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Harry Angel #1

Falling Angel

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Harry Angel, of the Crossroads Detective Agency, has a new client and a new challenge. He is to track down Johnny Favorite, a famous crooner back before the war. Strafed in an air-raid, he was shipped home a mental zombie, and lodged in a private hospital upstate.

Now, sixteen years later, his whereabouts has become a matter of vital concern to certain parties.

And Harry Angel is set to unravel a mystery devised in hell...

244 pages, Mass Market Paperback

First published January 1, 1978

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About the author

William Hjortsberg

23 books132 followers
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 For the next few years he lived in the Caribbean and Europe, writing two unpublished novels, the second of which earned him a creative writing fellowship at Stanford University.

When his fellowship ended in 1968, Hjortsberg was discouraged, still unpublished, and making ends meet as a grocery store stock boy. No longer believing he could make a living as a novelist, he began writing strictly for his own amusement. The result was Alp (1969), an absurd 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 works: Gray Matters (1971) and Symbiography (1973). The first, a novel about human brains kept alive by science, was inspired by an off-the-cuff remark Hjortsberg made at a cocktail party. The second, a post-apocalyptic tale of a man who creates dreams, was later published in condensed form in Penthouse.

After publishing Toro! Toro! Toro! (1974), a comic jab at the macho world of bullfighting, Hjortsberg wrote his best-known novel, Falling Angel (1978). This hard-boiled detective story with an occult twist was adapted for the screen as Angel Heart (1987), starring Robert De Niro. Hjortsberg also wrote the screenplay for Legend (1986), a dark fairy tale directed by Ridley Scott. In addition to being nominated for an Edgar Award for Falling Angel, Hjortsberg has won two Playboy Editorial Awards, for which he beat out Graham Greene and Nobel Prize winner Gabriel García Márquez. His most recent work is Jubilee Hitchhiker (2012), a biography of author Richard Brautigan. Hjortsberg lives with his family in Montana.

Learn more at: http://www.openroadmedia.com/authors/...

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Profile Image for Jeffrey Keeten.
Author 3 books248k followers
May 6, 2019
”’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, yet you find it inconceivable that you are so gifted at hurting others.’”

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Harry R. Angel is no angel.

The last thing he should be doing is having his astrology chart configured or have a gypsy read his palm or have a psychoanalyst...analyze. He’s from Brooklyn. He knows it is bad news.

When the attorney Herman Winesap calls him and says he has a job for him, Harry has no idea that he is about to descend into the darkest, most terrifying case of his career. The client, Louis Cyphre, is cryptic with what little information he is willing to share. He is interested in hiring Angel to find a crooner from the 1940s called Johnny Favorite.

A debt is owed.

Favorite was busted up pretty bad in the war. He came back to the states and was checked into a mental institution. There the trail goes cold, but the case becomes red hot.

As Angel chases down the people who used to know Johnny Favorite, they are all ending up dead. He doesn’t know what Cyphre’s game is, but it doesn’t take a psychic to see that Angel’s ass is being plunked squarely in the hard middle of the electric chair.

”I always buy myself a drink after finding a body. It’s an old family custom.”

”I breathed its fruity aroma and took a sip. The cognac slid like velvet fire across my tongue. I downed it in three quick swallows. It was old and expensive and deserved much better treatment, but I was in a hurry.”

He tracks down Epiphany Proudfoot, the daughter of an old flame of Johnny’s. She runs an “herb” shop and is a voodoo priestess. Her assessment is:”Sounds to me like some boko’s put a powerful wanga on you.” Of course, my limited understanding of Voodoo is that it doesn’t work on you or for you as long as you don’t believe. The problem is the things Angel has seen on this case are casting the type of doubts that lead to belief. He is also further complicating the case by starting to really like Epiphany and her carefree relationship with the beast with two backs. ”Sex is how we speak to the gods.”

With bodies piling up like he has stumbled into the plot of Red Harvest, Angel knows the only thing he can do is keep investigating and see if he can find Favorite before someone catches up with him and cuts his heart out.

The plot turns completely around one big twist, so it is impossible for me to break down the plot and discuss all the lurid details without giving away the key elements that will lead the reader to the mind blowing conclusion. The 1987 movie Angel Heart is based on this book, and the writers and directors follow the book very closely, so as a reader and as a movie watcher ( I hope you all are both), you have a choice to make because you can only experience this snarled bundle of twisted conclusions one time.

I think the movie is terrific. Mickey Rourke, before he decided to let boxing mangle his face, plays Angel. Robert De Niro plays Louis Cyphre, and he is suitably creepy for the role. Lisa Bonet, fresh off the Cosby show, plays Epiphany Proudfoot. I watched the movie again after reading the book, and the famous sex scene between Rourke and Bonet still makes me uncomfortable. 10 seconds had to be cut so the movie could keep an R rating. If Bonet was trying to shed the perception of innocence established on the Cosby show (which seems odd to say this in light of recent revelations), then she certainly accomplished that.

