular singer named Johnny Favorite. As the Second World War began, Favorite was becoming a major star on the order of what Frank Sinatra woul
Mar 01, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
An entertaining read, but very heavy on the foreshadowing. Everything that happened, I was able to predict from hints in the first couple chapters. I would not, therefore, recommend this as a mystery, but if you want a noir about doomed people in NY City you may enjoy it.

The obviousness of the plot and the literary devices did make it extra-amusing that my copy was annotated by someone who pointed out all the most obvious things:
Oct 04, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: horror
“The night was black, was no use holding back
'Cause I just had to see, was someone watching me.
In the mist dark figures move and twist
Was all this for real, or just some kind of hell?
666 the number of the beast
Hell and fire was spawned to be released.”

(cue face-melting guitar solo)
“The Number Of The Beast” - IronMaiden

“I took a closer look at what protruded from his swollen lips and suddenly one drink wasn’t going to be enough.”

That quote from the book made me chuckle, William Hjortsberg’s prose
Jun 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Hjortsberg has given us readers a great gift with this book. It is a nineteen fifties style hardboiled detective novel with elements of mysticism, madness, voodoo, and black magic thrown in. It is an evenly paced novel that really takes off in the second half. It sort of combines themes from hardboiled pulp fiction with seventies-era horror movies. It takes the reader back to post world war two in a land of jazz and women and seedy haunts on Broadway and takes the reader through the funhouse car ...more
Oct 13, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: horror
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
Erin *Proud Book Hoarder*
“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.”

I've watched Angel Heart several times over the years, having no idea until last year it was spawned from a novel. Unobservant me never noticed until it was brought up in someone else's review. Being a fan of the twisted supernatural story-line meets hard boiled detective, I instantly purchased it. Did the book hold up to the movie?

Apr 26, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a crime noir hardboiled detective horror novel first published in 1978. This type of book grabs my intention immediately. First, the genre of horror added to a genre I don’t read. Second, it’s written decades ago in the late 70’s. Thirdly, a lot of good reviews.

I have never seen the movie Angel Heart (1987) which is based on this book, so I went in with very little knowledge of what happens. I want to watch the movie now!

The story is set in 1959 in New York City as P.I. Harry Angel is hi
Ben Loory
Oct 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 14, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
May 17, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Who wouldn’t love a supernatural crime noir tale set in the 50’s with voodoo, satanic cults, brutal murders and a hard-boiled detective named Harry Angel. I can see why this one is considered a classic...because it is. Highly Recommended.
Oct 20, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-2015, e-books
4 Stars

What a thoroughly enjoyable hard boiled detective thriller. I picked this one up thanks to recommendations from Goodreads as I normally do not veer into the straight up mystery genre. To my surprise I had a tough time putting down this noir thriller.

Hjortsberg does a fabulous job of giving this story a 1950's feel. He stays true to the noir genre. First person narrations, plenty of dark and gloomy environments, and a hero that is also flawed and more real. The plot can be some what compl
FE Beyer
May 27, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Five stars for the characters and detailed, but never boring, descriptions of New York in 1959. Harry Angel is a private detective living in the Chelsea Hotel. On the job, he drives and subways around with soup stains on his tie. Harlem, is 123rd street Harlem?, Times Square, Coney Island, the subway, the apartment buildings, the restaurants and the old theatres — all of these are brought to life on Angel's travels. I really get tired of books and movies about New York as I said in my review of ...more
Timothy 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
Nancy Oakes
Sep 11, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: horror
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
Jun 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
May 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: horror
Awesome read and pageturning mystery thriller. If you liked the movie Angel Heart you have to read this novel to get more details. Harry Angel and Louis Cyphre... you get many more details on Louis Cyphre in this book. I prefer the book to the movie. Must read!
May 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Hard-boiled noir fiction at its best. This book was translated to film, Angelheart, in the 1980s starring Mickey O’ Rourke. I remembered the twist early on but it in no way detracted from enjoyment of the book. A must read.
Aug 22, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Ken B
Aug 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
11811 (Eleven)
Apr 01, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I thought one of the fundamental aspects of storytelling involved the inclusion of at least a few boring parts. This didn't seem to have any so I'm guessing it wasn't written correctly.

Constant pacing and a more than satisfying ending. Highly recommended.

Mar 22, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was completely engrossed with this story, read it in two days, and could not put it down.
S.P. Aruna
Mar 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It takes a great author to cross genres in a single novel, but this what William Hjortsberg does. A spine tingling horror story blended into a hardboiled detective noir. What a great concept! And it works perfectly.

Although a film was made of this novel in 1987 (Angel Heart), the book had already been released nearly a decade earlier, so I consider this an undiscovered book, despite the recent promotion by the new publisher. The author Hjortsberg I put in the same category, i.e. undiscovered, at
Tony Gleeson
Nov 21, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
Harry Angel is a private detective, hired by a mysterious client to find singer, Johnny Favourite. His investigations soon point to a man who was heavily involved in black magic, finding him will be difficult enough without all of Harry's leads turning up dead as one by one they are taken out.

I've seen the movie of this book and although there are some similarities they are vastly different. I liked the character of Angel even though he played fast and loose with the law, he was well written and
Mar 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: horror
For my review of this book, please click here (still on Goodreads but different edition of the book!)

Thank you!
Mar 22, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: thriller, group-read
4.5 stars. Review to come!
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William Hjortsberg was 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 fellowsh

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