July 25, 2021

Ryan Gattis, memorialist from Lynwood, LA

Some gaps are not felt until they have been filled. For example, the lack of literary treatment of the 1992 riots in Los Angeles, triggered by the acquittal of the four police officers who beat up a young African-American named Rodney King. Hitherto appearing on the periphery of various novels, they were the central subject of Six days (Fayard, 2015), the first volume of a masterful trilogy that Ryan Gattis devotes to the criminal history of Los Angeles. The author staged them in a mode that was both polyphonic and panoramic, the one he adopted for all his novels, to the point of weaving in the intrigues the sociological study of a district. The second part followed, In safe place (Fayard, 2019), the writer’s new foray into LA gang land

With The system, the American completes his great Angelinian work. From Raymond Chandler to Francis Scott Fitzgerald, from John Fante to Charles Bukowski, from James Ellroy to Michael Connelly, the literary department devoted to the demonic City of Angels, multi-ethnic county, megalopolis of 25 million inhabitants, birthplace of Hollywood and epicenter film noir, yet seemed saturated. Then came Ryan Gattis, after a journey made of chance and listening. His voice echoed straight away. Evidence of tone and style. A high ambition too, behind the modesty displayed by the forty-something.

The Angels

“I’m in Lynwood, South Central, not far from the intersection of Atlantic and Olanda. ” So begins Six days. With the date and time at the head of the chapter and the indication of the place as an incipit. Primacy of all things, this city, with exponential demographic growth in the second half of the twentiethe century, forms the setting and the beating heart of three novels by Ryan Gattis. Located in the heart of Los Angeles County, Lynwood is a heterogeneous enclave, albeit predominantly Latina, which unites, with each generation and beyond the diversity of origins, the same musical culture as well as culinary recipes. Topography, architecture, places of power… Descriptive precision is essential at Gattis. Because everything is played out in a few dozen streets, from one language block to another, from a mafia sector to its competitor. Lynwood assigns a common identity that opposes others, that of Compton or Watts. In this mined land of 12 square kilometers, several gangs argue that the author radiographs.

Lynwood secretes a geographic confinement and, through it, a social determinism that is difficult to escape. Except for a handful of protagonists. “After a little while, we pass Lynwood, which I see sliding, and I feel no guilt. I have the impression that it’s a box where all my annoyances are piled up, everything that is heavy, and that everything will stay there, behind me ”, said, in Six days, a miracle from the riots of April 1992.

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