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Alcatraz: A Definitive History of the Penitentiary Years
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Alcatraz: A Definitive History of the Penitentiary Years

3.74  ·  Rating Details  ·  505 Ratings  ·  60 Reviews
This Kindle eBook edition has been completely revised, reedited and updated with new inmate / officer interviews and historical accounts! NOTE: This book contains graphic depictions of crime and prison violence.

ALCATRAZ – the name alone said it all… It was meant to send a shudder down the spines of the nation's most incorrigible criminals. It stripped Al Capone of his pow
Kindle Edition, 421 pages
Published July 24th 2011 by Ocean View Publishing Company (first published May 1st 2003)
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Mar 06, 2012 Luckngrace rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Michael Esslinger has included absolutely everything about Alcatraz in this book. The first third encompasses all the physical aspects of the island and prison from the 1600s to the present; it's uses as a shield from enemy ships, it's uses during the Civil War and both World Wars followed by it's use as a military prison and, finally, a federal prison for America's most wanted mobsters and violent offenders. There are maps and illustrations for every location, person and event covered.

The middl
john Adams
Jan 05, 2011 john Adams rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed
If you have ever visited Alcatraz and listened to the combination of the Rangers and the audio tour then you have already ingested the meat of this book. If you haven't visited Alcatraz, then this book can basically act as a substitute. The book is basically a giant walk through the park. As if you were walking through Alcatraz, the book takes the reader through the destinations on the Island. Stopping at each destination, such as “Cellblock D,” the book offers plethora of pictures, historical a ...more
Jan 05, 2012 Mykl rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The book is very well researched and the photos truly add another dimension. The middle chapters for myself dragged down the book a bit. Detailed histories were given for some of the prisoners and after awhile they blurred together as a short summary would be: prisoner as a child grew up in poverty, was one of at least six siblings, and had a parent die at an early age.
This was a very thorough history of Alcatraz, and I really enjoyed this book. At times I did find myself losing interest when reading about all of the escape attempts only because the author gave a great deal of background on each inmate involved in a particular attempt and I was more interested in how the escape was planned, attempted, etc. So many of the inmates had a very similar background with being involved with bank robberies that their bios looked a lot alike. I loved all of the photos o ...more
Jan 25, 2012 Jim rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not really a book for reading from start to finish. It's an info dump — a good info dump, but an info dump nonetheless. Best for dipping in every once in a while and learning something interesting.
Margo Burnison
Jan 06, 2012 Margo Burnison rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
well reviewed book with lots of information, facts, pictures and personal backgrounds. This book really does indicate what a horrid exsistence the prison system is set up to be.
Jan 10, 2012 Marco rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I think most of the other reviews summed it up pretty well. If the subject of Alcatraz interests you, this book is for you.
Mention the word Alcatraz, and all kinds of things may come to mind.

When it is said that this book is the definitive history of Alcatraz, it isn't kidding. The author has done a tremendous amount of research from the time it was discovered by the Spanish explorers, made into a military outpost, and of course United States Penitentiary Alcatraz with some of the most notorious and colorful criminals in residence at one time or another.

The author covers the transition to USP, the wardens, life on
Dec 23, 2011 Phil rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Meticulously researched and written, this book meets the criteria of "A Definitive History..." A fascinating read!
Thomas Beloney
May 23, 2008 Thomas Beloney rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a wonderful book to read, Ive read it twice I highly recommend this book.
Dec 27, 2011 Andy rated it really liked it
Great read. Lots of history of my area in Kansas ties to it surprisingly.
Feb 01, 2015 Laura rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historical
It was good.
Greta Macionytė
Jan 22, 2015 Greta Macionytė rated it really liked it
Alkatrazo kalėjimas San Franciske neveikia jau daugiau nei penkiasdešimt metų, tačiau iki pat šių dienų į salą plūsta turistai, o institucijos istorija yra apipinta gandais ir legendomis. Michael Esslinger išsikėlė uždavinį išsiaiškinti mitus ir užrašyti tikrąją istoriją (kuri pradedama nuo salos atradimo). Išsamų pasakojimą apie legendinį kalėjimą, jo rezidentus ir su juo susijusius įvykius puikiai papildo gausios iliustracijos – nuotraukos, planai, dokumentai. ...more
Feb 10, 2016 Rosie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
e-book. Excellent read with great documentation and well-placed photos.

Good separation of subjects -
History / notorious inmates / Escape attempts / Park

very humanistic - gave family history if available for inmates and some for guards. Treated all with respect.

Highly recommend if interested in serious documented history of "bad" guys.

