91 books like The Big Nowhere

By James Ellroy,

Here are 91 books that The Big Nowhere fans have personally recommended if you like The Big Nowhere. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of American Tabloid

Anthony Schneider Author Of Lowdown: A Mafia Romance Thriller

From my list on character-driven gangsters.

Why am I passionate about this?

Growing up on a diet of The Godfather, The Sopranos, thrillers, and gangster novels, and living in New York City with eye-opening trips to Sicily, I became slightly obsessed with the Mafia. I came to see the American Mafia as a quintessentially American fabric, woven of family, power, immigrants, money, history, loyalty, legacy, and, yes, crime.  

Anthony's book list on character-driven gangsters

Anthony Schneider Why did Anthony love this book?

A history of the early 1960s in America, leading up to the assassination of JFK, seen through the eyes of the mobsters and criminals, crooked cops, spies, and sleazos who power the machines of history.

A comprehensive romp through the underbelly of American crime and politics (and you might, after reading this book, wonder what’s the difference), it’s a novel about characters you don’t like—but they’re vivid and fascinating.

Much more than a gritty gangster novel, it’s a tale about the people in history’s shadows, and, ultimately, history and the “never innocent” America itself. 

By James Ellroy,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked American Tabloid as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The first novel in Ellroy's extraordinary Underworld USA Trilogy as featured on BBC Radio 4's A Good Read.

1958. America is about to emerge into a bright new age - an age that will last until the 1000 days of John F Kennedy's presidency.

Three men move beneath the glossy surface of power, men allied to the makers and shakers of the era. Pete Bondurant - Howard Hughes's right-hand man, Jimmy Hoffa's hitman. Kemper Boyd - employed by J Edgar Hoover to infiltrate the Kennedy clan. Ward Littell - a man seeking redemption in Bobby Kennedy's drive against organised crime.…


Book cover of The Black Dahlia

Ward Howarth Author Of River City Blues

From my list on WWII era reads no crime fiction fan should miss.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m an author, reader, and cinephile with a real appetite for all things crime. If it’s a mystery, if it’s a detective story, if there are questionable morals at play in a story with no easy answers and no clear way out, then count me in. I’m also fascinated by the WWII era and was spellbound by the stories my maternal grandfather told me about his time as an infantry soldier in Italy during the war. These passions moved me to write my own novels and continue to inspire me in my embrace of art. I hope you enjoy the books on this list as much as I do!

Ward's book list on WWII era reads no crime fiction fan should miss

Ward Howarth Why did Ward love this book?

James Ellroy’s The Black Dahlia needs no introduction to the serious crime fiction fan.

Like Hughes’ novel, we’re in postwar LA, in 1947, following the murder of Elizabeth Short, a young Hollywood hopeful whose disemboweled body is found one morning in a vacant lot.

Ellroy had authored six previous novels by this point, but it’s here, with The Black Dahlia, that many, myself included, find his style truly begins to shine.

It’s a standout of neo-noir literature that stuns with its prose, characters, and plotting. You’ll study it, you’ll re-read it, and you’ll memorize passages from it, so you better get one for the bookshelf.

By James Ellroy,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Black Dahlia as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The highly acclaimed novel based on America's most infamous unsolved murder case. Dive into 1940s Los Angeles as two cops spiral out of control in their hunt for The Black Dahlia's killer in this powerful thriller that is "brutal and at the same time believable" (New York Times).
On January 15, 1947, the torture-ravished body of a beautiful young woman is found in a Los Angeles vacant lot. The victim makes headlines as the Black Dahlia -- and so begins the greatest manhunt in California history. Caught up in the investigation are Bucky Bleichert and Lee Blanchard: Warrants Squad cops,…


Book cover of Brown's Requiem

Steven Powell Author Of Love Me Fierce In Danger: The Life of James Ellroy

From my list on the king of LA noir James Ellroy.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have been fascinated by James Ellroy’s life and writing since I first discovered it as a lonely teenager on a rainswept family holiday. He went through dark times; the unsolved murder of his mother and his subsequent struggles with addiction. But how he overcame this to become one of America’s greatest writers is an inspiring story and has inspired me to get through my own personal turmoil. Indeed, many Ellroy readers will attest to how his life story and writing helped them overcome their struggles. Now as Ellroy’s biographer, I am continually drawn back to his work. Reading just a few pages allows me to contemplate what Ellroy calls ‘the Wonder’.

Steven's book list on the king of LA noir James Ellroy

Steven Powell Why did Steven love this book?

