The System can save you, or it can break you . . .
On the sixth of December 1993, a drug dealer named Scrappy is shot and left for dead on her mother’s lawn in South Central Los Angeles. A heroin addict witnesses the shooting, and seizes the moment to steal Scrappy’s drugs, as well as the handgun that was dropped at the scene. When he’s busted, he names two local gang members as the shooters.
There’s only one problem: one of them is guilty; the other, innocent. None of that matters, though, when the gun turns up again – miles from where the shooting happened – and both are arrested. Innocent or not, the gang tells them both to keep their mouths shut and take their charges.
With these two off the streets, Little, the unlikeliest of new gang members, is given a very serious job: discover how the gun got moved, who moved it, and why. Because it had to be a frame-up and the cops had to be involved. Hadn't they?
Played out in the streets, precincts, jails, and courtrooms of Los Angeles, The System by Ryan Gattis is a breakneck journey through every phase of the American criminal justice system. It is the story of a crime – from the moments before shots are fired, to the verdict and its violent aftershocks – told through the vivid chorus of those involved: the guilty, the innocent, the victim, the families who love them, and those simply doing their jobs. After all, justice is a matter of perspective.
In the media
Follow an unforgettable cast of characters as they navigate The System in Ryan Gattis’ pacy, polyphonic, hyper-real crime novel. Gripping, meticulously-researched and smartly-plotted, I devoured this brilliant novel over the course of a weekend.
The System is a tour de force that shatters all the usual categories: It is a page-turner, but one you will want to read slowly in order to savor every gorgeous sentence. It’s got bad guys and good guys, but you’re never quite sure who belongs in which category. And if a novel is magical when you feel like you know the characters intimately, and like them, despite the fact they are mostly people you would ordinarily cross the street to avoid, then Ryan Gattis is a magician.
David Dow, author of Confessions of an Innocent Man
The System took me back, powerfully, to my incarceration in the early 90s. Wow. I relate so much to this book, it’s painful. I could swear I did time with one of these characters in County. That’s how real this novel is. I had to keep reminding myself it was fiction. Front to back, it’s not just an incredible work, it’s an experience. Especially for those with no idea what it’s like to be inside.
Gustavo ‘Goose’ Alvarez, author of The Pawn and Prison Ramen
A stunning and unique achievement. Ryan Gattis has set a new high
mark in this tour through America’s original sin: our carceral state.
The book's panoramic approach—eschewing one main character for a whole
set of people associated with a crime—sets it apart from other crime
novels. This storytelling style perfectly shows how a single crime
reverberates through a whole community. It's a style that feels wholly
original and inevitable. The details—the sounds, smells, customs, and
processes—are rendered with precise authenticity. At the center of
this dark story is a tale of redemption, an examination of loyalty and
a love song for family bonds.
Patrick Hoffman - author of CLEAN HANDS