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The Big Nowhere (L.A. Quartet #2)

4.1 of 5 stars 4.10  ·  rating details  ·  8,369 ratings  ·  253 reviews
Los Angeles, 1950 Red crosscurrents: the Commie Scare and a string of brutal mutilation killings. Gangland intrigue and Hollywood sleaze. Three cops caught in a hellish web of ambition, perversion, and deceit. Danny Upshaw is a Sheriff's deputy stuck with a bunch of snuffs nobody cares about; they're his chance to make his name as a cop...and to sate his darkest curiositie ...more
Published January 1st 2013 by Grand Central Publishing (first published September 1st 1988)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Jeffrey Keeten
"It was written that I should be loyal to the nightmare of my choice.” Joseph Conrad Heart of Darkness.

Newspapers labelled the death of José Gallardo Diaz the Sleepy Lagoon Murder because his unconscious body was found near a local swimming hole. The police arrested 17 Hispanic males for the “murder” even though they had no evidence that a murder had occurred. Diaz was inebriated and eventually died from a fracture at the base of the skull. No one was able to determine exactly how the fracture o
This isn’t your Grandpa’s noir.

James Ellroy is a man so ornery he threatened to strangle Kemper with his lower intestines. Ellroy transforms Noir the hard way:

He snuck up on it in a urine soaked alley outside a sleazy Sunset Strip dive, coldcocked it with a lead pipe, stuffed it in a trunk with rabid chinchillas, drove it to an abandoned warehouse somewhere in beautiful downtown Burbank, strung it up with chains, injected it with heroin, attached electrodes to its ears, jolted it with 1000 volts
Richard Vialet
Communist witchhunts. B-movie studio westerns. South Central jazz. Hollywood labor union strikes. Mickey Cohen and his feud with Jack Dragna. Queer sex orgies at the Chateau Marmont. Howard Hughes and his penchant for underage girls and crashing airplanes. Friction between the LAPD and the LA County Sheriffs. The Sleepy Lagoon murder and the Zoot Suit Riots. And a sick serial killer that disembowels his homosexual victims by biting into them with animal teeth.

This loaded novel is about all that
A body is found near a local swimming hole and the brutality of the murder is frightening. Deputy Danny Upshaw is charged with finding the perp and closing the case. When it’s discovered the victim was gay, Ellroy brings the reader into the homophobic culture of 1950s Los Angeles while pushing Upshaw to his limit in his drive to tag the guilty party.

Elsewhere, both Mal Considine and Buzz Meeks become entwined in the communist red scare. Mal is using it to his advantage in an attempt to advance h
Los Angeles, 1950 Red crosscurrents: the Commie Scare and a string of brutal mutilation killings. Gangland intrigue and Hollywood sleaze. Three cops caught in a hellish web of ambition, perversion, and deceit. Danny Upshaw is a Sheriff's deputy stuck with a bunch of snuffs nobody cares about; they're his chance to make his name as a cop... and to sate his darkest curiosities. Mal Considine is D.A.'s Bureau brass. He's climbing on the Red Scare bandwagon to advance his career and to gain custody ...more
C’è tanto di tutto nei romanzi di Ellroy, ed in questo in particolare: tanta tensione razziale, linfa nel sangue americano soprattutto di una L.A. vicinissima al confine messicano; c’è tanta ossessione sessuale, omo ed etero, da arrivare a pervertiti di ogni genere, ad incesti e psicosi oltre ogni fantasia di un lettore “normale”; c’è tanta criminalità, dal tossicodipendente dedito ai furti al pervertito omicida all’uomo di fiducia del gangster ai killer prezzolati fino al macrocriminale usuraio ...more
Aug 20, 2008 Andy rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: mondo hollywood wolves
Shelves: hardboiled-dicks
The best Ellroy book, hands down. Better than "Black Dahlia". Picture a fun house-mirrored Hollywood where a psycho killer tears his victims apart wearing dentures made of wolverine fangs, a closet queen vice cop investigating Communist sympathizer movie stars, and a cop who wants to smuggle his kid through Iron Curtain-era Europe during the Redder than Red Communist 1950's. The roller coaster ride of the Big Nowhere lasts for 400+ pages and has no brakes, so hold on tight!
Michael Alexander
This dark, mean, nasty-hearted book had me forgetting to sleep, nearly getting in trouble for forgetting to come back from lunch hour, etc. Definitely this quartet is the best hard-boiled stuff I know since the Chandler/Hammett/Cain era. But it's also doing something different from those guys, something post-Chinatown: all the narrative balls flying in the air are a way of trying to give you this ultra-broad, kaleidoscopic perspective on the deep and ugly things that are creating '50s Los Angele ...more
The Big Nowhere follows The Black Dahlia in Ellroy's L.A. Quartet. Is the genre "crime opera" a thing? 'Cause it should be. Space gets one, why not crime? Anyways, if crime opera is a thing then this is a classic example of it. The scope has widened in this second entry to the L.A. Quartet on multiple levels; we have three POV characters and an omniscient perspective as opposed to the single first person POV of the first book, the single main story thread being replaced by two in this volume and ...more
Deputy Danny Upshaw investigates a brutal sex crime and hunts the gay middle-aged killer, not knowing that from the beginning he’s been led to implicate the wrong man. So he could lead the investigation, he agrees to infiltrate a labor union, search out communists and uncover their “un-American activities.” But all he cares about is to find out why a killer was mutilating other gay men.