This was James Ellroy’s debut novel and has been all but forgotten compared to the masterpieces he later produced. But there is so much in this book that reveals why Ellroy was destined for greatness: strong plotting, vivid characters, electrifying prose. The plot involves a car repo man who takes on a private eye case for an oddball golf caddy. The plot owes a lot to Raymond Chandler, but it still feels original in Ellroy’s hands. Allow yourself to be swept away by it.

By James Ellroy,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Brown's Requiem as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Beneath the slick, glittering surface of L.A., an underworld of depravity and wickedness reins. Fritz Brown is a part-time private eye and full-time repo-man who gets his kicks listening to classical music. But the waters get too deep for Brown when he takes a case from a cash-flashing golf caddy named Freddy “Fat Dog” Baker that puts him on the trail of his client’s sister and the older gentleman she’s run off with. But more suspicious than his sister, a classy cellist, is Fat Dog himself, who has a past more sordid than he lets on. Diving into a cesspool…


Book cover of White Jazz

Steven Powell Author Of Love Me Fierce In Danger: The Life of James Ellroy

From my list on the king of LA noir James Ellroy.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have been fascinated by James Ellroy’s life and writing since I first discovered it as a lonely teenager on a rainswept family holiday. He went through dark times; the unsolved murder of his mother and his subsequent struggles with addiction. But how he overcame this to become one of America’s greatest writers is an inspiring story and has inspired me to get through my own personal turmoil. Indeed, many Ellroy readers will attest to how his life story and writing helped them overcome their struggles. Now as Ellroy’s biographer, I am continually drawn back to his work. Reading just a few pages allows me to contemplate what Ellroy calls ‘the Wonder’.

Steven's book list on the king of LA noir James Ellroy

Steven Powell Why did Steven love this book?

Ellroy at his most avant-garde. The plot is familiar territory for Ellroy fans; murder and political corruption in 1950s LA. But the experimental prose style, including the most pared-down clipped sentences, started to alienate some of his readers. Personally, I regard the book as Ellroy’s masterpiece and the experimentation is justified as it helps to deliver a lightning-fast pace.

By James Ellroy,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked White Jazz as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The internationally acclaimed author of the L.A. Quartet and The Underworld USA Trilogy, James Ellroy, presents another literary noir masterpiece of historical paranoia.

Los Angeles, 1958. Killings, beatings, bribes, shakedowns--it's standard procedure for Lieutenant Dave Klein, LAPD. He's a slumlord, a bagman, an enforcer--a power in his own small corner of hell. Then the Feds announce a full-out investigation into local police corruption, and everything goes haywire.

Klein's been hung out as bait, "a bad cop to draw the heat," and the heat's coming from all sides: from local politicians, from LAPD brass, from racketeers and drug kingpins--all of them…


Book cover of Always Crashing in the Same Car: On Art, Crisis, and Los Angeles, California

Tom Bissell Author Of The Father of All Things: A Marine, His Son, and the Legacy of Vietnam

From my list on trying to understand your parents.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm a journalist, fiction writer, and screenwriter, as well as the author of ten books, the most recent of which is Creative Types and Other Stories, which will be published later this year. Along with Neil Cross, I developed for television The Mosquito Coast, based on Paul Theroux’s novel, which is now showing on Apple TV. Currently, I live with my family in Los Angeles.

Tom's book list on trying to understand your parents

Tom Bissell Why did Tom love this book?

This is a memoir about being a writer—and failing. With scholarly rigor and tenderhearted sympathy, Specktor excavates the lives of artists forgotten (Carol Eastman, Eleanor Perry), underappreciated (Thomas McGuane, Hal Ashby), and notorious (Warren Zevon, Michael Cimino), while always circling back to his own benighted Hollywood upbringing, complete with a lovely tribute to his mother, a failed screenwriter. This is an angry, sad, but always somehow joyful book about not hitting it big, and I've never read anything quite like it.

By Matthew Specktor,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Always Crashing in the Same Car as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A Best Book of the Year at The Atlantic

Los Angeles Times Bestseller

"[An] absorbing and revealing book. . . . nestling in the fruitful terrain between memoir and criticism." ―Geoff Dyer, author of Out of Sheer Rage

Blending memoir and cultural criticism, Matthew Specktor explores family legacy, the lives of artists, and a city that embodies both dreams and disillusionment.

