The Big Nowhere

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The Big Nowhere
The Big Nowhere.JPG
First edition cover
AuthorJames Ellroy
Cover artistJacket design by Barbara Buck
Jacket illustration by Stephen Peringer
CountryUnited States
SeriesL.A. Quartet
GenreCrime fiction, noir, historical fiction
PublisherThe Mysterious Press
Publication date
September 1988
Media typePrint (Hardcover & paperback) and audio cassette
Pages406 pp (first edition, hardcover)
ISBN0-89296-283-6 (first edition, hardcover)
813/.54 19
LC ClassPS3555.L6274 B5 1988
Preceded byThe Black Dahlia (1987) 
Followed byL.A. Confidential (1990) 

The Big Nowhere is a 1988 crime fiction novel by James Ellroy, the second of the L.A. Quartet, a series of novels set in 1940s and 1950s Los Angeles. James Ellroy dedicated The Big Nowhere "To Glenda Revelle"; the epigraph for The Big Nowhere is a passage from a novel; "It was written that I should be loyal to the nightmare of my choice. Joseph Conrad Heart of Darkness".


The plot is about three characters; L.A. Deputy Sheriff Danny Upshaw is trying to capture a brutal sex murderer whilst participating, somewhat reluctantly, in a scheme to expose communists in Hollywood. Turner "Buzz" Meeks, a disgraced former cop, is now working for millionaire Howard Hughes and gangster Mickey Cohen. LAPD lieutenant Malcolm "Mal" Considine, involved in a bitter child custody case, tries with varying success to do the right things in an environment of deception, paranoia and brutality; the story takes place in the aftermath of the notorious Sleepy Lagoon murder case and the resultant Zoot Suit Riots.

While the novel mocks opportunistic Red-baiting as a scam to oust organized labor, which benefited political careers and the fortunes of movie studio executives and mobsters, Ellroy is no easier on the film colony's communists and fellow travelers, many of whom he depicts as decadent hypocrites, easily compromised into "naming names" to hide their dirty secrets; as with most of Ellroy's fiction, he liberally employs the brutal slang of the times. Gays are "fruits", "homos", "nances"; black people are "boogies" and "jigs" and their neighborhoods are all "Niggertown".


The Big Nowhere received many positive reviews. Detroit News said, "THE BIG NOWHERE is a stunner....It's a huge, sprawling canvas of postwar Los Angeles as a black hole. It's Hieronymus Bosch between hard covers, taking up where film noir left off as it introduces a trio of warped, cynical cops hopping aboard the Red Scare bandwagon." Gerald Petievich, author of To Live and Die in L.A., praised the book, saying, "THE BIG NOWHERE is a startling panorama of Los Angeles in the fifties. Through the eyes of some unforgettable, two-fisted cops we are taken from the Katydid Club to the Sunset Strip where the legendary crimelord Mickey Cohen buys the drinks...and the D.A; this is a compelling piece." Rave Reviews wrote, "James Ellroy's The Black Dahlia rocked the literary world last year. Now he's back with an even more powerful and compelling novel of greed, dark passion, and murder....James Ellroy has gone from one of the most impressive crime writers of the 1980s to a major literary voice of the twentieth century. THE BIG NOWHERE is a masterpiece-a powerful and disturbing novel no one should miss." While "The Big Nowhere" was praised for being engrossing and atmospheric,[1] it was also criticized for the "unrelenting negative stereotypes" depicted in the gay and minority characters.[2] The Big Nowhere also won Ellroy the Prix Mystère Award, in 1990.[1]

In other media[edit]


  1. ^ Gross, John (9 September 1988). "Books of The Times: A Nondescript Victim, and Los Angeles Shames". New York Times. Retrieved 3 September 2012.
  2. ^ Schulman, Sarah (9 October 1988). "CRIME/MYSTERY; BIGOTS AND BASHERS". New York Times. Retrieved 3 September 2012.
  3. ^ Cinematic Literature. "Cinematic Literature Interstellar (2014) by Christopher Nolan Book..." Tumblr. Retrieved 12 January 2019.
  4. ^ "Interesting book on Murph's bookshelf". Reddit. 9 March 2017. Retrieved 12 January 2019.
  5. ^ "What books are shown on the bookshelf in Interstellar?". Science Fiction & Fantasy Stack Exchange. 14 April 2015. Retrieved 12 January 2019.
  6. ^ Tagholm, Roger (25 November 2014). "Exploring the Books Glimpsed in Interstellar Movie". Publishing Perspectives. Retrieved 12 January 2019.
  7. ^ "Interstellar (2014) - Trivia - IMDb". IMDb. Retrieved 12 January 2019.