All Involved by Ryan Gattis


22756871In 1991, a black man named Rodney King was severely beaten by multiple white police officers after a high-speed car chase that ended in a suburb of Los Angeles, an event that might have escaped the eyes of the American public had a witness not videotaped it from his balcony. The officers were taken to court, but eventually acquitted, and thus spawned the 1992 Los Angeles Riots: six days of looting, arson, assault, and murder that spread from South Central LA into the Los Angeles metropolitan area, and only stopped after soldiers from the National Guard were called in as backup for the overwhelmed and vilified LAPD.

But on the streets of the South Central neighbourhood of Lynwood, the story played out differently than on the national news. In All Involved, Ryan Gattis weaves a narrative from the perspectives of people whose stories of the riots were never told–members of the gang underworld. Inspired by unprecedented access to the inner workings of these organizations, Gattis channels their experiences into a gritty, cinematic tale that is both shocking and devastating. Though the events of this book are fiction, every word is infused with authenticity and intimacy. Evoking the anger, the uncertainty, and the turmoil of those six days, Gattis turns Los Angeles from merely a setting to a living, breathing entity.


All Involved is set during the LA riots, but it’s not about the LA riots. If you want a detailed account covering all sides of the six day affair look elsewhere, as this is just a slice.

A juicy, engrossing, bloody slice.

When chaos broke out after the verdict in the Rodney King trial was announced some people saw it as an opportunity.

There are no rules now. None. Not with people rioting. I shiver when I realize every single cop in the city is somewhere else, and that means it’s officially hunting season on every fucking fool who ever got away with anything and damn, does this neighborhood have a long memory. I snort and take a second to appreciate the evil weight of it.

The story, told by 17 different first-person narrators, covers one thread of plot that very well could have happened. Gang members are rife, as you would expect, but there’s also a nurse, a homeless man, a firefighter. I thought things would feel fractured but it’s more like advancing the same story from a different angle. There’s no going back but now and then previous narrators reappear, allowing you to see them through another character’s eyes.

Be warned though, it’s violent. The worst is in the first chapter so if you can get through that you should be fine for the rest of the book. Gattis has faced violence in his own life and it shows in the visceral, unromanticized way death is detailed. His extensive research bases it in a gritty neighborhood that’s all too real.

I thought this book wouldn’t be for me – I was on the other coast, too young to grok the riots – but I read it in gulps while traveling. A hearty recommend if you have even a little bit of interest.