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The Big Nowhere Paperback – May 1, 1998
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From Publishers Weekly
Returning to Los Angeles a few years after World War II (the setting of his last novel, The Black Dahlia ), Ellroy has come up with an ambitious, enthralling melodrama painted on a broad, dark canvas. The novel's first half interweaves two stories of lonely, driven lawmen investigating the crimes of social outcasts. In the county sheriff's office, Deputy Danny Upshaw finds that his probe of a series of homosexual murders is unleashing some frightening personal demons. Meanwhile, DA's investigator Mal Considine is assigned to infiltrate a cadre of Hollywood leftists, knowing that in the red-scare atmosphere, any hint of Communist conspiracy he uncovers will advance his career. Impressed by Upshaw's intensity, Considine decides to use him as a decoy to seduce a powerful woman nicknamed the "Red Queen," and the two cases and their implications of corruption, deceit and past violence converge explosively. At once taut and densely detailed, this is a mystery with the grim, inexorable pull of a film noir, shot through with a strictly modern dose of extreme (though not gratuitous) brutality and a very sure sense of history and characterization.
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
"Epic, obsessively imagined history" The Face "Like Hammett and Chandler, but Ellroy adds layers they never dared.One of the most compelling crime novels in a long time" Philadelphia Enquirer "One of the best and most important writers in America today" Vox "The man who calls himself "the demon dog" of American crime fiction is still the classiest act around" Daily Mail "Ellroy is the author of some of the most powerful crime novels ever written" New York Times --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top customer reviews
I think there are only two ways to look at James Ellroy: you either hate his twisted, over-the-top, graphic style, or you love his sharp and true dialogue, titillating decadence and his bent for blending in true characters with fictional ones in his patented quasi-historical way. Count me in the latter group.
Without going into spoiler overdrive or exhaustively rehashing the book and other reviews, I like the way Ellroy tied in police corruption from the mid-1940s through 1950, Mickey Cohen, and the Communist Scare in Hollywood with his own unique characters. Take one of his three main protagonists in this book --"Buzz" Meeks, who was a minor character in "The Black Dahlia," a prominent character in "The Big Nowhere" and a relatively brief character in "L.A. Confidential."
Meeks progressively grows as a character throughout the novel. Creating this change, which all of his protagonists go through, is a hallmark of a great writer.
Ellroy has also created a devilishly clever character in Dudley Smith, a detective on the rise, a human on a moral nosedive, and an increasingly poignant character in "The Big Nowhere" and "L.A. Confidential." Ditto with Deputy District Attorney Ellis Loew.
There is no low Ellroy doesn't explore: hypocrisy, incest, rape, sicko murders, graphic scenes, twisted sex (all in the City of Angels) -- but he does it in such a way as to make it all seem probable, all part of the plot in a tapestry of flesh-and-blood, imperfect characters. The "sickness" is somehow just part of the ride amid the turmoil of a Byzantine sea of deranged madness, as opposed to how it is portrayed seemingly for its own sake by a writer like Bret Easton Ellis.
The choice to either by this book or avoid it is simple: If you are easily offended, don't buy it. If you are not and want a very readable book that can stand on its own legs, even though it's part of a quartet of books, definitely buy it. I'm very happy I did.
It is compelling while at times being repellant. Once you get involved its hard to stop reading. If good fiction is about social settings The Big Nowhere succeeds superbly.