I love genre fiction

My dad likes to tell me I’m elitist, or at least have elitist tastes in movies and books and such things. Lest you agree after reading my last two posts, I’m going to counter with an entry about a book I’ve just finished reading (for the second time!) that is wonderfully pulpy.

Falling Angel by William Hjortsberg straddles both horror and detective fiction genres—according to the front cover, Stephen King has called it “The Exorcist rewritten by Raymond Chandler”. More people seem to have seen the movie Angel Heart than have heard of the book. This may be because of a notorious sex scene between Mickey Rourke, who at the time was still sex in pants, and a fresh-from-The-Cosby-Show Lisa Bonet. It was actually a really great, really well done scene; the whole movie is rather fantastic. However, as usual, the book is even better.

The story, if you don’t already know, concerns a private investigator in late-1950s New York City named Harry Angel. He’s hired by a mysterious rich man called Louis Cypher to find a singer named Johnny Favorite who’d disappeared on New Year’s Eve, 1943. That’s the Raymond Chandler bit. The Exorcist bit comes in the form of Voodoo ceremonies, Satanic black masses, ritualistic murders, and the distinct possibility that Louis Cypher is the devil himself (say his name fast).

Hjortsberg’s writing is littered with simile in the best pulp fiction style. The prose is taut and the tension builds as Angel weaves disparate threads of mystery into an increasingly ghastly tapestry of blood and horror.

You could tease out various themes of good vs. evil, the fluidity of identity, and, oh, let’s say the importance of age-appropriate sexual relationships, if you were so inclined, but mostly it’s just a cracking good read. In turns scary, erudite, and disturbing, but always completely engrossing, Falling Angel is a masterpiece of (*shudder*) genre fiction.


~ by kellly333 on August 5, 2010.

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