All Involved takes us back to six days that dominated world news in April 1992. When the cops caught beating Rodney King on CCTV cameras were acquitted of their crimes Los Angeles erupted into rioting and looting that would surpass anything that had come before it. While many, and perhaps even the majority, were genuinely and justifiably outraged at the ruling, this widespread lawlessness which saw law enforcement rendered useless was seen by many as a time to be opportunistic, a time to take what you wanted, a time to settles scores. It is this element of the 1992 race riots that Ryan Gattis represents here.
Starting with a brutal and unjustified revenge murder, All Involved portrays the violence of this era in a manner many books would shy away from. Focusing on members of two gangs, and those who are drawn into their violence through their jobs, family, or other circumstances, the novel switches character in each chapter to give another perspective on how events unfolded. We get into the mind of hardened gangbangers, members of the emergency services, drug addicts, and National Guard enforcers. Each time the focus switches, the tale stays just as shocking and unflinching, and new layers of horror emerge.
Perhaps the most impressive thing about this piece of fact-based fiction, though, is the way that Gattis manages to show that horror while always remaining completely empathetic. Nobody escapes blame here, not the protestors, not the gangsters, and certainly not the authorities, but neither does anyone become a scapegoat. We see through each person’s eyes, and what we see is a person whose life has led them to do what they did in those six days. It’s as compelling as it is disturbing, as brutal as it is heartbreaking.
Any Cop?: If you’re looking for comparisons, some that come to mind are A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James and the Red Riding Quartet by David Peace. They too took a new look at a period of history which lived in the memory of many, and they too used their narrative to highlight the far-reaching affect the events had. But like those novels, any comparison with All Involved is moot. It has its own voice, its own unique timestamp, and it deserves to be considered among the best pieces of work on its subject.