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4.5 out of 5 stars
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on 6 May 2002
I chose this as the first Ellroy to read and could not have been more pleased. I am now looking to buy the whole set based on this experience.
What a great story -- muscular prose, rat-tat-tat dialogue. Amazing.
The depth and breadth of the characters on display here is startling; I found myself with a person's name on my mind -- trying to put a face and a place to the name -- only to realise it was actually a 'person' from this book.
If, like me, the only other crime books you have read were the traditional 'hard boiled' detective novels of Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett et al, be prepared for a shock. This is not as out-there as Paul Auster's 'City of Glass' (from 'The New York Trilogy') but no less compelling.
Everything about this book is more robust, more immediate .. more 'modern', if you like .. but still evokes a similar sense of 30's - 50's USA in general and Hollywood sleaze in particular.
Gripping stuff!
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on 18 October 2004
I started 'The Big Nowhere' about a fortnight after finishing 'The Black Dahlia'. This is fiction at its best. The characterisation is superb, the sense of impending doom inescapable and the tension palpable. I think that this book narrowly beats L.A. Confidential in terms of entertainment and plot, and only narrowly fails to rank alongside the Black Dahlia. The Upshaw character is every bit as vivid as the main characters in the Black Dahlia and Clandestine, and by the end of the book Considine and even the initially dispicable Meeks have set themselves up as tragic heroes. A must read book.
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Forget The Black Dahlia - this is the first of Ellroy's newer, more ambitious books. While Dahlia may have carried him into marrying true crime with crime fiction, with The Big Nowhere he makes the more important move into multiple protagonists, which allows for one of the greatest plot devices of his later works - but I won't tell you what it is in case you haven't read it. The shock when reading the climax of the second section for the first time is a rare and incredible feeling when reading a book, and this was Ellroy's first try.
The Big Nowhere is also tied far more strongly to LA Confidential and White Jazz (the latter half of the LA Quartet) than Dahlia, fully involving the reader in the heroin conspiracy and introducing Dudley Smith properly for the first time since the earlier, far less impressive novel Clandestine.
If you're reading Ellroy's books sequentially, you're in for a treat. This is where the pace really picks up.
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on 8 June 2003
Having read The Black Dahlia, American Tabloid and The Cold Six Thousand in that order, and enjoying them all immensely, it seemed logical to continue Ellroy's L.A.quartet with The Big Nowhere. I wasn't disappointed - the characterisation is superb, you actually find yourself mourning them when/if they get killed - the plot is complex, but ultimately rewarding. As with all great books I found myself slowing up towards the end, not wanting to finish it. I began L.A.Confidential the same day I finished TBN so as to avoid Ellroy withdrawal symptoms.
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on 27 May 2013
Having read James Ellroy's masterpiece 'The Black Dahlia', I decided to try his next in his LA Quartet. The Big Nowhere is brilliant historical fiction featuring a plot most hard-boiled noir novelists would only dream of doing. Ellroy, like he did with Dahlia, pretty much brings 1950's Los Angeles back to life with obsessively detailed characters, locations and dialogue. It is an epic crime story that feels so real. He blends fact and fiction so well, you don't know which one is which.

The main characters are: Danny Upshaw, a young and determined cop investigating a series of grisly murders. Mal Considine, a lieutenant of the LA District Attorney's Criminal Investigation Bureau, hired to have a look into the Communist influence in Hollywood movies. And Turner 'Buzz' Meeks, a former cop-turned enforcer for gangster Mickey Cohen and pimp for Howard Hughes also investigating the Communist influence in the movies but really only doing it for the money. As the story progresses, these three men cross paths which ultimately reveal their darkest secrets and motives.

It's not your typical police procedural/mystery book and it's not your typical noir novel either. Themes of political corruption, the dark side of Hollywood and sexual fetishism add more layers to the novel. This story contains so much more than The Black Dahlia and Ellroy doesn't shy away from the more extreme sides of humanity. The disturbing descriptions of violence only adds more realism to Ellroy's hyper realistic world.

Like many reviewers have already stated: If you like Raymond Chandler or Dashiel Hammett then this novel is for you. That's true, but if you want a more daring and darker plot still set in the noir drenched world of crooked cops, atmospheric Los Angeles, quick fire dialogue and a rich plot with more corruption than your government then this surely is for you. Probably the greatest serious crime novel ever (... maybe alongside The Black Dahlia and The Long Goodbye).
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on 9 October 2013
This was a fabulous read, gripping & enthralling. Ellroy never lets you down & this is another furiously-paced book with so may bylines. A real page-turner, I was sorry to finish it as no-one matches up to him
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on 23 January 2013
Okay, let me start by saying that this is a FIVE-STAR crime thriller, the reason I've given it 4/5 is because Ellroy has, believe it or not, published even better gems than this.

I won't go into the plot too much but suffice to say that high-society L.A & Hollywood come 1950 have never been as edgy, dark or morally rotten to the core as they are here in Ellroy's hyperactive mind. The beauty of his stories is that the writer seamlessly intertwines genuine American history with accurately fleshed out fictional crime, complete with humanly flawed characters who are convincingly multi-dimensional (there is no such thing as 'good guys' and 'bad guys' in the Ellroy universe), but isn't afraid to full-out slap you in the face with the morbid reality of homicidal behavior & political subterfuge on such a scale that you utterly believe that what you are reading REALLY happened.

If you've never encountered an Ellroy novel before then this is a good place to start: read slow at first to absorb the gargon - flip back to re-read certain passages every now and then so that you grasp everything that's going on, it will be worth the effort I assure you.
Ellroy's prose is more 'standard', not as staccato as he was from the 90's onwards, which doesn't detract from the authentic reading experience that is typical Ellroy but just makes it a more suited novel for those who are new to his writing.
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on 24 April 2013
I read this shortly after The Black Dahlia and I have to say it gave it a good run for its money.
It has:
-a very dark plot.
-three great characters who intertwine perfectly.
-politically focused.
-morbid, tense and quite moving!
I did have to look a couple of events up, for example events concerning Brenda Allen and also The Sleepy Lagoon, as they are discussed assuming some basic background knowledge - nothing a quick Google search can't supply you with.
I'm looking forward to the next in the L.A. Quartet!!
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on 7 May 1999
I think this is one of the greastest crime novel of the 20th century. What makes it stand apart is its superb characterisation. There is no boring character in this book and everyone has thier fault. The story is so complex I won't bother to explain it, but after reading this book, you will feel punch drunk and amazed! This book makes me wonder about the author, he's got amazing imagination (no doubt about that!) but it left me wondering whether I would shake his hand if I meet him or run away from him.
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on 16 June 2016
Hard to follow at times and I googled at least a half dozen terms used regularly in the book for better expressions but the story of these men and how they intertwine with politics, secrets and gruesome crimes manages still to be gripping
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