In 2006, Matthew Specktor moved into a crumbling Los Angeles apartment opposite the one in which F. Scott Fitzgerald spent the last moments of his life. Fitz had been Specktor’s first literary idol, someone whose own passage through Hollywood…


Book cover of Call of the Cats: What I Learned about Life and Love from a Feral Colony

Britt Collins Author Of Strays: The True Story of a Lost Cat, a Homeless Man, and Their Journey Across America

From my list on non-fiction for cat lovers.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am an international bestselling author of Strays and a London-based journalist for The Guardian, The Observer, The Sunday Times, and other publications. I've written about animals, conservation, and volunteered at sanctuaries around the world, from tending big cats and baboons in Namibia to wild mustangs in Nevada—a labour of love that has inspired features for The Guardian, The Independent, and Condé Nast Traveller. I've raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for many charities through my investigative animal-cruelty stories; as an activist, I helped shut down controversial breeders of laboratory animals in the UK. I also created Catfestlondon, a sell-out boutique festival that rescues and rehomes Moroccan street kittens in the UK.

Britt's book list on non-fiction for cat lovers

Britt Collins Why did Britt love this book?

I absolutely loved this book. One of the most beautiful stories I’ve ever read, it’s heartfelt and hilarious. After running his own bookshop in Seattle, Andrew Bloomfield moves to Hollywood to become a screenwriter and discovers a colony of feral cats living in his backyard. He was not a cat person. After witnessing one too many raccoon and coyote attacks and hungry, crying kittens, he and his two female housemates intervene and start caring for these wild yet vulnerable cats who transform his life. With his sharp wit and keen eye for detail, Bloomfield is a brilliant storyteller. I got completely caught up in the soap-opera dramas and death-defying moments of these cats, along with the heartaches and triumphs of rescuing them.

By Andrew Bloomfield,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Call of the Cats as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

When aspiring screenwriter Andrew Bloomfield moved into a bungalow in Southern California he soon discovered that he shared the property with a large colony of feral cats — untamed, uninterested in human touch, not purring pets in waiting. But after a midnight attack by predators that decimated yet another litter of kittens, Bloomfield decided to intervene. He began to name and nurse, feed and house, rescue and neuter. Drawing on his time living in Asia among spiritual teachers, he takes us on the contemplative, humorous, and poignant journey of saving these cats, only to find it was they who saved…


Book cover of Virtual Light

Jeremy L. Jones Author Of Saturnius Mons (Ruins of Empire)

From my list on the end of civilization as we know it.

Why am I passionate about this?

Why do I have expertise in end-of-the-world scenarios? Well, I am a person living in the 2020s who reads too much. But more than that, I’ve had an interest in space exploration and history for as long as I can remember. While those two might seem like completely unrelated fields, it gives me a wider view of our world in the sense of where we are and where we are going. Civilization is not always a straight line upward. And when it dips down… well interesting things happen. Saturnius Mons specifically blends my love of Roman history with my interest in humanity’s future.

Jeremy's book list on the end of civilization as we know it

Jeremy L. Jones Why did Jeremy love this book?

What can you say about the book that kicked off a whole new genre?

Widely regarded as the first ‘cyberpunk’ novel, reading Virtual Light today is beyond eery. It takes place in the dystopian future year of 2006 (the book was written in 1994) and is set in San Francisco during a time when the middle class has disappeared and the only people left are either disgustingly rich or living on the street. And as I look around at what San Francisco, and many other cities have become, it makes me think that Gibson might be the Cassandra of the modern world. 

By William Gibson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Virtual Light as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

NEW YORK TIMES bestseller * 2005: Welcome to NoCal and SoCal, the uneasy sister-states of what used to be California.

The millennium has come and gone, leaving in its wake only stunned survivors. In Los Angeles, Berry Rydell is a former armed-response rentacop now working for a bounty hunter. Chevette Washington is a bicycle messenger turned pickpocket who impulsively snatches a pair of innocent-looking sunglasses. But these are no ordinary shades. What you can see through these high-tech specs can make you rich-or get you killed. Now Berry and Chevette are on the run, zeroing in on the digitalized heart…


Book cover of City of Quartz : Excavating the Future in Los Angeles

Jeff Byles Author Of Rubble: Unearthing the History of Demolition

From my list on what happens when cities fall apart.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have been fascinated by cities—in all their glorious, polyglot, and all-too-human complexity—for more than 25 years. I’m a writer, community planner, and urban revitalization consultant who works to activate the potential of distressed places, and create strategies that support social, ecological, and economic vitality. Exploring the often overlooked ways we’ve unbuilt our cities has helped me see their powerful potential.

Jeff's book list on what happens when cities fall apart

Jeff Byles Why did Jeff love this book?

