This is a book I bought at the airport I think two years ago, for some reason it was on the shelf with debuts and I was in the mood to support new authors (obviously a mistake, as this is Gattis’ third book, nonetheless it worked). The book waited patiently on my shelf, probably because I really didn’t like the cover (you’ll ask me, rightly so ‘why did you buy it then?’, well charity for new authors, remember?).
The book is about the riots that took place in L.A. in 1992 (I can say with clean conscience that I was too small to remember), the action takes place over six days. We get to know the story, or rather the stories through 17 different narrators, all involved but not all involved. Yes, I know the sentence sounds weird, but that’s because in slang ‘all involved’ means someone who is part of a gang. The book actually starts with a very brutal murder of a person that was not all involved, this together with the riots and basically no police presence in this part of the city starts a series of events that develop and escalate very quickly. The pace is really good and Gattis manages to keep the tension for most of the time. My one complaint was that with 17 narrators it is difficult to get fully attached to them, but also for Gattis to fully develop some of them, almost like he cared about some more than others, but then why bother with having 17?
On the other hand it was a great and thoroughly researched picture of L.A. gang world. I wouldn’t know it myself, but when I started talking about it with my Bigger Half (who is for some weird reason very interested in crime) he confirmed everything I mentioned. This was one of the good things in the book. To make it a mixed review let me just mention one more that didn’t really work, at times Gattis was going for the bigger picture of the city that tears itself to pieces and this didn’t really sit with the fast action packed plot. Or maybe we’ve seen so much more since then that it is really difficult to make an impression. What did make an impression was yet another true thing: the age of the gangsters, let’s say that at 34 I’d be considered ancient. The lack of hope, not being aware or not being able to believe in any other option than belonging to a gang that was really sad. I won’t even mention the fact that obviously state is not even trying to do its job, as those riots were one of the examples where the state failed big time (also let’s be honest US was always miles away from the European idea of a welfare state).
In general a mixed bag, maybe not a literary masterpiece, but I still happen to chat about what I learned from it with people.
Photo by Violetta Kaszubowska @vkphotospace.com
2 thoughts on “All Involved – Ryan Gattis”
Always feels good to read a book you have owned for a while. Yes, it’s an understatement to say that the US is miles away from a European welfare state. This idea persists still of “pulling yourself up by your bootstraps.” There are plenty of people who think everyone is basically on their own to make their own life work. But if you don’t even have boots (figurative and literal) how can you pull yourself up with no help? Sounds like a well-written book about a tough time.
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