Zoot Suits
Zoot Suits

Lieutenant Mal Considine, on the other hand, agrees to work with power-hungry prosecutors, corrupted
The Big Nowhere is two separate tales eventually twisted together into one; an LA Sheriff’s Deputy tries to capture a brutal sex murderer while serving as a decoy to expose communism in Hollywood. Gangland intrigue and Hollywood sleaze, young deputy Danny Upshaw along with Buzz Meeks and Mal Considine find themselves caught in a hellish web of ambition, perversion, and deceit.

Like the other books in the L.A. Quartet, and other James Ellroy books for that fact, The Big Nowhere twists a story arou
Krok Zero
Less satisfying than The Black Dahlia but more ambitious, at least narratively — I think my slight disappointment stems from a lack of the emotionalism that was so prominent in Dahlia. This one puts politics on the table and spins a way more complex (some would say convoluted, but it does make sense ultimately) narrative web, but it feels less personal somehow. On the other hand it's an absolutely spellbinding piece of storytelling. And it's not that it's unmoving — it certainly has elements of ...more
Mark Desrosiers
It's 1950 in L.A., and we enter the whirlwind: some sicko is murdering queers by sucking out their entrails and deflowering their eye sockets. Meanwhile a trio of cops (two dirty, one so clean he knocked out his wife's teeth in a principled rage) are off on a mission to destroy communist influence in Hollywood. The mission gets bumbled, then intersected to the wolverine killer with a taste for human intestines, and all hell breaks loose.

I'm still numb from finishing this -- Ellroy ain't afraid
Lee Battersby
Vintage Ellroy, with non-stop attitude, nastiness and above all, voice. This hits a lot harder on the malignancy scale than many of his other books-- it's unrelenting, and brutal, and absolutely nobody comes out of it looking like anything other than shit, but that's part of what makes Ellroy compelling: the hope, usually forlorn, that something good might come out of the almighty clusterfucks that characters drag themselves into.

It's by no means a perfect book, and certainly not as assured or p
Ben Loory
i'm more interested in psychopaths than communists, so the more historical-sociological parts of this 500-page book kinda bored me. i can see how people might see this as ellroy moving into more "important" areas of interest, but as far as i can tell it's all just a bunch of window-dressing for the wolverine-obsessed psychopath angle anyway; it's not like the book sheds any light on politics or economics or anything like that (or even tries to). the world is a shitty place and people do their be ...more
Early Ellroy, prior to his discovery of removing every unnecessary word as his successful writing style, moves slow and feels bloated. An interesting little tale that suffers in comparison to what would come next but is still dark and brutal and typical of his worldview. I really just wanted it to be over asap however.
Biju Bhaskar
I had read reviews that hyped up James Ellroy as an extraordinary writer of crime fiction. As I struggled through halfway of 'The Big Nowhere', I thought that I was a victim of sales blurbs on book jackets. But perserverance paid off, and it is in the later third of 'The Big Nowhere', I was sucked right into the narration and could only marvel at the way Ellroy tied up disparate threads together. The author has created three characters Danny Upshaw, Turner 'Buzz' Meeks and Mal Considine, who wil ...more
Ellroy crossbreeds the detective novel, historical, and gothic horror; so we get an analysis of the impulses and pathology behind historical events and figures, a Boschian canvas of human depravity, a crackerjack plot, and three unlovable but compelling protagonists living on the edge. The plot involves Red Scare intrigue (and its connection to Hollywood greed) and very disturbing serial killer. Also features Howard Hughes, Mickey Cohen, bestiality, teamsters, wolverines, necrophilia, heroin, bl ...more
Tim Niland
Los Angeles, 1950. The second book of Ellroy's L.A. Quartet. Ambitious sheriffs officers, police and DA's investigators working two angles: first, anti-communist smearing. The UAES union associated with left/communist sympathizers is picketing movie studios, while being being counter-picketed by leg-breaking Teamster unionists looking to move in one the movie job. On the other hand a young sheriffs deputy is obsessed with a case nobody wants - the sadistic serial killings of homosexuals and tran ...more
Perry Whitford
Welcome to 1950s Los Angeles!

James Ellroy's amoral, bigoted, brutal, corrupt, coruscating version of it that is. If Chandler, Hammett and Jim Thompson can be rightly termed 'hard-boiled', then Ellroy has to be considered positively 'hardcore'.

The story opens on the very first hour of the new decade with a gruesome roll-call of all the crimes reported in to Detective Deputy Danny Upshaw, when one in particular catches his attention, a homicide which leaves a tortured, eyeball-less corpse.

