Richard's Reviews > The Big Nowhere

The Big Nowhere by James Ellroy
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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 and more, and skillfully stuffed into a dense and thrilling 400+ pages! This book is really something special and James Ellroy is a writer with impressive skill and a great attention to detail. He mixes hard-boiled noir, a complex police procedural, and historical fiction into a stunning story, painting a vivid picture of Los Angeles in 1950, and mixing fictional characters with real life events the way Dennis Lehane does in The Given Day and HBO does with many of their shows, like Boardwalk Empire, Rome, and Deadwood.

With such complex and detailed plot lines as well as the book's colorful prose, characterization could have totally been left to the wayside. But Ellroy spends just as much time developing the entire cast of complex colorful characters, especially the three leads. The novel follows three law enforcement officers (an LA County Deputy Sheriff, a DA investigator, and a former crooked LAPD officer turned Howard Hughes pimp and bagman) as they get thrown into a grand jury probe against Communist influence in Hollywood as well as an investigation of a series of grisly serial murders. Each man has something to lose, something to hide, and in time, something to fight for. They're complex, you root for them at times and then despise them the next. And Ellroy expertly brings their separate stories together in a web of gripping mystery and tragedy.

I love my new home of Los Angeles and I have a fascination with old Tinseltown history and conspiracy, so one would wonder why I took so long to start reading James Ellroy novels. But no worries, with just this book, I'm now on the Ellroy train, and here for the long haul.
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Quotes Richard Liked

James Ellroy
“Howard got sex-crazy in the winter and probably wanted to send him out on a poontang prowl: Schwab's Drugstore, the extra huts at Fox and Universal, Brownie snapshots of well-lunged girls naked from the waist up. His Majesty's yes or no, then standard gash contracts to the yes's--one-liners in RKO turkeys in exchange for room and board at Hughes Enterprises' fuck pads and frequent nighttime visits from The Man himself.”
James Ellroy, The Big Nowhere


Reading Progress

July 18, 2014 – Shelved
July 18, 2014 – Shelved as: to-read
July 18, 2014 – Shelved as: city-of-angels
July 18, 2014 – Shelved as: crime-mystery-thriller
July 18, 2014 – Shelved as: historical-fiction
July 18, 2014 – Shelved as: urban-gothic
August 15, 2014 – Shelved as: author-ellroy
August 19, 2014 – Started Reading
August 25, 2014 – Shelved as: essential-crime
August 25, 2014 – Finished Reading
December 20, 2014 – Shelved as: 2014-reads
February 13, 2015 – Shelved as: dicks
June 30, 2016 – Shelved as: favorites

Comments Showing 1-4 of 4 (4 new)

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message 1: by Joe (new)

Joe Valdez Terrific review, Richard. When I first moved to L.A., I read a lot about Hollywood and always found aesthetic delight in driving around in the same neighborhoods where everything from The Big Sleep to Singin' In the Rain were shot. Then there is the toxicity and the dark side you allude to as well which is Ellroy's territory. L.A. Confidential was a great read and this one sounds as well.


Richard L.A. Confidential is one of my top favorite movies. And I heard that the book is very different so I'm excited to start reading that as well!


message 3: by Steven (new) - added it

Steven Great review. Been a while since I read Ellroy, so back on the reading list he goes.


Richard Ellroy is so fascinating to me!


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