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The book was endorsed by Stephen King, Thomas McGuane, Thomas Keneally, Philip Caputo, and Richard Brautigan, and now you can add Jeffrey D. Keeten to that list. The prose in this book are lean and mean with some great hardboiled one liners that certainly toss a grappling hook back to Raymond Chandler. The movie disappeared for years. I finally found a blu-ray copy in a discount bin in a mall movie store; literally, it was like finding gold among chaff. Now the movie is readily available. The last I looked, it is available on Amazon with a prime subscription and also affordable to buy. Pick your poison, movie or book, but if you like hardboiled noir, it will be impossible for you to ignore this important addition to the canon.

If you wish to see more of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit http://www.jeffreykeeten.com
I also have a Facebook blogger page at:https://www.facebook.com/JeffreyKeeten
Profile Image for Delee.
243 reviews1,135 followers
April 28, 2017
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 crooner injured during WWII and possibly living in an old folks home....or is he?

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Harry fails to abide by a number one rule...never trust a man with long finger nails. Just don't do it!!! Men with long finger nails alllllllllways = bad news.

...but Harry takes the case anyways- and follows a trail leading to Johnny. Soon he is in waaaay over his head- dealing with things waaaay out of his comfort zone.

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This book was EXACTLY what I was looking for, at EXACTLY the right time- Willian Hjortsberg is definitely an author I am going to read again. I just hope his next book bloooooooows me away like this one did.
January 22, 2018
Ο Stephen King διάβασε το συγκεκριμένο βιβλίο, γοητεύτηκε και προλόγισε διθυραμβικά σχόλια.

Τελικά το έχω παρατηρήσει, οποιοδήποτε βιβλίο υμνεί ο King εμένα με αφήνει παγερά αδιάφορη.

Το συγκεκριμένο βιβλίο θεωρώ πως δεν είναι για έμπειρους αναγνώστες.
Αναγνωστικά και ηλικιακά.
Η αλήθεια είναι πως ο συγγραφέας το προσπάθησε αρκετά απο την αρχή και πυροδοτώντας όλα τα λογοτεχνικά τεχνάσματα στο τέλος
προσπάθησε να ρίξει θριαμβευτικά αυλαία, αφήνοντας άφωνους τους αναγνώστες.
Δεν τα κατάφερε.

Ίσως επειδή ο ίδιος παρασύρθηκε απο την σφοδρή του επιθυμία να γράψει το καταπληκτικό θρίλερ, νουαρ, τρόμου, μυστηρίου, αστυνομικό παλαιάς κοπής μυθιστόρημα.
Ήθελε να το διαφεντεύει ο πρίγκιπας του σκότους, οι σατανιστικές τελετές, οι ιεροτελεστίες βουντού και διάφορα υπερφυσικά που συνεπαίρνουν και μαγεύουν σατανιστικά τον αναγνώστη.
Έφτιαξε μια καλοστημένη παγίδα και φρόντισε λίγο πριν πλησιάσει το θύμα του να γράψει μια ταμπέλα με την ένδειξη : «Προσοχή Κίνδυνος».

Η παγίδα παραμένει επικίνδυνη αλλά η προειδοποίηση αυτομάτως την ακυρώνει.

Για να αποσαφηνίσω καλύτερα τις σκέψεις μου θα αναφέρω απλώς πως μόνο με τις προφανείς συμβουλές και σκέψεις του ντετέκτιβ Έιντζελ... (δαιμονισμένος Άγγελος ο τίτλος)
καθώς και το όνομα του πελάτη που προσλαμβάνει τον ντετέκτιβ για την λύση μιας μυστικής, σκοτεινής και ξεχασμένης υπόθεσης, ο αναγνώστης αντιλαμβάνεται και την εξέλιξη και το (μη) αναμενόμενο τέλος απο τα πρώτα κεφαλαία.

Εκεί χάνεται όλη η μεγαλοπρέπεια του βιβλίου.

Κατά τα άλλα, είναι το απόλυτα ευκολοδιάβαστο βιβλίο, με όμορφα σχεδιασμένους χαρακτήρες και μικρές εκπλήξεις που σε κάνουν να υποψιάζεσαι πως ίσως
να ‘χεις πέσει έξω στις προβλέψεις σου και να συγκλονιστείς με την τελική ανταμοιβή.

Κινείται με έντονο ρυθμό και υποβλητικό ύφος που περιγράφει τέλεια την μεταπολεμική Ν. Υόρκη τη δεκαετία του 1950, με όλες τις εντυπώσεις,τις μυρωδιές,τους ήχους και τα χρώματα,
σε έναν τζαζ, αλκοολικό, ξεπεσμένο και ξέφρενο συνδυασμό.

