The Big Nowhere

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A monster is loose in 1950’s Los Angeles; three cops must learn to work together to bring the killer down, beach must fight his own demons along the way, and each discovers that the web of crime goes much deeper than any of them could have ever imagined…

As you’ve already guessed, this is one of James Ellroy’s crime thriller novels. And while the overall plots seems remarkably the same from book to book, I love every noir-drenched second of these books. Making Dashiell Hammett look downright cheerful – and a bit naive too. Ellroy is one of those writers whose talents dwarf those of the average mortal; he’s one of those authors that remind one why we read.

First of all, Ellroy is the mast or the “look” and “feel” of noir; each sentence oozes a world of literal and metaphorical shadows. Well-researched use of slang and his extreme sensitivity to what non-Americans would instantly identify as class differences between characters add realism. But beyond literary ‘tactics,’ Ellroy recreates Gotham City – in sunny southern California. It’s gritty and yet a playground of sin, vice, corruption, and dedicated cops that will stop at nothing to get what they most desire…

Second, Ellroy effortlessly matches character drama (office politics, characters struggling with their foibles and hang-ups) with razor-edge police procedural, serial killer pursuit with biting (and yet oh-so-subtle) social and political commentary. The killer is a monster, yes, but is always a product of a larger web of crime; always a result of an older crime, a crime which is linked, almost in a mythological sense to the founding “acts” of this shadowy Gotham-esque society. Ellroy shows how “pure” evil is always illusory, a product and reflection of cynical, regressive way of viewing the world and the other people in it. The “true” crime is thus far removed from the plot of the book; it represents a primal, protean act of violence towards society which “the monster” witnesses, thus setting the events of the story in motion.

As the piece de resistance, Ellroy is writing true mysteries that are dazzling in their complexity and detail. Each facts are accumulated, leads are followed, links keep forming and forming…the result is that each book m Even his separate books will refine each other, often with identical characters appearing in the same roles in each book. Yet this is not repetitive at all, rather true literary accomplishment.

Dark, sometimes painful and hard to read when the jargon gets to thick, but overwhelmingly masterful books.

 

 

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