Wednesday, August 12, 2015
Ryan Gattis is a novelist living and working in Los Angeles. A member of the art crew UGLARWorks, Ryan’s writing is both personal and a reflection of the city that helped shape him as a writer. His latest novel is All Involved, which is set mainly in Lynwood during the L.A. Riots. The book follows over a dozen characters as they attempt to survive at one of the most critic“When you’re young, you look at television and think, There’s a conspiracy. The networks have conspired to dumb us down. But when you get a little older, you realize that’s not true. The networks are in business to give people exactly what they want. That’s a far more depressing thought. Conspiracy is optimistic! You can shoot the bastards! We can have a revolution! But the networks are really in business to give people what they want. It’s the truth.” ― Steve Jobsal points in Los Angeles history, and is gaining rave reviews from L.A. to N.Y to London. We caught up with Ryan to discuss the riots, the book, and Tacos El Unico.
Where were you during the riots?
I was in Colorado. I remember standing in the kitchen of my parents’ home in Colorado Springs while watching a nightly news report. Before the clip rolled, viewers were warned that what was to come was very violent, and that those with weak stomachs should turn away. I must have been thirteen years old at the time, so I didn’t turn. I leaned in. What came next was Damian ‘Football’ Williams smashing something heavy into Reginald Denney’s head. When it hit, I recoiled. I think my father even shouted when he saw it. My next thought was that Reginald Denney was certainly dead, and that was the first time I’d ever thought I’d seen a dead body, right there in the intersection of Florence and Normandie.
Since you’re not from Los Angeles, what was it like researching this book?
It was daunting, but in retrospect, I think being an outsider actually helped me. I came to the subject without biases; I was simply open and ready to listen. Over the course of my nearly 2.5 years of research & background work, I spoke with dozens of Angelenos, watched hours & hours of news footage—in addition to raw footage of the 1992 L.A. Riots, read every book I could find (Twilight: Los Angeles 1992 by Anna Deveare Smith, Official Negligence by Lou Cannon, Fires & Furies by Major General James Delk, to name a few), and dug through reels & reels of microfiche. But my research primarily began with speaking to former Latino gang members about the late 80s and early 90s, a time it seemed to me, that resembled the Wild West in many ways.