Καλή ανάγνωση.
Πολλούς ασπασμούς.
Profile Image for Char.
1,681 reviews1,556 followers
March 23, 2015
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(http://bunchofgrapes.com/), 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 comments and remarks, as well as some slang with which I was unfamiliar. For instance, did you know that shamus was slang for private detective? Yeah, I didn't either. What puts this novel in the dark fiction category was the voodoo and Satanic worship which both play a role in the plot.

Speaking of which, the plot was excellent. It got a little complicated, but I never lost my way. The story was also peppered with a bit of dry humor, which I always enjoy.

Going into the last chapters, I have to say I was a bit disappointed. I've been told so much about this book, I guess I was feeling a bit let down. Then...

...the ending of this story blew me away.

Highly recommended for fans of crime-noir and dark fiction!
Profile Image for Jayakrishnan.
496 reviews183 followers
May 10, 2022
American crime fiction genre is a CIA social engineering project to push impressionable men into alcoholism. This is not some trite comment. Think about it. These books would have made Carrie Nation lay down her hatchet and jump onto a bar stool faster than Hank Chinaski.

William Hjortsberg must have been an architecture student. The way he describes every nook, corner and bar (of which there are plenty) of New York city makes you feel like you are actually living there. Early on in the book (first page actually), the main character Harry Angel longs to be in Hawai. Well, because New York is some kind of hell. Hell in these crime fiction novels is a place you long to be.

"I spun my chair around and stared out at Times Square. The Camels spectacular on the Claridge puffed fat steam smoke rings out over the snarling traffic. The dapper gentleman on the sign, mouth frozen in a round O of perpetual surprise, was Broadway’s harbinger of spring. Earlier in the week, teams of scaffold-hung painters transformed the smoker’s dark winter homburg and chesterfield overcoat into seersucker and panama straw; not as poetic as the Capistrano swallows, but it got the message across."

The novel may be seen as a series of investigations set in seedy hotels, ugly buildings (It looked like a forty-story cheese grater) and grand suburbs and cozy apartments. The climax, featuring a ritualistic orgy set in an abandoned train station was genuinely eerie. This novel was something else. Hjortsberg lays out a platter of treats to the reader in the form of one liners, cheekiness (She did manage a double-take when a white-haired woman walking a leashed leopard strode off the self-service elevator.) and some really magnificent similies (I sat very still, gripping the arms of my chair as her revelation washed over me like a giant wave.) worthy of Graham Greene.

Though it is classified as horror, I found it to be more mysterious than horrifying. I believe the things I mentioned earlier in the novel, overshadow the horror elements which are considerable and grotesque enough. This is not a criticism or anything. Falling Angel is like that rare pornographic film featuring your favorite sexual fantasy, where the actors give it their everything and are not simply going through the motions. I wonder whether the makers of Oldboy (the Korean film) was inspired by it.
Profile Image for Peter.
2,789 reviews498 followers
May 21, 2017
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!
Profile Image for James Thane.
Author 9 books6,943 followers
October 28, 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.
Profile Image for Mir.
4,868 reviews5,034 followers
March 2, 2017
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:
Profile Image for Apatt.
507 reviews807 followers
October 13, 2017
“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 is full of snarky comments like that. His narrative style saves the book for me.

Falling Angel is set in the 50s. It tells the story of Harry Angel, P.I. who is hired by an enigmatic gentleman called Louis Cyphre to track down a jazz singer called “Johnny Favorite” (they meet at “666 Fifth Avenue” restaurant no less). It seems like a straightforward enough job until voodoo cults and Satanists stick their oar in.

Louis Cyphre, “You talkin' to me?”

Falling Angel is something of a slow burn, it is quite engaging and readable from beginning to end but at the same time, I was not particularly riveted by it either. I think your degree of appreciation for a book like this depends on your predilection for horror fiction. If your favorite books are The Shining, Dracula, The Exorcist, or anything by H.P. Lovecraft then I suspect you would not find the weirdness level of Falling Angel quite up to snuff. There is almost nothing overtly supernatural in this book, except perhaps in the last chapter, and even that is a little vague. On the other hand, if you like mildly spooky reads, like The Turn of The Screw or “magical realism” perhaps you will find this book quite satisfying. The crime noir styling blends quite well with the dark, satanic cult plotline; there is also a substantial amount of violence and gore.

I quite enjoyed the prose style and the dialog which is reminiscent of hard-boiled crime fiction authors like Raymond Chandler. Harry Angel’s irreverent quips and first-person narration often made me chuckle. Harry is not exactly a sympathetic protagonist, he is more like an anti-hero who is only looking out for number one. Louis Cyphre is a very cool and intriguing antagonist, I have not seen the Angel Heart, the 1987 movie adaptation of this book, but I can imagine De Niro is great in the role. Epiphany Proudfoot, the witchy love interest, is basically just a plot device with little in the way of nuances.

