Tag: L.A. Quartet

The Big Nowhere by James Ellroy

Posted March 10, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Pulp / 0 Comments

The Big Nowhere by James EllroyTitle: The Big Nowhere (Goodreads)
Author: James Ellroy
Series: L.A. Quartet #2
Published: Vintage, 1988
Pages: 472
Genres: Pulp
My Copy: Personal Copy

Buy: AmazonBook Depository (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

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 around actual events that took place at the time. The labour union battles facing the Hollywood studios, the aftermath of the notorious Sleepy Lagoon murder and the resultant Zoot Suit Riots all take place during this novel. Having read both The Black Dahlia and L.A. Confidential from this series, I have to say The Big Nowhere was a weaker novel compared to the others. The dark and violent plot was there but maybe violent sex crimes are just too far for me.

I’m not sure if it was the fact that sex murders are too disturbing or that I’ve read better crime novels now, but I felt like James Ellroy’s racist and offensive writing was taken a bit too far in this one. I really struggled to get through this book; I kept picking up this book and hitting a wall where I had to walk away for a while before going back. This is never a good sign for a book like this; I think James Ellroy was my first step into the world of noir and hard-boiled fiction but now I’ve read so many other novels I feel like it’s time to leave him behind. I will admit that I really did enjoy The Black Dahlia, L.A. Confidential and even American Tabloid from his latest series but I’m at a point where I need to decide if I want to read any more of his books. Are the others books in the Underworld USA Trilogy any good? Has he gotten less offensive with age? I keep wondering and hoping he has, because I think he’s a great writer I just can’t take anymore of the racism.

It’s really hard to enjoy a book like this when you take so much offence with the writing but there are some great noir elements throughout the book that were interesting to explore. Maybe with a little more tolerance I will return to his books because he does weave true crime elements with a great crime plot. I know the writing in supposed to reflect the times and how people spoke and acted towards other races but mixed with the graphic sex this book just become too difficult.