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64 of 65 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Horror Masterpiece, A Necessary Read
Falling Angel is one of the best Horror novels I have ever read, so fast paced I'm amazed there aren't scorch marks on the pages of my copy. At first you think you are reading a detective novel, and then a Horror novel, and then decidedly, the demented offspring of both genres.
Low rent private eye, Harry Angel is recruited to find a pre-war crooner by the name of...
Published on March 11, 2001 by Ryan Costantino

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars What about that ending??
The book was mildly interesting as far as the descriptions of 1950's New York but didn't contribute much of anything to the story for me. Not the author's fault because of the time of it's first publication I'm sure people reading it could relate especially if your a native New Yorker which I'm not...so I could've lived without those descriptions. And that would have...
Published 7 months ago by Kindle Customer


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64 of 65 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Horror Masterpiece, A Necessary Read, March 11, 2001
By 
This review is from: Falling Angel (Dead Letter Mystery) (Mass Market Paperback)
Falling Angel is one of the best Horror novels I have ever read, so fast paced I'm amazed there aren't scorch marks on the pages of my copy. At first you think you are reading a detective novel, and then a Horror novel, and then decidedly, the demented offspring of both genres.
Low rent private eye, Harry Angel is recruited to find a pre-war crooner by the name of Johnny Favorite, a singer indebted to Angel's client. A client by the name of Louis Cyphre. Angel's pursuit of Johnny Favorite takes him to the seediest of locales in mid 1950's New York and enlightens him on the city's darker side. A world of witchcraft and voodoo and unspeakable rituals. All the while Harry Angel is trying to deal with his own amnesia. As the mystery unfolds so does the terror and slowly as each piece is revealed Harry Angel walks the tightrope of madness. Not only is Falling Angel an intelligently crafted Horror novel it is incredibly vicious as well. Yet strangely it seems to be more of a cult favorite than a Horror novel that everybody knows. All I can say is that it is one of the most original Horror tales I have ever read, impossible not to read in one sitting. It was made into a movie called Angel Heart that follows the basic outline of the story and the plot but does some shifting of locales not seen in the book. The movie was good, the book a thousand times better. A must read for Horror fans.
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27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars greatly exceeded my expectations -- four and a half stars, September 20, 2003
This review is from: Falling Angel (Dead Letter Mystery) (Mass Market Paperback)
It is difficult to review FALLING ANGEL without giving too much away, but here goes:

Basically I bought this book on a whim, having seen the film which it inspired. In short, the book greatly exceeded my expectations, being both more entertaining and more literary than I ever would have expected from a novel of the mystery or suspense genre. Hjortsberg's writing is the epitome of unpretentious intelligence. Each chapter advances the plot in some way, with the precision of a well-written short story. Often, seemingly casual details of the setting or a character turn out to be subtle and wryly-humorous bits of foreshadowing. Another reviewer has praised the evocative descriptions of post-war New York. I was simply compelled at every point in this novel to keep reading, not because of some cheap cliff-hanger ending to a chapter, but because the plot was always getting thicker, juicier, and definitely creepier.

