Saturday, October 17, 2015

Top 20 Horror Novels - #12) Falling Angel by William Hjortsberg (from 1978)

Not only am I ranking my Top 20 Horror Movies for you this October, but I'm doing likewise with the scary books that I hold near and dear.  As with the movies that I'm discussing in that Top 20, I'm not attempting to rank these novels based on their place in pop culture, but rather their place in my heart.  Isn't that sweet?  Seriously, there are some fine books that didn't make the cut here because there just wasn't room, and there are definitely some well-regarded books that didn't make the cut because I don't really like them.  That also means there are some personal favorites of mine on this list that you may not have heard of.  If that's the case, I promise that I'll reward your trust with a gnarly tale if you give one of them a spin.  Finally, I may have shortchanged some of the titans in the genre (hey there, Stephen King) as I didn't want to overload this list with titles by the same author, though Uncle Stevie did manage to score three direct hits on my list.

The list thus far:

#20) Amok by George Fox (from 1980) 
#19) Manstopper by Douglas Borton (from 1988)
#18) Intensity by Dean Koontz (from 1995)

#17) The Terror by Dan Simmons (from 2007) 
#16) The Snake by John Godey (from 1978)
#15) Son of the Endless Night by John Farris (from 1985)
#14) Rockinghorse by William W. Johnstone (from 1986) 
#13) Vampire$ by John Steakley (from 1990)

Top 20 Horror Novels - #12) Falling Angel by William Hjortsberg (from 1978)

Stephen King hit the nail on the head: if Raymond Chandler and William Peter Blatty co-wrote a novel, it would probably be something akin to William Hjortsberg's Falling Angel.  This superb effort pits a hard-boiled private dick against 'Ol Scratch himself.  As ridiculous as that may sound, Hjortsberg's stirring prose, keen wit, and steady pace combine to make this one a real winner.  This is the rare gripping yarn that succeeds at more than one thing, as it is both a quality detective story and a blood-curdling horror novel.  The main character, Harry Angel, is a rugged hero who clearly doesn't know what he's getting into when he takes on a missing persons case that will bring him face to face with ultimate evil.  While there is a potent noir flavor to Falling Angel that aids the title in making it seem as though our weary protagonist is doomed from the start, he's compelling and gutsy enough to ensure that we root for him all the way to the bitter end.  This book was the inspiration for Alan Parker's stunning motion picture of the same name and anyone who gives this wicked tale a try will quickly recognize that it was destined to be translated to film.  The movie is a solid adaptation that stays true to Hjortsberg's book while varying just enough from the text to make it difficult to choose between the two.  They're both awesome, and (most importantly) each property is genuinely frightening.  Anyone who digs the pitch should have a great time with either (I love them both), and Falling Angel is a novel that I positively treasure.  I expected this one to crack my Top 10 when I started working on this list, but Harry Angel will have to settle for #12.  We'll certainly see more of the devil as these rankings progress.

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