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Falling Angel [Paperback]

William Hjortsberg
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
Price: £7.32 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over £10. Details
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Book Description

4 Sep 2012
Hjortsberg's Edgar Award-nominated classic about the hunt for a vanished singer that leads a detective into the depths of the occult Big-band frontman Johnny Favorite was singing for the troops when a Luftwaffe fighter squadron strafed the bandstand, killing the crowd and leaving the singer near death. The army returned him to a private hospital in upstate New York, leaving him to live out his days as a vegetable while the world forgot him. But Louis Cyphre never forgets. Cyphre had a contract with the singer, stipulating payment upon Johnny's death-payment that will be denied as long as Johnny clings to life. When Cyphre hires private investigator Harry Angel to find Johnny at the hospital, Angel learns that the singer has disappeared. It is no ordinary missing-person's case. Everyone he questions dies soon after, as Angel's investigation ensnares him in a bizarre tangle of black magic, carnival freaks, and grisly voodoo. When the sinister Louis Cyphre begins appearing in Angel's dreams, the detective fears for his life, his sanity, and his soul. "Terrific . . . One of a kind . . . I've never read anything remotely like it." -Stephen King "A chilling homage to the hard-boiled detective novel of the Raymond Chandler school." -The New York Times "A near perfect book . . . Not since Psycho changed the bathing habits of thousands has a novelist so completely turned conceptions inside out." -Los Angeles Times William Hjortsberg (b. 1941) is an acclaimed author of novels and screenplays. Born in New York City, Hjortsberg's first success came with Alp (1969), an offbeat story of an Alpine skiing village, which Hjortsberg's friend Thomas McGuane called, "quite possibly the finest comic novel written in America." In the 1970s, Hjortsberg wrote two science fiction novels, Gray Matters (1971) and Symbiography (1973), as well as Toro! Toro! Toro! (1974), a comic jab at the macho world of bullfighting. His best-known work is Falling Angel (1978), a hard-boiled occult mystery. In 1987 the book was adapted into a film titled Angel Heart, which starred Robert De Niro and Mickey Rourke. Hjortsberg's most recent work is Jubilee Hitchhiker (2012), a biography of Richard Brautigan, American writer and voice of 1960s counterculture.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 266 pages
  • Publisher: Open Road Integrated Media LLC (4 Sep 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1453271139
  • ISBN-13: 978-1453271131
  • Product Dimensions: 21.4 x 14.2 x 2.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 42,025 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

William Hjortsberg's 'Falling Angel' was not only made into the masterful 'Angelheart' starring Mickey Rourke, but was also involved in Ridley Scott's ill-fated 'Legend' which was based on Hjortsberg's original screenplay but which ended up having to be radically doctored so as not to offend the unicorn-loving masses - and consequently lost it's coherence.

Product Description


One of the greatest mysteries ever written - Enjoy, and hold on to your soul. -- Carlos Ruiz Zafon --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Six Stars 21 Oct 2004
I have read this book five times and seen the film at least as many, but I never grow tired of it. It is a unique and brilliant work. You start of by thinking that you are reading a genre detective story - hard nosed private eye hired to find missing pop singer etc etc. The book gradually opens out into something much, much bigger, until you realise that what we are dealing with here is the very interface of good and evil, and what is at stake is the detective's immortal soul. To go any further would be to spoil the story for those who don't know it.
This is simply the best and most rivetting thriller I have ever read. How I wish I had thought up a story as good as this! It deserves to sell ten million copies. I would give it six stars if I could.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 'Falling Angel' vs 'Angel Heart' 27 May 2008
I wish I'd read the book before seeing Alan Parker's remarkable screen adaptation 'Angel Heart'. The potent imagery of the (fairly faithful) film version casts a long shadow over the source material and the shock of the horrific ending is inevitably spoiled. This is a shame as 'Falling Angel' is itself first-rate, and by the time I was about a third through, I felt the book had managed to re-emerge from the film's influence. Even knowing the denouement perhaps added to the sense of doom and inevitability that pervades the print version. The book concerns a New York gumshoe beginning to realise he is getting ever more deeply involved with dark forces he can barely comprehend, let alone outwit. I enjoyed the spot-on Chandleresque writing, although in the end the tight almost pastiche style seems just to lack the subtlety to deal with the hero's true predicament. The film for example more disturbingly hints at the detective's culpability in the crimes he is investigating. Nevertheless, the book is undoubtedly a hard-boiled classic in its own right.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars New York private eye meets Voodoo Queen 31 Mar 1999
By A Customer
This is a highly enjoyable thriller, in the style of Raymond Chandler/Micky Spillane. Its hero is a hard-boiled (outwardly) New York shamus called Harold Angel, who is unfortunate enough to become embroiled with the Devil and a Voodoo Priestess whilst searching for a missing person. It is a tremendous read - it really carries you on in a breathless fashion, and I read it almost in one sitting. It is a complex story, and I'm looking forward to reading it again - slowly - so I can savour the writing. I thoroughly recommend this book to admirers of Philip Marlowe, Mike Hammer et al. Horror story fans would probably get something out of it, too. It has some nightmarish scenes in it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Occult thriller 29 May 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Its inevitable that anyone who has seen the film "Angel Heart" (1987) will not get as much of a thrill from the book, as those who havent. The film is an excellent adaptation and worth seeing, ideally after you read "Falling Angel".