Of all the books I have bought in the last few years this is the one that was the best reward for taking chances on unknown books or authors (and the consolation for all the ones that were disappointments). Whether you call it horror, mystery, suspense or just simply literature, FALLING ANGEL is a great read.
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26 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is one gritty detective story!, February 16, 2003
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This review is from: Falling Angel (Dead Letter Mystery) (Mass Market Paperback)
While you read this, take what you know about the late fifties in New York City, and compare it here. This story immerses the reader superbly into the atmosphere of the setting. I swore I could almost smell cigarettes and hear the perfect, New York accents. The dialog was written well enough to do just that, make you think it is authentic New York. The storyline is fantastic. Basically, a detective is hired to find a person who has been missing for over fifteen years. Along the way, he must go through a bog of voodoo mysticism and black mass rituals until at the very end, the truth is revealed. The ending is extremely clever and there is no way I am going to spoil that. If you are into the crime - or horror - genre then there is absolutely no way you can miss this one.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars THANK GOD IT'S BACK!, June 1, 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Falling Angel (Dead Letter Mystery) (Mass Market Paperback)
I read this book when it was first issued - late 70's, early 80's? And I was so hungry for more that I wrote the author and the publisher wanting to know who this man was. Needless to say I never got a response and have been checking periodically for more of his works.
I decided to give it one more try on Amazon and low and behold here it is!.
I still have my original copy and it's all brown pages and bent edges, but it is an ultimate classic for me.
For those who saw the movie, you have to read the book. Talk about horror! That subway scene still makes me shiver... I live in New York and I often wondered if there some condemned subway platform where rituals were held. Found myself staring out the subway windows as I rode the train trying to catch a peak.
This book is a flawless classic and is still standing the test of time. Even the great and scary Stephen King has only tapped danced around the power of this book and that happened only once --- with The Shining.
I always said the greatest horror is of the mind and Fallen Angel is one man's fateful niaive journey into his own with a whole lot of meaty sinister characters and the ultimate plot twist thrown in.
Nearly two decades later it still blows me away. And that is the ultimate test of a true horror!
How many times have I read this book --- at least ten and the rush is always as sweet as the first time.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great combination of mystery and horror, August 31, 2001
This review is from: Falling Angel (Dead Letter Mystery) (Mass Market Paperback)
Set in late 1950's New York City, FALLING ANGEL is the story about a private detective named Harry Angel who is recruited by mysterious client Louis Cyphre to find a long lost big-band crooner named Johnny Favorite. Angel's search for Favorite leads him through a bloody trail that involves jazz musicians, sideshow performers, and Satanic voodoo cults. To further complicate matters, the closer Angel thinks he gets toward finding Favorite, the more dead bodies turn up that appear to have Angel written all over them. And closer to a truth that Angel won't want to know.
I'm not going to spoil the plot for you, even if some reviewers already did. What I can tell you is that this is a splendid atmospheric novel. Hjortsberg does such a good job bringing about the feel of 1950's New York City that you can almost hear jazz playing somewhere in the background. The plot is intricate without being confusing as well.
If you haven't read this masterpiece yet, I suggest you do so PDQ. But before you read it don't let anyone tell you how it ends. If they persist, RUN!!! Discover this fine book for yourself.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Horror Classic-a Shocking Ending, September 12, 2005
This review is from: Falling Angel (Dead Letter Mystery) (Mass Market Paperback)
Like some of the other reviewers, I tracked this book down after I had seen Angel Heart. Angel Heart was such a thrilling, frightening movie (I'm not easily scared, either) that I had to read the book. The book was even better than the movie, which is saying a lot because I believe the movie was top-rate as well.

I won't give away the absolutely shocking ending to the story because I hope that potential readers will enjoy the surprise as much as I did. However, I will say that if you loved the movie you will not be disappointed by the book. The book's gripping plot is the same as the movie's, however, as might be expected, there is more character development in the book.

Namely, and most importantly, the character Epiphany Proudfoot, played in the movie by Lisa Bonet (better known as Denise Huxtable, and after growing up watching her play that role it was strange to see her in such a drastically different one) is far more interesting in the book. In both versions she is a beautiful teenage girl of mixed ancestry, but in the book she is brilliant, kind, funny, and surprisingly wise for her years. Her book character is more emotionally present and has more invested in her relationship with the main character, Harry Angel.

She has been educated in Latin and religion at a Catholic School and helps Private Detective Harry to unravel the mystery of the missing person he is looking for.

In the movie, however, her dialogue is somewhat vapid and we don't care that much about her character. Also, they gave her a child of uncertain parentage in the film, which I found an odd decision, especially since the author of the book worked on the screenplay. I understand of course that there is less time to establish character in screenplays, but there was enough time to make the Lisa Bonet character more interesting. She is an intelligent actress and would have been good at conveying the sophisticated Epiphany.