As a horror fan, I am mildly disappointed in Falling Angel, it is not fantastical enough for my taste, though it is not too shabby. Next book I read for this Halloween fest will have monsters up the wazoo.
occult line
“I got them voodoo blues, Them evil hoo-doo blues. Petro Loa won’t leave me alone; Every night I hear the zombies moan. Lord, I got them mean ol’ voodoo blues.”
“When someone barges in without a word it’s either a cop or trouble. Sometimes both in the same package.”

“The ash from my cigarette dropped onto my tie and left a smudge next to the soup stain when I brushed it off.”

“The sudden whiteness of his smile split his dark face like the end of a lunar eclipse.”

Halloween Reads Fest 2017
This kicks off my Halloween Reads Fest 2017! 😱
Profile Image for Dave.
3,107 reviews353 followers
January 3, 2020
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 carnival that was Coney Island. Hired by Louis Cipher (a thinly disguised client), Harry Angel must find a jazz musician that disappeared fifteen years ago when everyone thought he was either dead or ensconced in a mental hospital upstate. but to find him, Angel has to wade through all sorts of seedy characters who want nothing to do with him and to fall for a girl who dabbles in white magic. But, that is nothing compared to the world of horror that he finds once Angel digs deeper.

Although this was made into a hit movie starring Mickey Rourke and Lisa Bonet, the novel itself is well worth reading because it opens up a world of dreams and madness as Angel slowly but surely peels away the layers of mystery surrounding the jazz player's disappearance.

If you have read other books by Hjortsberg such as Mañana, don't open this with any preconceived expectations. It is not anything like Hjortsberg's other work.

Smoky, jazzy, hip, dark, strange, unearthly, and just plain good reading.
Profile Image for Erin *Proud Book Hoarder*.
2,473 reviews1,084 followers
February 13, 2017
“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?

Detective Harry Angel is hired by an unusual, wealthy client to hunt down a long-missing man who was admitted to a treatment facility years ago for war injuries and complete memory loss. It's never easy to follow a cold trail, but he does his best, landing in the twisted world of backwater voodoo, close-lipped musicians, carnival acts and....well, much worse.

I can't think of another novel quite like this one. Usually the supernatural does not blend with this genre, and if it does, it doesn't usually it do it as daringly. I knew the ending of the book already thanks to its film presence, but up until a certain point the script matched the page. I was starting to think there wasn't going to be any deviations at all, but they eventually came.

The book wins with getting further into the story and the details, longer interviews and other stops that were omitted from the film, and a sense of urgency. I like how the relationship between Harry and a lady love are better explored in written form, with more scenes and better fleshed out. Hjortsberg's writing style is smooth flowing with a particular talent for stylish dialogue.

On the other hand, the movie won on keeping the big secret longer. There were more obvious clues dropped in the book, and the producers probably felt better removing it before the big screen transfer so it didn't come across so obvious and easily guessed.

There's brutality and violence, there's psychological mind games and hidden surprises, there's tension and a big twist at the end to cap off a journey that was already deadly. Every reader should check this one out.
Profile Image for Gary .
200 reviews184 followers
October 20, 2014
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 moving and produces an edginess/tension which made me wonder when something would jump out next.


The first half of the book seemed to move slowly, but once the occult aspects of the case began to appear the mystery itself contributed to the tension plot. I began to suspect everyone. Angel's Columbo like attitude serves as a nice counterpoint to many of the characters he encounters and nothing is really what it seems to be.

I found myself wanting to see exactly what he would find when he found Johnny Valentine and the more I read, the more sure I became he would find him.

Fortunately, I had long since forgotten the plot of the 80s movie Angel Heart or this would have been spoiled for me. I remembered just enough to have a nagging feeling I knew something was happening, but not enough to put my finger on it. The book is an enjoyable read if you saw the film awhile back. I don't remember the details enough to determine how closely aligned the film and book are.

Overall this was a nice mix of detective and voodoo/satanic murder genres. The story grows gradually until a brutal and nearly over the top finale.

Four stars.
Profile Image for Still.
576 reviews85 followers
January 29, 2022
5th time through. Fifth time reading this 1st hardback edition.
Book - a gift from my mother when I was in my twenties- falling apart like pages from an ancient manuscript. Page 34 fell out while reading… then page 98. Later a few pages towards the last 20 pages.

Sentimental to me as my mom died back in 2001 but … 1st edition copies run up up to $50-$150 +… I reckon this is the edition I’ll always treasure the most.

I also own a mint 1st edition paperback edition but forget it.

My review to follow. Not much to say. Outside of Ross Macdonald and Willeford and James Crumley the very best post World War II private eye novel ever written.

I’ll try to write a dry-eyed review later tonight.

Absolutely brilliant novel regardless the genre.

