Saturday, August 1, 2015

The Big Nowhere [1988]

The Big Nowhere was the first chapter in American crime-writer James Ellroy’s so-called ‘Dudley Smith Trio’ – this was followed by L.A. Confidential and White Jazz, and featured the gleefully and brazenly violent, racist, thuggish and unscrupulous Irish-born LA cop Dudley Smith – and the second chapter in his larger and acclaimed ‘L.A. Quartet’ – this was preceded by The Black Dahlia. Based at the turn of 1950, the sprawling, blazingly fast-paced tale, with an exceedingly intricate plotting, comprised of two basic storylines that, understandably, eventually converge – a series of incredibly grisly and sexually motivated murders by a seemingly psychopathic assailant, and an elaborate post-‘McCarthy Witch Hunt’ investigation on latent Communist affiliations within Hollywood as a lead-up to a grand jury trial along the lines of HUAC. The tale comprised of three principal protagonists – Danny Upshaw, a brash, brilliant, loner and young Deputy who becomes obsessed with unravelling the brutal psycho murders; “Mal” Considine, an ambitious Lieutenant on the verge of making Captain who’s assigned, along with Dudley, by the D.A.’s office to lead the witch-hunts, while, simultaneously engaged in an ugly custodian battle for his adopted son; and Turner “Buzz” Meeks, a smart troubleshooter  working for Howard Hughes who joins the anti-Communist taskforce despite the bad blood between him and Considine, and who, against his better judgements, gets involved in a reckless affair with the mistress of the notorious LA-based gangster Mickey Cohen. Oftenqualified as a post-Noir along the traditions pulp literature, the book was decidedly lacking in black humour or cynical wisecracking; rather, the tone was, nearly always, grim, edgy and angry. The narrative was structured in the form of ABCABC, with each chapter presented from the point-of-view of each of the three key protagonists, though written in third-person mode. The book’s overly plot-heavy nature, with increasingly bizarre twists along the way and everything neatly tied up at the end, however, made it a bit of a dampener.

Author: James Ellroy
Genre: Crime Thriller/Political Thriller/Police Procedural/Detective Novel/Mystery
Language: English
Country: US

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