I wont retread the same ground as other viewers, but I'll simply say that you're in for a treat with this dark thriller as you follow the protaganist "Harry Angel" into the sleazy underworld of New York city in the 1950's. The Occult element adds an interesting air of violence and confusion, building up in tension leading you surreptitiously into the knock out ending.

This should certainly be on any Noir Thriller aficionado's must read list. I highly recommend it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Raymond Chandler meets William Peter Blatty 14 Oct 2009
By N.Evans
Having watched "Angel Heart" I was in two minds whether to read the source material, as indeed knowing the ending might spoil my enjoyment of the book. I'm so glad I did as its simply fantastic. The novel starts off in typical Chandleresque fashion but soon descends nightmarishly into something very different altogether.

50's Gumshoe Harry Angel is hired to find missing crooner Johnny Favourite, telling you anything else would be a crime, its original, unusual, exciting, tragic, funny and scary, & maybe even better than the film its based on, which incidentally is excellent too.

So If by chance you're looking for a horror novel and a hardboiled detective novel all rolled into one (and lets face it, who isn't?), check this 70's classic out - Excellent, I can't recommend this enough.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The language is stunningly beautiful. 20 July 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
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 description? ‘It was easy to imagine those pampered hands gripping a whip. Nero must have had such hands. And Jack the Ripper. It was the hand of emperors and assassins. Languid, yet lethal the cruel, tapered fingers perfect instruments of evil.’

And as for my foreknowledge of the plot, the book is sufficiently different from the film for there to be surprises. And I actually found myself unable to put the book down as I approached the end. I knew – I KNEW what would happen and I still couldn’t put it down.

I believe this book to be a classic, one of the very best I have ever read. I am now buying William Hjortsberg’s other works and fearing there will not be enough.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars with excellent details of New York locations
Wanted it because of the film. Intriguing, with excellent details of New York locations, and well enough written, but ultimately too way-out, with finale a bit lame, and... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Donald S Gellion
5.0 out of 5 stars better then the film !
Gripping story- I'm a fan of the film 'Angel Heart' but have eventually come on to the book, here. Very glad to have done so as well.
Published 3 months ago by Silverdolphin23
5.0 out of 5 stars Great storytelling, super twist
I haven't seen the film, which probably helps. I thoroughly enjoyed this. The twist leaves you thinking and reviewing key scenes in the context of the new information.
Published 10 months ago by Foresteer
4.0 out of 5 stars Review
I really enjoyed the book. And as long as you haven't worked it out the end is very exciting. I didn't work it out
Published 12 months ago by Suan Carter
4.0 out of 5 stars Good read
If you like the film 'Angel Heart' then you will like the book. Took me a while to source this at a reasonable price.
Published 12 months ago by Mr. P. Sutcliffe
5.0 out of 5 stars Stunningly beautiful language
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. Read more
Published 13 months ago by jennytwist
4.0 out of 5 stars Good book, great film
One of the all time great films, the book on which it is based is well worth reading. Well written, compelling narrative, I couldn't get the 'frame by frame' similarities with the... Read more
Published 13 months ago by Listener
1.0 out of 5 stars This is book is complete American crap
Alan Parker made a great film, Angel Heart, from this book (apart from the final 20 minutes), but the book could have been written by a seven-year-old. Read more
Published 16 months ago by Richard Wood
4.0 out of 5 stars Cracking read ...
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... Read more
Published 20 months ago by JoParky56
3.0 out of 5 stars Satanism, New York, graphic content
This book belongs to the genre "Satanists in New York" - Seventh Victim, Rosemary's Baby. It was written in 1978, and set in 1958, which makes it read a little oddly at times. Read more
Published on 12 July 2011 by L. R. Fisher
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