Full of pseudo tough guy back and forth, Private Eye (sorry, Private Investigator) Harry Angel circa 1959 is engaged by a certain Louis Cypher to locate the whereabouts of a one-time big time Big Band singer, Johnny Favorite ... once a rival to the then up and coming Frank Sinatra. Only problem, Favorite was drafted. During a USO tour, he and his band were straffed by an errant Luftwaffe squardron. Favorite was left an eggplant. Shipped state side, spending 15 years inside a private mental ward after being sprung by persons unknown from a lousy V. A. hospital.

Our narrator, Angel... himself a war veteran, injured during the war in Oran ...accidentally shot by the French allies in a scuffle with the Nazis... winds up in New York City circa 1959 working as a P. I., come complete with the clipped wise cracks, a hatred for authority in general and cops in particular.

The author, the late William Hjorstberg, is gifted with an acute knowledge of pre-WWII wise-guy dialogue.
Angel narrates the novel in a clipped know-it-all dragged down kiss-my-ass Jack Webb dry delivery.

There's no thug with a gat he can't slap wise and gain knowledge from the miscreant.
There's no dame who's not game to rhumba with Harry Angel.
After all, he's after Johnny Favorite and what pre-World War II bopper wasn't nursing a crush on Johnny Favorite?

Loads of dialogue I could quote but why waste my time?
You'll either read this novel or you won't.

I'm saying that Hjorstberg was one of the most gifted authors capable of aping the greatest authors of the pre-WWII pulp fiction of Black Mask or Dime Detective.
If that's not your bucket of beer, your sack of a jive then why waste _your_ time?

The wind up is a killer.
A drop dead killer.

I've read this as I said above at least five times.
Why am I dragged back into this?
There's a newly discovered sequel from the estate of the late William Hjortsberg recently published.
It's my next read.
I had to re-read this first and I'm goddamned glad I did.

I'd forgotten how brilliant a writer Hjortsberg was.
This novel still resonates for the hardboiled-dick enthusiast.

Check me on it.
Profile Image for Phil.
1,758 reviews131 followers
March 29, 2023
This may be the first time I agree with a Stephen King blurb on the cover of a novel: 'Terrific... I've never read anything like it'. Yes, this is a unique novel, combining a hard-boiled detective thriller set in the late 1950s with some black magic, voodoo and what not. What makes this such a good read is how Hjortsberg blends the two genres in a complimentary manner; it is like a pizza with just enough hot peppers to bring out the flavor of the black olives and mushrooms for one scrummy pie (and NOTE: no pineapple!).

Our protagonist, Harry Angel, lives and works in NYC as a private gum shoe, and is just about as hard boiled, and hard drinking, as they come. This starts with him getting a call for a job-- tracking down a famous singer from the early 40s. Now the singer, Johnny Favorite, went from rags to riches quite quickly, and after being drafted in WWII, got a place in the military entertainment circuit but still managed to get wounded when the Huns strafed the stage he was on. It seems he was taken back to the States and lived in a VA hospital for a bit, then went to a private institute. The man offering the job simply states that he had a contract with ole Johnny and needs to resolve it, and wants Harry to track him down, for it seems he has 'gone missing' from the private institution.

Great set up, and of course, Harry quickly discovers that Johnny left the private institution 15 years or so ago with the compliance of a bribed doctor who covered it up. Yet, the more Harry starts digging, the deeper the mystery. Not only is this a cold case-- tracking a missing person 15 years out of the fold-- but it seems when ever Harry tracks down a lead, the person giving it ends up cold in the morgue...

I have the Arrow Books version with a great 'fold out' cover, but I can see why this has been reprinted again and again. I cannot imagine how or why Hjortsberg decided to write a sequel much later as the denouement (and what a denouement!) seems to wrap the story up with and explosive bow. 4.5 nifty stars, rounding down as I kinda saw it coming.
Profile Image for Nick.
128 reviews24 followers
April 26, 2020
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 hired to find a former popular singer named Johnny Favourite. As Angel investigates this case the history and background gets deeper and not at all straight forward. Murders take place of those involved and the story creeps into voodoo, black mass, devil worship, satanic rituals and the occult.

The writing is lean and mean and the locations described help to place the story in 1959.
I picked up on clues about what was happening and then the big twist came. While not a total surprise it is still a massive twist and fits in just perfect with the story.

As I have read this, I decided my next read would be another mystery thriller that may or may not have a supernatural horror angle. The Intruders
Profile Image for William.
Author 432 books1,805 followers
September 16, 2022
I'm a sucker for cross-genre books, and this mating of noir Private Eye with the supernatural is one of the best examples of the type. It's the book that was made into the Mickey Rourke ANGEL HEART film, another favorite thing of mine, but the book is very much it's own thing.

We follow Harry Angel as he blunders his way through a case for an enigmatic client, Louis Ciphre. Harry's looking for someone, and at the same time trying to find a place for himself in the world,

He's a wonderfully drawn character, and we get emotionally involved with his quests, the tension ramping up when he becomes embroiled with rich devil worshippers.

