"Whatchu' Talkin' 'Bout Wednesday" - Ryan Gattis
The tagline for this blog - "Life Is About Meeting People, Connecting And Making Things Happen" - is demonstrated nicely in this post.
Next week my buddy Mel and I are heading to the British Library to listen to author Ryan Gattis discuss LA, noir fiction and street gangs with Jake Kerridge, crime fiction critic for the Daily Telegraph.
Coincidentally, Ryan embodies the saying "You can't judge a book by it's cover." At first glance he looks every bit the midwest raised book nerd when donning a sweater vest, tie and glasses (see photo above). And yet behind this safe (no pun intended) exterior is an intriguing life story. Indeed, beneath this exterior is an arresting story itself with regards to his tattoos. All of this can be read on his bio "MORE INFORMATION THAN YOU'LL EVER NEED". I implore you to read that before you carry on with my post.
I met Ryan in May of last year in London's Bethnal Green at an event put together by Shortlist and Picador titled "An Evening With LA Novelist Ryan Gattis". At the time I hadn't done my research and knew nothing of his past or even his library of works. I did know he was Creative Director for LA Street Art crew UGLARworks and by association connected to Deer's Eye Tattoo in LA through it's artists.
In attendance with Ryan was artist Evan Skrederstu who painted a mural in the gallery exclusively for the event. And to top things off the gallery hosted an LA riots themed exhibition, including artwork by Chuey Quintanar (Timeless Beauty) and jewellery by friend Toshi Takahashi aka Dog State. Though my memory fails me I believe it was either my buddy Steve that asked if I wanted to go, or I might have seen something online. Either way I know those guys through Deer's Eye Tattoo and this played a part in my interest in the event. At this point I'd very much like to say how much I admire these guys' work and am humbled by the time they've share with me, some brief and some longer.
This was the first time I'd experienced an author reading from a book and was completely captivated by the chapter Ryan shared. There was a Q&A afterwards and though I wanted to ask about the role music played in his writing of the book, I saved that for when he signed my copy of the book. He did say there was an unofficial mixtape for the book that I've still yet to find a copy of. My first acknowledged exposure to the riots outside of TV and Media was through the lyrics by Porno For Pyros on their self titled album. Since then I have listened to several songs inspired by the riots including one of my favourites April 29, 1992 (Miami) by Sublime.
It didn't take me long to burn my way through "All Involved" (pun intended) and it was as engrossing and enjoyable a read as Ryan's excerpt promised. I'd always favoured artists particularly those from California with regards to rap and hip-hop and was fascinated by the west coast culture and lifestyle referenced in their lyrics. This book breathes life into those stories with familiarities I could relate to.
In looking for bits and pieces to go into this post I discovered lots of great reads and interviews with Ryan via the likes of Huck Magazine, GQ, The Spectator, New Statesman, The Guardian, The Times and Shortlist. I think you'd be doing yourself a disservice if you didn't check out the fascinating stories of his time spent researching "All Involved" with gang members. Proof that sometimes real life is more thrilling than any work of fiction. I'm not here to rehash what those sources have to offer, instead I'm hoping to get more people interested in Ryan's work and over to the discussion on Monday night.
Ryan has just released his latest novel "Safe" published by Pan Macmillan.Though an avid reader I don't have a favourite author as such, Ryan is the first I've been this interested in and I'm excited about getting him to stamp and sign a copy for me.
Official blurb below, hope to see you there
Los Angeles: City of Angels and Devils
Los Angeles is a city that tells one story and lives another. Ryan Gattis’s Safe is an LA noir thriller set against the backdrop of the 2008 financial crash. He discusses the city, noir fiction and street gangs with Jake Kerridge, crime fiction critic for the Daily Telegraph.
Ryan Gattis is an author and educator, and the author of the novels Kung Fu and All Involved, about the 1992 LA riots, which won the American Library Association's Alex Award and the Lire Award for Noir of the Year in France. He is a member of the Los Angeles street art crew UGLARworks.
Enjoy food and drink purchased from the Knowledge Centre Bar from 18.00 and after the event until the Bar closes at 22.00.
Sponsored by the Eccles Centre for American Studies at the British Library and presented in association with Edinburgh International Book Festival
(Please note this post is full of links and you are advised to click them all.)