‘All Involved’ by Ryan Gattis (2015) – 359 pages
Here is a novel that is brutal and gritty about Chicano gangs and gang war in Los Angeles.
‘All Involved’ is about the six days of Los Angeles rioting and lawlessness that occurred after a jury acquitted the police officers of using excessive force to subdue Rodney King on April 29, 1992. In those six days 10,904 people were arrested, 2383 people had been injured, 11,113 fires had been set, over one billion dollars of property damage had been sustained, and 60 deaths had been directly tied to the rioting.
“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.”
As the Los Angeles police were all involved with the rioting in specific areas of the city, gangs from other parts of the city saw this as an opportunity to engage in criminal activity, violently settle old scores, start fires, and loot and rob businesses. The police were busy elsewhere, so there was a general air of lawlessness that pervaded the city.
‘All Involved’ takes place in a Latino South Central neighborhood far removed from the rioting. Ernesto is walking home from the taco truck where he works. He has avoided being in a gang, but his brother is a gang banger. Suddenly three guys appear out of nowhere and jump him, beating him senseless with a bat. Then they tie his ankles to the back of a car and drag him over the street before murdering him with a knife. His body lays there unclaimed for two days.
The violence in ‘All Involved’ is extreme and graphic and not softened to spare the reader. The story is told from 17 different points of view, all living in this Latino neighborhood. We get Ernesto’s sister who is the girlfriend of the gang leader who is called Fate. Of course there is a major retaliation for Ernesto’s murder. One member of the gang, Lil Creeper, just gets crazy and goes out and starts as many fires as he can just for the hell of it.
‘All Involved’ is filled with wicked mean stuff, and your typical Jane Austen drawing room reader is going to loathe this novel.
However the plays of the old master William Shakespeare are filled with wanton violence also. Do you really believe that the Kings and Queens and Princes and Princesses in Shakespeare’s plays are more sensible than Los Angeles gang bangers? If so, you are a true Royalist.
I’ve also been watching Wolf Hall, and nothing that happens in ‘All Involved’ is more outrageous than Henry VIII having two of his wives beheaded.