The final twist is a shocking one, even if you have seen the movie.

A wonderful book and one that has provided me with much inspiration in my own work; I probably wouldn't have written my Midnight Eye novels if I hadn't read this first, so it's got a lot to answer for.
Profile Image for Katherine.
392 reviews
July 25, 2021
"Vender el alma me parece un negocio muy arriesgado. La eternidad dura mucho."

Un misterioso hombre contrata al detective privado Harry Ángel para que encuentre a Johnny Favorite.

Este libro nos llevará a través de esta investigación que comienza con diferentes pistas y callejones, al parecer, sin salida y simples, pero luego se volverá un recorrido más que misterioso, desembocando en una historia llena de creencias, vudú y satanismo.

Me he entretenido enormemente, logra atrapar y ambientar una atmósfera de misterio que se desenvuelve, desde cierto punto, con rapidez a través de los cortos capítulos que la componen.
Tiene muchos elementos macabros y conexiones en la historia que le va dando sentido a todo y que han hecho que la disfrute, pero al inicio, primeras 100 pág., la sentí muy simple al punto de hacerme un poco lento el ritmo de lectura, luego toda la historia se vuelve oscura y trepidante.
Profile Image for Ben Loory.
Author 24 books694 followers
October 2, 2014
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 stars it is. and one of a kind.
Profile Image for Olethros.
2,631 reviews434 followers
September 28, 2022
-Argumento poco común en su momento, pero el tiempo ha pasado para todos.-

Género. Novela (con toque sobrenatural en la trama).

Lo que nos cuenta. El libro El ángel caído (publicación original: Falling Angel, 1978) nos presenta a Harry Angel, detective privado de Nueva York que, a finales de los años cincuenta, es contratado para investigar un potencial fraude contractual realizado por Johnny Liebling, más conocido como Johnny Favorite, músico y cantante famoso de jazz que supuestamente volvió de la Segunda Guerra Mundial con gravísimas heridas en la cabeza. La investigación llevará al detective por unos derroteros inesperados.

¿Quiere saber más de este libro, sin spoilers? Visite:

Profile Image for Carla Remy.
860 reviews76 followers
August 21, 2021
After a few weeks, I am changing this from 3 to 4 stars.

From 1978
Readable, researched. I liked it. Probably didn't help that I knew, from the movie Angel Heart, what the ending would be. The book has much more to it than the movie, but they both end a bit mushy. I don't mind the violence. I guess I just think Satan is silly. Oh, Falling Angel takes place very much in Manhattan, where the movie Angel Heart is New Orleans. For what it's worth.
Profile Image for Mike.
306 reviews150 followers
January 21, 2021

This is a story about a P.I. trying to get to the bottom of some Satanic-type business in 70s New York.

Did I say the 70s? I guess I should have said the late 50s- August '59 to be exact, since William Hjortsberg begins the story with the admission to the union of Hawaii as the 50th state. And yet the novel was published in '76, and reminds me of some of the New York movies of that era- Taxi Driver, The French Connection, Rosemary's Baby if we go back a few years- that made the city seem like such a dangerous and intriguing place. It even reminds me of a movie like Wall Street- there's something going on in this city that only a few people know about, a sub-culture that our main character is going to be initiated into.

The Satanic-type business is ultimately just as dark and perverse as you would hope, but Hjortsberg picks his spots. This is a slow burn that leads to a horrifying conclusion.

Maybe I'm thinking of movies because the book is very visual, cinematic- Hjortsberg uses the architecture, the city streets, and even those ubiquitous steam clouds that rise up from the manhole covers to create a great sense of atmosphere. Promising elements for an adaptation, which of course was made about a decade after the book came out. Having already seen that (excellent) movie- 86's Angel Heart- I knew more or less how the story was going to end, but enjoyed it immensely anyway.
Profile Image for Peggy.
267 reviews66 followers
August 14, 2007
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 complicated as the investigation continues. Soon bodies start appearing and it looks like our man Angel is being set up to take the fall. Every new piece of the puzzle he finds reveals just how much of the story he hasn't been told. The investigation takes many unexpected turns and eventually Harry ends up involved with blues musicians, fake swamis, voodoo priestesses and a satanic cult.

Although the story is chock full of supernatural elements, the style is completely a hard-boiled detective story of the Hammett/Chandler/Cain era. It's a nice juxtaposition of style and content. The noir detective tends toward the cynical anyway, so Angel's disbelief in the occult occurrences rings true. The crime novels from that era deal with all kinds of conspiracies and chicanery, but everything is fully grounded in reality. There's always a reason, a human reason, for all the trouble that occurs. It's a treat to take that same style and those same assumptions and look at them all from a different angle.

Hjortsberg does an excellent job in keeping the reader guessing as the plot unfolds. Just when you think you know what's going to happen (or what just happened), the story slips away from your grasp. Hjortsberg plays us just as subtly and just as thoroughly as his characters play one another. Up until the final revelations, you're never quite sure just how it's all going to turn out.

