Tales From the Rock

Ghosts, gangsters, and super creeps: a fictional deep dive into Alcatraz history

Tales From the Rock
Photo by Underwood Archives/Getty Images

The opening story in Hard Sentences: Crime Fiction Inspired by Alcatraz, co-edited by David James Keaton, shares a gnarly description of an inmate with brittle bone disease who decides to break bones in his own body to slip through the bars of his cell. Keaton suggests some readers may want to “start with something a little less … disturbing.”

Keaton teaches composition and creative writing in the Department of English. For this 19-story collection published by Broken River Books, he rounded up a crew of Alcatraz-inspired miscreants inspired by the notorious SF Bay prison: from escapes by raft to ghosts that haunt the children of groundskeepers and gardeners living on the island.

Naturally, Al Capone and Creepy Karpis appear. So, too, do specters of Native Americans who occupied the island in the ’70s.

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