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on 14 October 2009
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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on 29 May 2012
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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on 31 March 1999
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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on 21 October 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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on 20 July 2013
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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on 8 March 2017
Well Worth Reading !!
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on 21 August 2013
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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on 25 January 2013
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... But even i'm restricted in this review as the slightest chink of story will give the game away ....I feel like a Schmuck about the title !! But the last few chapters were simply brilliant ... Along with Mystic River by one of my all time favourite's Dennis Lehane, i haven't seen Angel Heart & now that i have completed this book i'm off to order them both from Amazon & see how they match up ... especially this one ... Fantastic read that took me less than 24 hours as i just couldn't put it down ...
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on 28 October 2016
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 would become only a few years later, but Favorite was drafted and severely wounded overseas. He was shipped home and hospitalized in upstate New York, basically left to spend the rest of his life as a vegetable.

Or at least that's the story. Cypher tells Harry Angel that he had a contract with Favorite, providing that in the event of Favorite's death, Cypher would be due a significant payment. Cypher wants to know that Favorite is, in fact, still alive and that he's not being cheated out of his due. Harry takes the case and inevitably will find a major mystery on his hands.

So far, so good. It's a great setup and Hjortsberg brilliantly describes the New York City of the late 1950s. One feels like you're in the bars and jazz clubs sitting right beside Angel and walking down the streets along side him. The author also turns an excellent phrase on virtually every page. But halfway through the book, the story slides into the world of voodoo, black magic, carnival freaks, fevered dreams, and supernatural developments, and if this is your cup of tea, so much the better.

But it isn't mine, which is no doubt my fault and not the author's. That is to say that this is not a bad book at all, just one that wasn't in my wheelhouse. As an added concern, I can usually stomach almost any gruesome development that I read in a crime novel, but in this case there's a scene that totally grossed me out. I would argue that the scene wasn't even really necessary to the plot, and it was so over the top that I was truly offended.

This book was ultimately made into a movie called "Angel Heart," that featured an excellent cast, including Robert De Niro, Mickey Rourke, Charlotte Rampling and Lisa Bonet. I remember liking the movie and was disappointed that I didn't like the book as well. The movie moves the story from New York to New Orleans, though, and in that respect, the black magic and other supernatural elements may make more sense.

I'm going to dig out the movie and watch it again, just to check myself. But as for the book, I have a really split impression. An easy four stars for the hard-boiled parts, for the great writing and for the New York setting; two stars for the supernatural parts that I couldn't buy into and for the gruesome scene that turned my stomach, averaging out to three stars.
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on 8 October 2016
This book was recommended to me on a bookmark called "50 of the best horror novels" and it is technically incorrect as I would not refer to it as horror more crime noir with grizzly undertones. It's the story of Harry Angel, tough New York PI, and his search for Johnny Favorite one time crooner who sang with the Spider Simpson orchestra in the 1940's. What I enjoy about noir crime is not so much the story but the setting, the characters, and the language used. We get to meet Spider Simpson, Evangeline Proudfoot, Madame Zora, Toots Sweet all coming under the suspicious and watchful eye of our great PI Harry Angel! Of course as every Raymond Chandler or Dashiell Hammett fan will know it is always the fast and furious cracking dialogue that makes the story buzz...."She had large breasts and slim hips and emphasized them with a pink angora sweater and a tight black skirt. Her hair was on the brassy side of platinum"..."A million square feet of office space sheathed in embossed aluminium panels. It looked like a forty-story cheese grater."...."She was dressed all in black, like a weekend bohemian in a Village coffeehouse"...." The curtainrod was bent in a V and the drapes sagged like the stockings of a hooker on a weeklong drunk".

The story moves at a furious pace and give the impression and smells of downtown NYC in the late 1950's with all its undertones, underlife and seedy jazz clubs.."I found a stool at the bar and ordered a snifter of Remy Martin. The band was playing a blues, the guitar darting in and out of the melody like a hummingbird. The piano throbbed and thundered. Toot's Sweet's left hand was every bit as good as Kenny Pomeroy had promised". Unfortunately, at times, with the introduction of so many characters, the main storyline became a little confused and I sometimes found it necessary to backtrack before continuing. Having said that the effort of completing the story was certainly rewarded with an intelligent and somewhat horrific ending.
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