And now for the bad news: those of you who've seen Angel Heart know the surprise that Hjortsberg has in store for the reader. Knowing how it all turns out before you get there is a real bitch. While this doesn't invalidate the story, it does mean that you get thwacked in the forehead with foreshadowing every other paragraph or so. This was incredibly disappointing to me the first time I read Falling Angel. I was actually angry at the movie for being too good of an adaptation and therefore spoiling a mighty fine read. But you know what? If the worst thing you can say about a book is that someone made a pretty good movie out of it, then that's probably a pretty safe recommendation.
Profile Image for Theo Logos.
705 reviews113 followers
April 10, 2023
”It was Friday the Thirteenth and yesterday’s snowstorm lingered in the streets like a leftover curse.”

With that deadly efficient opening sentence, Hjortsberg both firmly established the classic Noir bona fides of his novel, and hinted at the occult horror that would soon follow. His hero, Harry Angel, just as world weary as Philip Marlowe though not nearly as sharp on the uptake, wanders through a ‘50s era New York City oblivious to the many clues that we readers pick up easily, like the fact that his detective agency is named Crossroads, or that he meets his client, Louis Cyphre, for lunch at 666 Fifth Avenue.

As a reader, you will always be a couple jumps ahead of Harry, but that works to build the dread that permeates this dark tale. It doesn’t even matter if you’ve seen the movie, Angel Heart, and already know the ending. For the pleasures of this book are navigating this perfect Noir New York City, falling under the spell Hjortsberg weaves with his words. It little matters if you know the destination, because it’s the journey there that is amazing.
Profile Image for Julio Bernad.
292 reviews76 followers
October 3, 2021
Cuando pienso en novela negra con toques sobrenaturales inmediatamente viene a mi mente la saga de Charlie Parker, de John Conolly, ese detective sensitivo y melancólico que resuelve crímenes a cada cual más escabroso que el anterior con la ayuda de sus inseparables compañeros, Ángel, ladrón rehabilitado, y Louis, asesino a sueldo, negro y republicano. Seguramente haya más libros con temáticas similares pululando por las librerías, pero este coctel siempre me sabe a Bird, y El ángel caído no ha conseguido que eso cambie.

En esta novela seguimos la investigación de un detective privado neoyorkino contratado por un misterioso personaje de orígenes e intenciones desconocidas, pero a todas luces turbias. El encargo consiste en encontrar el paradero de un hombre, un exitoso músico en estado catatónico, estado que dificulta considerablemente la tarea de desaparecer.

El ángel caído es uno de esos libros que cuanto menos sepas de su trama, mejor. De hecho, creo que he metido un poco la pata al deciros que tiene elementos sobrenaturales. Pero, qué iba a hacer si esta novela esta incluida dentro de la ínclita colección gótica de Valdemar cuya línea es, precisamente, la literatura fantástica y de terror de sabor añejo; el qué hace esta novela dentro de la colección es una pregunta para la que no tengo respuesta, para mi, la verdad, es que esta un poco metida con calzador. Sin embargo, que no podamos diseccionar la trama no significa que no podamos hablar someramente de su contenido.

Hjiortsberg no construye una trama detectivesca especialmente intrincada, podría tachársela de básica incluso: su fuerte no es la parte de investigación, sino el tratamiento de la atmosfera. En efecto, aunque los elementos sobrenaturales no estén presentes durante toda la historia, conforme más se va profundizando en el oscuro mundo que nos presenta el autor se va creando una atmosfera más y más enrarecida. Lo que en un principio parecía claro y lógico a las pocas averiguaciones se troca en confuso y delirante, un poco como le ocurre a los personajes de los cuentos de Lovecraft al hacer frente a un atisbo de revelación de un misterio primigenio. Exagero, claro, no hay nada de horror cósmico en esta novela, que va por derroteros terroríficos muy diferentes, pero si comparten esa atmosfera alucinada en la que todo se tambalea. Este es el gran triunfo de Hjorstberg -no pienso volver a escribir su apellido, de ahora en adelante será Will-: saber crear un decorado sugerente y agobiante acorde a la historia que se nos quiere contar. Su gran problema, sin embargo, reside en precisamente lo que se quiere contar y, desgraciadamente, yo no puedo contároslo, pues acabaría completamente con el chiste. Digamos, sencillamente, que si pensamos detenidamente sobre lo acontecido en la novela, su propia razón de ser no tiene sentido, es excesivamente rebuscada y elaborada.