Benoit Lelievre
There is nothing in the world like reading a James Ellroy novel. I've been meaning to finish the first L.A Quartet for several years now, and I am proud to say that it is done. THE BIG NOWHERE probably is the bleakest novel collection. The bebop era themes are still present, but it's lost inside the sprawling, Machiavellian labyrinth of paranoid post-war America. THE BIG NOWHERE is not only dark by James Ellroy's standards, it's just an extremely dark novel period. I usually don't care about era ...more
Zachary Walker
This was a real intense humdinger of a book!

Unapologetic misogyny!

Horrid homopobia!

Authentic racism!


I'm kicking myself for not reading this sooner.
The Big Nowhere is the second in Ellroy's L.A. Quartet. It's a thick book, in several ways. There are lots of pages, and they're packed tight. There are numerous characters, and the three main characters are developed in great detail. Ellroy writes in a terse, often staccato style, and lays down streams of words and short sentences to convey information, and to set the mood, which is cops and tough guys in 1950 Los Angeles. A lot of the book is police procedural, and the detail and repetition c ...more
Se io fossi stata la traduttrice l'avrei intitolato "La grande fuffa" Per la quantità di roba che lui mette in questo calderone, ma che sostanzialmente non cambia. Ci ho messo un po', prima di capire la differenza fra la polizia di Los Angeles, l'ufficio dello sceriffo della contea e l'ufficio del procuratore.
La prima volta che si parla di Mickey Cohen, pensavo che fosse uno che voleva fare piazza pulita dei corrotti tra la polizia, poi ho pensato fosse un nero, nonostante il nome, alla fine ho
Brendan Detzner
Detective stories are about bringing order to the universe. The genre doesn't start with Philip Marlowe or Sam Spade, it starts with Sherlock Holmes, applying logic and reason to the unknown and unsettling. There's a hint of darkness even in the most basic version of the formula- our good detective never stops the Bad from happening, he arrives too late every single time- but by the end of the story he knows what happened and why, and justice is served. Later arrivals to the genre saw the opport ...more
This novel is striking, for better and for worse. Any review of Ellroy must give a customary nod to his unique style, so heed the notice if you like your sentences with Dickens-esque eloquence. The three stories of Danny Upshaw, Mal Considine and Buzz Meeks interlink over the Communist ploy to good effect and later on over the homicides. The narrative voice between the three characters sold me as fully formed characters, but left me unable to differentiate between the three as unique voices. The ...more
It could be that this is the pinnacle, or near pinnacle, of the gothic crime novel, if that strange beast exists at all. Perhaps less stylistically innovative or weird than the more well-known LA Confidential, the tauter American Tabloid, and the nearly unclassifiable White Jazz, this novel is James Ellroy's attempt, I think, at fusing the kind of dread so evident in Poe with the "policier" -- and he succeeds beautifully, entertainingly, with more than a hint of the style that he would perfect i ...more
Well I've had a misconception about Ellroy that has been cleared up. Though I have never read any of his works, I had assumed he was a writer from the period he writes about - the early '50s. That he wrote this one in 1988 shocked me almost as much as the book itself.

The recent flurry regarding Samuel Clemens language in "Huckleberry Finn" and whether to edit the racially offensive terms he used seem absurd to me considering the historical times he wrote about and lived in. That being said, Ell
I lied when I said I had read my last ellroy. never underestimate the power of boredom and a malfunctioning laptop.

A character in this novel is named "gordean" and the book is a gordian knot of la's seedy underside and america's darker political shadows. Set smack in the middle of ellroy's favorite stomping ground, la somewhere between the house of unamerican activities committee, kennedy and zoot suit riots, this is a tighter plot that some of his other books. the gordian knot is of course, al
Carol Storm
The weakest of Ellroy's great LA Quartet novels, but still pretty good.

There are a number of things that make this book much weaker and less gripping than LA CONFIDENTIAL or THE BLACK DAHLIA. The most basic problem is at the core -- there's something inherently silly (not to say laugh out loud funny) about the idea of a psycho putting on wolverine choppers to "chomp" his victims to death. Real wolverines can be scary. Real psychos can be scary. But a psycho who has to put on fake choppers to do
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James Ellroy was born in Los Angeles in 1948. His L.A. Quartet novels—The Black Dahlia, The Big Nowhere, L.A. Confidential, and White Jazz—were international best sellers. His novel American Tabloid was Time magazine’s Best Book (fiction) of 1995; his memoir, My Dark Places, was a Time Best Book of the Year and a New York Times Notable Book for 1996. His novel The Cold Six Thousand was a New York ...more
More about James Ellroy...

Other Books in the Series

L.A. Quartet (4 books)
  • The Black Dahlia (L.A. Quartet, #1)
  • L.A. Confidential (L.A. Quartet, #3)
  • White Jazz (L.A. Quartet, #4)
The Black Dahlia (L.A. Quartet, #1) L.A. Confidential (L.A. Quartet, #3) American Tabloid (Underworld USA, #1) White Jazz (L.A. Quartet, #4) The Cold Six Thousand (Underworld USA #2)

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