Alcatraz Ghost Story: Roy Gardner’s Amazing Train Robberies, Escapes, and Lifelong Love

Skyhorse. Jan. 2024. 264p. ISBN 9781510778245. $29.99. CRIME
Stannard (illustrator, You Don’t Know Jack), a guide with Alcatraz Cellhouse Tours, tells the story of Roy Gardner, who’s presented as Alcatraz’s second-most notorious inmate. The book describes Gardner as a charming man whose criminal escapades included train robbery, mail theft, and a series of prison escapes that earned him the nickname “the Human Eel” because he was so slippery. Despite the lobbying by one police officer (who once arrested Gardner and then befriended him with the intent of filming his escapades) and Gardner’s wife, who embarked on a vaudeville circuit advocating for a brain operation to “cure” her husband’s lawlessness, no authority would agree to pardon the prisoner. Gardner eventually volunteered to be transferred to Alcatraz, in the hope that closer proximity to his wife and daughter in Napa would save his marriage. Even his newfound acquaintance with Al Capone, however, was not enough to help Gardner achieve a happy ending.
VERDICT An excellent and thorough biography of a character whose true story is not widely known, and a wild ride through the Depression and the U.S. prison system; many will enjoy the journey.
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