Annie Holland
Really interesting having been to Alcatraz. Too much detail for what I wanted but eerie and reminiscent of my trip! The history of the prisoners like Al Capone, Machine gun Kelly and the 'bird man' of Alcatraz were really interesting. The escape attempts were also very inspiring! I didn't read Rhodes bit which didn't interest me, more if a reference book.
Jun 06, 2014 Jill rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Although this book contained a lot of unbiased and well researched information, it was pretty dry to read. Even though the author warned of this in the beginning of the book, I still found myself kind of let down by the lack of emotion in the writing. There was also a fair amount of overlap in information because of how the book was formatted and since some inmates were involved in multiple escape attempts.
I plan to read a book written by either an inmate or a correctional officer to get a diffe
Shellys♥ Journal
This volume is a mostly cut and dried history of Alcatraz. It starts with the Explorers during the Age of Exploration who missed it and goes all the way through today as a National Park. It gives a listing and history of most notorious inmates, details on all escape attempts and has LOTS of photographs to support every element of the history.

Overall, I enjoyed the book. I love exploring history, and the fact that the text is not at all dramatized, did not bother me at all. Parts of it are very d
Jan 26, 2013 Travis rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this a lot! The book provides an exhaustive, yet interesting history of Alcatraz island from it's early beginnings as a military installation, throught it's time as a Federal Penitentiary, and a brief blurb on its existence as a part of the National Park Service. Esslinger did an exhaustive amount of research on the topic, and provides insight into the lives of some of the more infamous inmates, as well as a detailed account of the numerous escape attempts. As a history buff, I enjoyed ...more
Jun 28, 2015 Kevin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Phenomenal book. There is so much about this fascinating institution I never knew about: it's famous and infamous residents, life on the island for the guards and their families, and the daring escape attempts. The island is now a part of the national parks system. I definitely want to book a tour.
Heather Key
Mar 21, 2015 Heather Key rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I registered a book at!
Dec 02, 2012 Rachel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I got this book for free on my Kindle app on my phone. It was very interesting. Esslinger must have spent an insane amount of time doing research on this book. It was very long, very in depth, had tons of pictures from as far back as when the prison first opened, and even documents from the prison. There are chapters on the early years, how it changed over the years, the rules and regulations, chapters about the many famous Alcatraz prisoners, how the prison was closed, etc. Honestly, I still ha ...more
Mar 29, 2012 Cat rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction

I enjoyed this book. I had basic knowledge of Alcatraz and after seeing a few films and the latest TV show about the prison I was intrigued enough to want to learn more. I'm glad I picked this up. It is well thought out and you can tell that Esslinger loved the prison and its inmates.

I found the pictures fascinating and a nice look at the then and now of the building, the prison guards, and the prisoners. I also liked the breakdown of certain inmates and the information given.

I might not run ou
Aug 21, 2012 Valerie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well written, thorough account of the notorious island prison in the San Francisco Bay, from the Spanish Explorations of the Golden Coast through its use by the US Military as a fortress, through the penitentiary years, and the 1969 Occupation, this book is loaded with histories, photographs, diagrams, profiles, stories, legends, and copies of official documents related to the crimes, criminals, guards, wardens, and escape attempts at The Rock. Highly enjoyable if you like historical accounts, h ...more
Alaska Solo

it was Bella wordy but super interesting I loved it. I want to go visit. I thoroughly enjoyed all the detail
Nicole G.
Mar 02, 2013 Nicole G. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013
Very detailed history of Alcatraz - from the discovery of the island to its days as a military fortress, and then of course, its years as a federal penitentiary. The author tells of the lives of many infamous inmates, such as Al Capone and Machine Gun Kelly, and the"Birdman of Alcatraz." He also goes into great detail about the well-known escape attempts from "the Rock."

I didn't really know much about Alcatraz going in, so this was a very worthwhile read. There are also many pictures and diagram
Scott Katz
Feb 06, 2014 Scott Katz rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very interesting, well written book/narrative. The two dozen and counting typos I could have lived without. The editor, if there was one, should be fired.
May 21, 2012 Nicole rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
So... much... information...

The massive amount of information could have been pared down a bit, especially when it came to the pointless "missed discovery" stories and prison breaks. Esslinger certainly researched the crap out of Alcatraz, but some of the facts should have been relegated to his "only interesting to me" file. I found the early history of the prison, when guards and families lived on the island, to be fascinating. There's a lot of interesting stories to be told about Alcatraz, and
May 27, 2015 Sabrina rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I re-read Alcatraz vs. the Scrivener's Bones.
Erin Webber
Jun 18, 2013 Erin Webber rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I looked up this book after watching Escape from Alcatraz. I wanted a better understanding of what America's most notorious prison was really like. This book provides a well-balanced examination of Alcatraz, focusing on its 29 years as a penitentiary. Esslinger also includes information about the years before and after the island was used as a maximum security prison. A fabulous collection of original source material, from interviews to reports to photographs. Equal time and respect is given to ...more
Grey Liliy
Feb 09, 2014 Grey Liliy rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, history
I did not finish reading this, not because it was bad nor uninformative--but my interest in the subject dropped off.

And it's rather hard to stay focused on a thick book like this when your interest is waning, sad to say.

But! I can say that if I ever need to know anything about the Alcatraz penitentiary, or at some point pick it up as anything other than a reference, I will come back to this.

Very detailed, super informative, and the writing is decent. Well put together book.
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