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Escape from Alcatraz: The True Crime Classic Paperback – April 1, 2005
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"Dramatic...thrilling...remarkable..." -- Los Angeles Time
"Much more than a prison chronicle, much more than a tale of escape...." -- Chicago --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
From the Publisher
*The true-crime classic first published in 1963 is reissued in this special edition.
*Includes archival photos of the prison and prison life.
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Top Customer Reviews
Written by J. Campbell Bruce, a San Francisco Chronicle newspaperman for over forty years, the book delves into the history and social significance of Alcatraz Island. Beginning with its discovery and subsequent use by Native Americans, the book takes us through the island's history as America's "unescapable" prison.
The books most recognizable chapter, by far, deals with the mystery shrouding the prison's most famous escape attempt. This section of the book became the basis for the film Escape from Alcatraz.
The book is very intersting as a historical account of both the island and the San Francisco Bay Area. It comes highly reccomended from this reader.
It is much more than that. This book surprised me in two ways.
First of all, as a nonfiction book, I did not expect it to be written so that it reads like a novel. It is really well done. I was captivated from the first by Mr. Bruce's description of Frank Morris being transported to Alcatraz to begin his life there as a prisoner. I started turning pages and was transported along with the prisoner - through the rain and fog to that dismal prison.
The second surprise was all the history Mr. Bruce put into the book that went way beyond just this one escape. The book turned out to be a real bonus in that regard. He sketches the history of the island and the area, and then goes into some of the background history of Alcatraz.
It's a great read all the way around.
While far from exhaustive, Escape From Alcatraz provides a brief and interesting history of Alcatraz. Some fascinating stories are given only brief mention, e.g. the story of the children of Alcatraz's employees who were raised on the island, most of the relevant players and events are touched upon. The book's special focus on mobster-era prisoners and, especially, possible escapee Frank Morris are understandable and, in fact, quite well done. The narrative of the Morris escape, in particular, reads like a potboiler. Some of the discussion of Alcatraz notables, however, feels a bit gossip columny - more name dropping than content. All in all, a good and quick read for anyone looking for only a brief dip in the frigid waters surrounding Alcatraz.
The book begins at the discovery of the San Francisco island by Spanish settlers and continues through the closure of the prison. The book documents each of the attempts to break out of Alcatraz. Unfortunately, no inmate is confirmed to have escaped alive from The Rock. Many of The Rock's most famous inhabitants are discussed including Al Capone. I particularly enjoyed the stories of how the inmates passed their time. Bootlegging took on a new meaning in Alcatraz when inmates made pruno. Pruno often included such exotic combinations as milk and gasoline.
The book is concluded with the closure of the prison. There is no doubt that Alcatraz was a brutal prison that drove some men insane and others to suicide. While it was not a deterrent to crime, it was an effective punishment for crime. Had the condition of Alcatraz not deteriorated so much since the Civil War, it may still be punishing criminals for there crimes.