S.G. Browne

Fiction Friday: The Big Nowhere

I enjoy stories with characters who aren’t clean-cut, perfect heroes. Who have flaws and secrets and skeletons in their closets. Who struggle with their inner demons. It makes them more believable. More three dimensional.

The same goes for my movies. Which is why I thought L.A. Confidential should have won the Best Picture Oscar in 1997 instead of Titanic. The richness of the story aside, I thought the characters resonated with more truth.

I mention L.A. Confidential because that film is what ultimately led me to read The Big Nowhere by James Ellroy. Both The Big Nowhere and L.A. Confidential make up the second and third entries in Ellroy’s L.A. Quartet, which also includes the bookend novels The Black Dahlia (which I’ve read) and White Jazz. I’m only halfway through the four but eagerly anticipating the third.

The Big Nowhere takes place in 1950, just a year or so before the events that occur in L.A. Confidential, and, like The Black Dahlia, the novel starts off with a gruesome murder. Eventually, the murder becomes plural and dovetails with several other story lines dealing with police corruption, Hollywood politics, and the Los Angeles mob.

Ellroy’s prose hits you like a prize fighter, never pulling any punches and taking you all twelve rounds. The book is dark and gritty and paints a picture of 1950 Los Angeles that is both believable and far from flattering.

The narrative is told in alternating chapters by the three main characters – Detective Danny Upshaw, Lieutenant Mal Considine, and Buzz Meeks -who are as flawed and as tragic as any heroes you’ve ever met. Sometimes you wonder if you should be rooting for them. But in the end, you realize you don’t really have any choice.

Filed under: Fiction,Fiction Fridays — Tags: , — S.G. Browne @ 12:48 pm