For some reason, the film decided to make Epiphany a native of New Orleans. Presumably this was to have the aura of both Louisiana and Harlem, NY in the 1950s. The effect was cool, but I wish something else had brought Harry to Louisiana, because Epiphany seemed so New York in the book. No one even goes to Louisiana in the book. Everything happens in New York.

Another thing about the book was that the character Cypher, played very well by De Niro in the film, was more developed, if that's the right word, in the book. He said more revealing things. I wonder if I would have guessed his nature earlier if I'd read the book first?

Definitely pick up this fascinating read-truly a chilling book and perfectly written horror tale!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best ever written, February 23, 2014
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I can't say this novel was an unexpected pleasure. I saw the movie made from it, Angelheart, and loved it. I've also seen the book highly recommended by people whose opinions I respect. I waited years for it to come back into circulation and onto the kindle. Among the things I can say about it is that I was not disappointed.

The movie had a couple of scenes of breath-taking psychological horror. The book is touched by similar genius. It reads like a diabolical jigsaw puzzle assembled piece by piece with increasing dread until the last piece is snapped into place to reveal a shining leer of pure terror.

The basics of the plot are that Harry Angel, a low-rent private eye, is hired by an odd and sinister client to find a man who has gone missing for more than 15 years. As is typical of the novel's genre, which remains more private eye than horror despite the nature of the mysteries uncovered, the investigator's encounters trace a path through society's lowest and highest places, uncovering the common corruption so pervading them as to make them indistinguishable.

Not that Harry's much of a hero. Unlike Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon and so many other classic private eyes, he follows no code. The filth does not slide off him as he rises and makes a final break from the muck of the world he has been forced to swim through. The problem is that, as the people he finds, threatens, and interviews wind up dead, Harry himself becomes the clearest link between them and the most likely villain. With cheap hoods, a wealthy industrialist, a voodoo priestess, satanists, and a creepy cop on his tail, can Harry sort things out before he himself is sorted out -- permanently? And ... do these people know each other?

The devil is in the details. And there are a lot of details in Falling Angel. Every time Harry catches a cab or takes a walk, you read about his journey street by street, block by block, sometimes building by building. People who love old New York -- the book takes place in 1959 -- will love the anecdotes about what it was like way back when. They are told with authority and the relish of someone in love with the city. I found them alternately fascinating and tedious, and enjoyed the latter third of the book most, when less time was spent describing how Harry got someplace and more on what he did when he got there.

Secreted laconically throughout the text are unobtrusively clever hints about the characters and their ultimate destinies. Their discovery is a series of quiet pleasures dovetailing together into a satisfying sense of foreboding. Another quiet pleasure is Falling Angel's unexpected literacy. For a gumshoe, Angel is as quick with references to classical literature, voodoo jargon, and obscure bits of history as he is with a skeleton key or a slug from a .45. Who, exactly, is this man? Where did he come from, this seemingly contradictory fellow, to be what he is today? And where is his quarry?

Finding out was a joy. Falling Angel is one of the best horror novels I've ever read, presented in the style of a detective novel written when today's daring trend of crossing genres was only a glimmer in the eye of people now old enough to be grandparents. It's not just original and good enough to be dragged back into the public eye and ranked a classic; it provides that all too rare thing among literary and genre fiction alike: a satisfying ending. And by satisfying I mean virtuoso. Falling Angel is an unusually rewarding treat for horror aficionados -- and I count myself a lifelong devotee among them -- who usually must choose between either lowering their standards or having little to read. It is also so well written that I would recommend it to almost anyone looking for a ripping yarn who is not too squeamish about the (mostly off-screen, so to speak) horrors one might expect in a story about lost souls.