Great writing on cities is rarer than it should be. The late Mike Davis, using Los Angeles as his muse, showed me—and so many others—new ways of thinking about cities through his vividly and passionately argued prose. Weaving together strands of architecture, urban history, social justice, and ecology, Davis has inspired me like no other author to examine cities critically, from unexpected perspectives and with a fierce point of view. Underlying his outrage at the injustices of the unravelling metropolis is a mordant sense of humor—making him an unbeatable guide as we all ride shotgun through desperate times. 

By Mike Davis,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked City of Quartz as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Courageously broad in its scope, City of Quartz changes intellectual gear - from history to sociology to urban theory - often with consummate ease, and fits its diverse threads together in a sort of 'history noir' as gripping as any Chandler. ' Listener.

In this taut and compulsive exploration, Mike Davis recounts the story of Los Angeles with passion, wit and an acute eye for the absurd, the unjust and, often the dangerous. He tells a lurid tale of greed, manipulation, power and prejudice that has made Los Angeles one of the most cosmopolitan and most class-divided cities in the…


Book cover of City of Quartz: Excavating the Future in Los Angeles

Maxim Samson Author Of Invisible Lines: Boundaries and Belts That Define the World

From my list on redefining your understanding of geography.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a Geography professor at DePaul University with a long-standing obsession with the world, comparing puddle shapes to countries as a small child and subsequently initiating map and flag collections that I cultivate to this day. Having lived in different parts of the UK and the USA, as well as being fortunate enough to travel further afield, I’ve relished the opportunity to explore widely and chat with the people who know their places best. I love books that alter how I look at the planet, and I am particularly intrigued by the subtle ways in which people have shaped our world—and our perceptions of it—both intentionally and inadvertently.

Maxim's book list on redefining your understanding of geography

Maxim Samson Why did Maxim love this book?

A film noir in book form, Davis’ astute, visceral, and impassioned chronicle of Los Angeles at the turn of the millennium offers a dystopian view of future urban society.

I was recommended this book by my secondary school geography teacher shortly before starting university. Although my teacher did not know it, I had been questioning whether I’d made the right choice in choosing Geography for my degree, but this book captivated me like no other and assuaged my academic concerns. 

Los Angeles is a world-famous city that means very different things to different people. Davis shows how Los Angeles is simultaneously a utopia and a dystopia, a place of gated communities and private police forces, where libraries look like fortresses and prisons, on the outside at least, resemble futuristic hotels.

Over three decades after the first edition’s publication, this book remains essential reading for anyone seeking a sobering peek into…

By Mike Davis,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked City of Quartz as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

No metropolis has been more loved or more hated. To its official boosters, "Los Angeles brings it all together." To detractors, LA is a sunlit mortuary where "you can rot without feeling it." To Mike Davis, the author of this fiercely elegant and wide-ranging work of social history, Los Angeles is both utopia and dystopia, a place where the last Joshua trees are being plowed under to make room for model communities in the desert, where the rich have hired their own police to fend off street gangs, as well as armed Beirut militias.

In City of Quartz, Davis reconstructs…


Book cover of L.A. Confidential

David Putnam Author Of The Ruthless

From my list on Crime with deep character and stories.

Why am I passionate about this?

During my career in law enforcement, I worked in narcotics, violent crimes, criminal intelligence, hostage rescue, SWAT, and internal affairs, to name just a few. I am the recipient of many awards and commendations for heroism. The Sinister is the ninth novel in the best-selling Bruno Johnson Crime series, following The Disposables, The Replacements, The Squandered, The Vanquished, The Innocents, The Reckless, The Heartless, and The Ruthless. I live in the Los Angeles area with my wife, Mary.

David's book list on Crime with deep character and stories

David Putnam Why did David love this book?

Elroy wrote many other books before he took on this epic noir crime novel (one in a quartet). He made his bones in writing, and it's evident in his skill level, story, and prose. Elroy excels in this novel (and the other three) in voice. And voice is the Big Kahuna in writing, it’s the everything in writing and Elroy has it in spades.

Another great addition to the above is the length (because you don’t want this book to ever end) and that it’s a historical novel that absolutely captures the time period and adds the historical nuance to all the characters.

By James Ellroy,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked L.A. Confidential as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Christmas 1951, Los Angeles: a city where the police are as corrupt as the criminals. Six prisoners are beaten senseless in their cells by cops crazed on alcohol. For the three LAPD detectives involved, it will expose the guilty secrets on which they have built their corrupt and violent careers. The novel takes these cops on a sprawling epic of brutal violence and the murderous seedy side of Hollywood. One of the best (and longest) crime novels ever written, it is the heart of Ellroy's four-novel masterpiece, the LA Quartet, and an example of crime writing at its most powerful.


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