I am one of that dying breed who likes movies but reads the book before, sometimes long before, the movie comes out. I was wondering if anyone has noticed that the characterizations and storyline in True Detective (season 2) seem to be a shake-and-bake rehash of the James Ellroy novel “The Big Nowhere”, sister book to the “The Black Dahlia” and “L.A. Confidential”?

For example: In True Detective, Velcoro is a corrupt cop with connections to a high-ranking crime figure who is trying to get custody of his son. This would seem to be a mix of Mal Considine and Buzz Meeks from the book.

Also we have Woodrugh, a young cop trying to hide being gay from his brethren, being infiltrated, just like Danny Upshaw in the novel.

And then we have the crooked doctor, Dr. Pitlor, running the shady clinic, who resembles Dr. Saul Lesnick, and holding information key to resolving the case , the references to the ’92 riots (zoot suit riots in the book), the brothel being used to blackmail influential men; the political ramifications, etc.

Maybe this is so rampant in L.A. that it is now a cliché. Is this out there in the trade rags and I missed it?

1 Answer 1


It definitely wasn't based on it, in the sense of being an adaptation.

However, your identification of the similar formula to Elroy's Big Nowhere is insightful. All of Elroy's L.A. Quartet books used roughly the same template, although the characters might change from book to book.

The classic film Chinatown, starring Jack Nicholson, Faye Dunaway, is also a very likely template. [Note: For anyone who hasn't seen Chinatown, do not not not read the plot summary on Wikipedia. Trust me on this—you do not want any spoilers.]

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