One last thing: The biography and pictures regarding author Hjortsberg's life and career are not to be found on the kindle version of the book, despite their promotion on this site's page.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Metaphysical Mystery with the Atmospher of "Chinatown", January 7, 2001
This review is from: Falling Angel (Dead Letter Mystery) (Mass Market Paperback)
If you liked atmospheric texture, decadence, and plot twists of Polanski's classic movie "Chinatown," you'll love this novel. Besides playing with the conventions of Chandleresque hard-boiled fiction, film-noire doomedness, and Magical Realism turned horrific, William Hjortsberg crafts a novel that folds in upon itself to illustrate that the observer is the observed. A parable of non-dualism that raises the hair on the back of your neck. P.S.: This novel was the subject of an interesting academic analysis in Stefano Tani's "The Doomed Detective" published by Southern Illinois University Press (now out-of-print).
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Horror, hard-boiled, July 12, 2009
By 
This review is from: Falling Angel (Paperback)
You'd do best not to read William Hjortsberg's afterword until you've finished reading this gorgeously printed Millepede Press reissue of his 1978 horror novel FALLING ANGEL or you may be unfortunately turned off by his immodest claims that the work is a classic. Because once you've read it you'll see he's right: the novel IS something of a classic in its beautiful and seamless meshing of the horror and hard-boiled detective fiction genres. It's also a splendid evocation of New York City in the year 1958, and may be one of the most finely textured fictional recreations of that era (it's worth reading if only for a beautiful period portrait of the city, from the almost forgotten Hubert's Dime Museum and Flea Circus to the Harlem Meer to the hallways of the Chrysler Building to the mysterious sideshows of Coney Island). It's also a much better work than the Eighties Alan Parker film adaptation ANGEL HEART, starring the excellent Mickey Rourke and the wondrously listless Lisa Bonet.

The work's narrator, the outwardly tough private detective Harry Angel, is hired by a wealthy mysterious dandy named Louis Cyphre to find the whereabouts a missing 1940s crooner named Johnny Favorite; in typical Chandlerian fashion the investigation involves a shady millionaire and his eccentric daughter, menacing policemen, and corrupt doctors. But there's a twist to everything in that Johnny Favorite seems to have been an occult practitioner whom no one liked and who would have done anything and everything to further his career. Some of the novel's more celebrated twists will be anticipated by readers from early in the novel, and this seems to be by design; but its biggest surprise (involving Johnny's actual whereabouts) will probably not be. The prose is exactly what you'd expect from the hard-boiled genre (but is not too overripe), and the atmosphere is spectacular. What probably makes the novel most memorable, however, are the metaphysical implications of its nicely understated conclusion.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing thriller, November 14, 2002
By 
J R Zullo (São Paulo, Brazil) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Falling Angel (Dead Letter Mystery) (Mass Market Paperback)
Detective stories are a mine field. Given the amazing numbers of this kind of books, every now and then you surely are going to step in a bomb and regret the time and money you spent in some terrible story. Fortunately, this is not the case in "Falling Angel".
Harry Angel is a private detective in the New York in the end of the fifties, hired by a misterious character to find a very famous crooner who disppeared in the middle of the WW2. During his investigation, he discovers some terrifying truths, envolving voodoo worship, satanism, black massess, and yet Johnny Favorite, the crooner, is nowhere to be found. In the end, the truth is really amazing, and Harry could never escape it.
For those who saw "Angel heart" before reading this book, I must say the surprise was completely lost. However, Hjortsberg is a fine and talented writer, the book is told in the fast-paced rhythm of New York, and the sucession of scenes is very well programed and easy to follow, and fast to read as well. This is a classic detective story, with lots of sarcasm, murders, twists, and something that you don't find in every down-to-earth detective book: supernatural elements. As strange as it seems, it doesn't spoil the story, in fact these supernaturals combine to enhance the thrilling of the plot. The final two or three chapters are amazing, and the ending is surprising and powerful.
Grade 9.5/10
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Falling Angel (Dead Letter Mystery)
Falling Angel (Dead Letter Mystery) by William Hjortsberg (Mass Market Paperback - July 15, 1996)
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