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The Big Nowhere Paperback – May 1, 1998
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
From the Publisher
Top Customer Reviews
Danny Upshaw, Mal Considine, and Buzz Meeks are among the most vividly-drawn and complex characters ever found in a crime novel. Despite the glaring character flaws in each one of them, some of which border on repugnance, I still manage to empathize with them completely. Ellroy is an absolute master when it comes to tying characters' actions to their various motivations and desires. This gives his works a depth that goes beyond the mere telling of a story. The ways in which Upshaw, Considine, and Meeks relate to the action--the ways in which they internalize it and bend it to their own specific set of needs--force the reader to take a personal interest in them. They are no longer merely the vehicle to draw the reader into the action, as most "detective" characters are in this genre; instead, each one provides a distinct point of view of the action, shaping it as much as they are shaped by it. Not since Philip Marlowe went to jail for Terry Lennox--and Marlowe's own ideals--has a crime novel so tightly woven plot with character.
The story itself is too complicated to do justice in a brief review so I won't even try. The sheer number of subplots and ancillary characters could fill out the entire oeuvre of lesser writers, but Ellroy seamlessly integrates it all into a story that will have you playing the angles long after the book is finished.Read more ›
The miracle of this book is that it is an intensely moral drama. Danny Upshaw is one of the most tragic and driven characters in modern literature. But not even Danny is as ironically fascinating as Buzz Meeks. Buzz is as corrupt as they come, but there is a glimmer of goodness in him that brightens to a terrible fire. His fate lies just around the corner in the prologue to 'L.A. Confidential.' Mal Considine's obsessions were born in the liberation of the death camps after the war, and he is indelibly marked by the horror. His one grasp at goodness is something (someone) that is always just beyond his reach.
I won't give anything up. The action is a series of plots centered around each of these three men. The plots converge into an unspeakable horror. But the horror of wanton crime is only a reflection of the horror within the darkest reaches of the soul. in 'The Big Nowhere', Ellroy does what Auden prescribed in his great poem "September 1, 1939:" in the depths of the darkness, and without sentimentality or pity, he nonetheless "shows an affirming flame."
Getting into the rhythm is a bit like watching a production of Shakespeare - you have to get your ear attuned to the language, but once you achieve that, you are off and away and able to immerse yourself wholly in the experience. It takes a while to sort out the parallel plot lines and keep the characters in an orderly arrangement in your head. I even went back and re-read the first 3 chapters after about ten, and re-established them for myself (after that it was all quite clear).
I suspect this is a matter of coming to terms with Ellroy's style - once mastered it's not such a big deal. For that reason, LA Confidential, the next book, didn't leave me quite so breathless, but I suspect it may have done if it has been my starting point.
Ellroy's setting may be 1950s Los Angeles, and homage may being paid to the noir detectives of earlier eras, but his writing - both language and themes - is graphically contemporary. It has as much to tell us about current values as anything, as well as exposing the corruption and nastiness of a previous era. As someone brought up on a diet rich in the Hollywood dream factory (Dragnet, Perry Mason, and family sitcoms depicting the 'sunny' side of urban America where cops were your friend, and the ranch house in the suburbs an unassailable good) I love this exposition of the seemier side of life - which as contemporary events - eg the Rodney King bashing - show us are no less real.
The story was of personal interest to me - the Grand Jury investigations into unions and Hollywood. The hard-bitten cynicism of several of the bad-guy heroes adds edge and bite to the historical facts.
Straight after closing the covers on The Big Nowhere, I started LA Confidential, the next in the LA Quartet. I liked it just as much.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
There's nothing I can say that has not already been written or said about this great book. 5 stars no question.Published 1 month ago by Holger Stelljes
Haven't read it yet but am required to post a review before reading. This is weird. Need 4 more words.Published 3 months ago by 4girlsunder5
Great book, but it was confusing in parts. What appear to be minor characters at first, disappear and then re appear several chapters later as major characters. Read morePublished 8 months ago by FRANK O'BRIEN
I'm working my way through the 4 LA books. This is the second novel in the four book series. I'm glad I did them in order. Read morePublished 9 months ago by Jonathan D. Geisler
I've just started it, but I know I will like it. Never read LA Confidential, but LOVE the movie. Read his Black Dahlia book, great, but too creepy to read again! Read morePublished 11 months ago by Cynthia G.
If you are as tired of formulaic cop novels as I am, you will love this book. It's not a particularly easy read, but it's definitely worth the effort.Published 12 months ago by John DeGraff