Por último, y más importante, hay una adaptación de los ochenta protagonizada por un Mickey Rourke previa explosión de metralla en la cara que algunos, como Meg Ryan o Renée Zellweger, osan llamar cirugía plástica, y un siempre brillante Robert de Niro de envidiable manicura. La película es muy buena, no en balde es de Alan Parker, uno de los directores más infravalorados y olvidados del Hollywood de los ochenta, y sabe explotar esas virtudes estéticas que Will imprimió en sus paginas, aunque siga teniendo el defecto de seguir casi a rajatabla la historia del libro. Tanto el libro como la película son muy recomendables. El orden en que lo hagáis no creo que importe, aunque en este caso mi consejo es que leáis primero la novela, porque si no vais a tener todo el rato a Rourke y De Niro en vuestra mente al pasar las páginas.
Profile Image for F.E. Beyer.
Author 1 book88 followers
January 18, 2023
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 "The 25th Hour", but this book made me interested in that city again.

There are a lot of great characters in this book: The Jazz player Toots from New Orleans who is into voodoo, the freak show fat woman on Coney Island, the patrician devil-trickster Louis Cyphre and many more. And the novel is quite risqué, with the seventeen-year-old voodoo priestess Epiphany Proudfoot having an affair with Angel who is pushing forty. Also the black mass in an abandoned subway station that Angel spies on is quite shocking in terms of bloodshed and sex.

The plot centres around Angel being hired by Cyphre to find a long lost crooner called Jonny Favorite and this allows the usual private eye adventures to begin. However, this is a horror story and not just another hardboiled detective thriller. The plot gets a little overcomplicated. Many times I tried to understand the sequence of events after Angel met Favorite in Times Square in 1943. I worked it all out once, but now I've forgotten again. Like many, I came to the book after watching the Alan Parker directed movie "Angel Heart" with Micky Rourke and Robert Dinero. I think it's Rourke's best movie.
Profile Image for Jason.
1,179 reviews258 followers
May 31, 2015
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 complex, with several good twists and turns. The action though minimal is dispersed enough to keep you interested and excited.

I had a blast reading this book and it leads me to wonder if I should venture into the classic hard boiled detective genre. The ending was satisfying and makes me want to read more from Hjortsberg. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Beatriz.
834 reviews721 followers
February 10, 2021
Excelente ambientación para una novela policíaca situada en Nueva York de los años 50, haciendo muy fácil recrear en la imaginación una urbe de crecimiento desproporcionado, marcada principalmente por la inmigración.

La novela es buena, entretiene, pero le falta. Hasta la mitad se siente muy reiterativa, como tratando de ganar páginas. Un final sorprendente y turbador, pero que acercándonos a éste se hace cada vez más previsible.
Profile Image for Bill.
1,592 reviews113 followers
August 30, 2016
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.
Profile Image for Nood-Lesse.
331 reviews172 followers
October 7, 2022
«Tutti hanno bisogno di qualcosa che li aiuti a dimenticare»

La prima parte è Marlowianamente godibile, poi però inizia l’indagine vera e propria e il ritmo cede. In compenso rimane la città sullo sfondo: il palazzo del Times, Broadway, le Avenue e..
i ponti..
descrizioni come questa mi hanno fatto riflettere sul loro ruolo che va oltre il collegamento con Manhattan

Alzai gli occhi verso la complicata intelaiatura del Queensborough Bridge e verso il cielo azzurro e sereno impigliato in quel groviglio di travature. Goditi la vista. Una giornata così limpida.

I ponti di NY sono iconici, ripensate ai film che avete visto, essi non si limitano ad introdurre in centro, sono essi stessi dei luoghi, celebrati con riprese a volo d’uccello e a trotto d’asino.
Nonostante New York, quando i personaggi hanno iniziato ad essere troppi e sempre meno probabili (rarità e fenomeni da baraccone), quando l’occulto è divenuto culto, ho rinunciato a tentare di capire.


È un libro che si potrebbe laconicamente racchiudere in una frase: “La storia di un uomo che cerca sé stesso”
E se questa definizione vale per la maggior parte dei libri che sono stati scritti, vale a maggior ragione in questo caso. Un investigatore privato viene ingaggiato per indagare sulla scomparsa di un cantante. Il committente ha un nome piuttosto ambiguo: Louis Cyphre.
Vi basti questo se vorrete leggerlo e qualora vi sia sconosciuto il film Angel Heart - Ascensore per l'inferno - diretto da Alan Parker in cui recitano Mickey Rourke, Robert De Niro.
Non sono un lettore abituale di Noir, le due stelle sono causate dall’aggiunta del Rouge. I lettori di genere invece potrebbero apprezzare il libro di William Hjortsberg
Profile Image for Nancy Oakes.
1,938 reviews748 followers
September 11, 2008
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 been in said hospital but has disappeared. With only a few leads, he's off. But the closer I came towards the end, the more I realized that there's something just a wee bit off kilter here and then I got the surprise of my life. Talk about plot twist!

So I won't spoil the book for others by going into any further detail here, but I will say that if you like a touch of the supernatural in your fiction, then you've got to add this to your reading stack.

Very well done.
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