James Ellroy's The Big Nowhere

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

Lieutenant Mal Considine, on the other hand, agrees to work with power-hungry prosecutors, corrupted cops and gangster union bosses and hunt communists only to get promoted and win custody of his adopted son. To work with mob boss Mickey Cohen, Considine enlists “Buzz” Meeks, a less than ethical cop, who only wants the money to retire with his mistress in a place far, far away. Together these men would dig out as much dirt from the communists as possible and help Cohen’s Teamsters replace the rival union in the studios.

LA City Hall

Corrupted cops, manipulative prosecutors, greedy union bosses, bloodthirsty cutthroats, delusional psychopaths, they populate The Big Nowhere, James Ellroy’s novel of greed, power and lust. Besides these colorful characters, the intrigue plot of manipulation and one-upmanship also powers the novel and leads the reader on a journey through the “dark night of the soul.” When we realize the witness was giving Upshaw clues to lead him down the wrong path… When we realize the horrible crimes committed… When we realize Meeks would never get away with stealing Cohen’s mistress… When we realize they’re all going to hell… Ellroy’s noir is not only a delicious crime novel, but also a poignant social commentary. Writing in the language of 1950, Ellroy portrays men and women racing toward hell and a society on the verge of exploding. We can only wonder how much filth a writer is able to expose. Powerful, gritty, and unforgettable. Prepare your stomach for it.

James Ellroy (Photo: Mark Coggins)

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