Another welcome re-issue from No Exit Press, a publisher which
continues to re-release classic crime fiction you may have missed
first time around, as well as publishing some of the most interesting
and original new voices from the next generation of crime writers.
Originally published in the late ’70s, Falling Angel
is at first glance a Chandleresque detective novel. But Hjortsberg
takes the down-at-heel, hard-drinking private eye yarn and gives
it a fiendish Faustian spin. The result is an original and breathtaking
rollercoaster ride straight to the heart of Hades.
Ominously, the story opens on Friday 13th, with New York private
eye Harry Angel being hired by the mysterious and malevolent Louis
Cyphere to find a crooner named Johnny Favourite who Cyphere claims
has reneged on a business deal. Missing persons cases are not
Angel’s idea of fun but work being what it is he agrees to take
up the almost cold trail of the once famous singer. But what should
be a bread and butter case takes on nightmarish proportions when
all of Angel’s leads wind up dead in a series of unexplained ritual
murders. As Angel is haunted by strange, foreboding dreams, his
search for Favourite draws him deep into the secret world of the
occult where voodoo and black magic are more than mere superstition.
As the shadows that Angel chases begin to close in around him,
Hjortsberg turns the knife to inflict the full horror of the detective’s
This may sound familiar if you’ve seen Angel Heart,
Alan Parker’s 1987 film adaptation with Mickey Rourke as Angel,
Robert de Niro as Cyphere and Lisa Bonet as the bewitching, and
memorably named, Epiphany Proudfoot. But though Parker’s film
captures much of the menacing atmosphere, Hjortsberg’s novel is
so cunningly weaved that, even having seen the film, the twist
in the tale remains masterfully shocking. A book to read with
the doors locked and every light in the house burning.
Reviewed by Jon Mitchell