Monday, October 29, 2012

My Favorite Horror Novel

Okay, it would be more honest to say it's one of my favorite horror novels. I've got other favorites and all of them will get their moment to shine from the shadows. But I thought I would put this one out there first, because it combines two of my favorite genres better than anything else out there that I've yet to read.

Falling Angel - William Hjortsberg - Fawcett Popular Library - 1982
I'd first heard of this novel from an essay by Stephen King, way back in the early 80's. Falling Angel  by William Hjortsberg was published in 1978 and I don't know how the hell I missed it, considering how much of a horror fan I was back then. I didn't get my mitts on it until around 1984 and it immediately hit me in the gut. Yes, better than The Stand, better than Ghost Story, which are both excellent books. Stephen King gave it the best quickie description in saying that it was like Raymond Chandler crossed with The Exorcist. He's right. I was a huge Chandler fan and had read all of his novels by that point. Hjortsberg's Harry Angel was a bit like Phillip Marlowe, only edgier, darker, and as the novel progressed it became all to clear just how much darker.

But more than just its hard-boiled style, which I'm always a sucker for, Falling Angel is also about setting. It's New York in the 1950's. Central Park, Coney Island, Harlem, subways, voodoo rituals, Black Mass ceremonies, they all play a role in private eye Harry Angel's search for missing crooner Johnny Favorite. It's the kind of novel that you'll read the first 20 pages of and then it's too late, you're hooked for the full ride.

Most people are probably more familiar with the movie with Mickey Rourke, which was a decent flick. But as perfect as Rourke was in the role, the movie came up short by going south, instead of keeping it all in New York as the novel did. If you've seen the movie, which I haven't mentioned by name, you might think that skipping Hjortsberg's novel is fine. I can only say that if you're a horror fan, a noir fan, a mystery fan, whatever, read it. I don't think you'll be disappointed.


  1. I agree! A spectacular novel that I've read a couple times now. A few months back I sent Hjortsberg a fan email after I'd had a couple drinks, but fortunately he replied with an appreciative note.

    1. Hi Will, Thanks for the comment about Hjortsberg. That's cool he replied. I really enjoy your blog by the way. It's one that inspired me to get this one started.