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Alcatraz from Inside: The Hard Years, 1942-1952
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Alcatraz from Inside: The Hard Years, 1942-1952

3.89  ·  Rating details ·  1,245 ratings  ·  108 reviews
In this fascinating autobiographical account, Jim Quillen tells the amazing story of his decade incarcerated in America's most infamous prison -- how he got there, how he stayed alive inside, and, most important, how he found the inspiration and courage to get out. ...more
Paperback, 164 pages
Published February 1st 1992 by Golden Gate National Parks Association (first published January 1st 1991)
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J.J. Warren I would say age 14 on up. The language is very clean and there are no sexual references or scenarios. There are vivid accounts of crime mostly dealing…moreI would say age 14 on up. The language is very clean and there are no sexual references or scenarios. There are vivid accounts of crime mostly dealing with armed robbery and a life of rebellion and being on the run. He discusses family turmoil and alcoholism. Beyond that, it was adventurous and inspirational. (less)

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Chris Steeden
Not quite up to my expectations. I thought there would be a lot more detail on Jim Quillen’s Alcatraz experience so you would get to know what it is like being incarcerated on the Rock. There is an interesting chapter that concerns the Birdman of Alcatraz, Robert Stroud.

The author goes over his early life and the trouble he gets into that would lead him to reform school plus San Quentin and Salt Lake City jail before ending up in the infamous Alcatraz. There are about 8 chapters of the 25 in the
Jan 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Inside Alcatraz: My Time On The Rock – Jim Quillen

I have always been fascinated by Alcatraz, and have been dying to go there for years. My brother went there last year and bought back loads of information. When I saw this book I though ‘I must read this, I need to know more’. This book is GREAT.

I loved knowing how he got into trouble, what sparked it all off. Not only that, when you look up the prisoners in Alcatraz, you only find out the outside version. This book contains lots and lots of ins
Jul 17, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was an inspirational tale of freedom, and how it can only truly be appreciated when it is taken away. I did find that, when the breakouts were being described that there were too many places being described (wings and corridors) which kind of lost me and I found it hard to follow what was going on. I also think that a lot was not explained, the author constantly said Alcatraz was awful and people would rather die than be imprisoned there, but a lot of the reasons why this would be were ...more
Lindsay Seddon
Feb 18, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: abandoned
Jim's story is very interesting and I really wanted to finish the book, but the quality of the writing made it nearly impossible to concentrate.

The narrative was void of any emotion and very repetitive. There was too much focus on insignificant details and overall it read like a witness statement - all fact and no feeling.
Book Addict Shaun
Inside Alcatraz is the first book I have awarded five stars to in 2015, and I am doing so because it is one of the best books I have ever read. I feel as if I have lived every minute of Jim Quillen's life with him after reading this book. He is a truly remarkable man, and one I am full of respect for after reading this book. I have read a lot of True Crime books over the years, and anybody else who reads this genre will tell you, there's far more bad books than good. This one is incredible and I ...more
Harriet Murray
Nov 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this in 48 hours and enjoyed every minute. I have always been fascinated by prisons and crime so this ticked every box for me. Each chapter, I had to close the book and just spend time considering some of the shocking things I had just read. Crazy and entertaining. Would recommend.
Nov 23, 2015 rated it liked it
When I was in high school our family took a boat out to Alcatraz for a tour while visiting San Francisco. After the tour we were walking out and my dad, friendly guy that he is, stopped to talk to a man with ice blue eyes who was standing behind a table selling this book about a former prisoner of Alcatraz. Turns out the mug shot on the cover had the same ice blue eyes. Eerie. They talked a little about his autobiography and experience inside Alcatraz and my dad asked him what advice he would gi ...more
Alan Smith
An interesting account of one man's time in one of the most notorious prisons in the Western world. Jim Quillen's recounting of the events of the infamous escape attempt of 1946 is particularly important as it attempts to redress the balance somewhat, with an inmate's view of the events that happened, which, of course, differ very much from the accepted view peddled by the authorities. Yes, of course, Jim is always going to see the affair through the eyes of an inmate - it would be very difficul ...more
Aug 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Following a crime spree in the 1940s that resulted in multiple charges of robbery & one of kidnapping, James Quillen was sentenced to 45 years in prison and was sent to the infamous Alcatraz.

(view spoiler)
Adrian McGahan
May 18, 2016 rated it liked it
Decent enough true story I suppose but the writing was so flat. Kept drifting off whilst reading it. Obviously the author is not a writer and I appreciate that. The descriptions of Alcatraz and the escape attempt(S) were interesting but I think the part that I enjoyed the most was when he left prison and turned his life around.
Bookish Enchantment (Katherine Quirke)
Having been to Alcatraz (as a visitor) this book really makes the whole place feel spookier.
Terry Bourbon
Sep 24, 2017 rated it liked it
My daughter picked out this book when we were in the gift shop after touring Alcatraz this summer. It had the appeal of being written by a former inmate. I had been intending to buy a book about the prison, and after searching the almost 100 books there, settled on this one. The book's pacing for me can best be described as fits and spurts. Some parts go slow, and some pick up your interest more. The first third of the book is background on Jim Quillen's early life and presumably what lead him i ...more
Tatyana Vogt
Jan 21, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I picked this up when I visited Alcatraz back in 2019 because I was so fascinated by the experience and wanted to learn more. I quickly forgot about it until pulling the "true crime" prompt in my monthly TBR game that I recently created. I was excited to finally open the book but wasn't sure what to expect.

Admittedly the first quarter of the book was interesting but not really what I was interested in. We got a deep dive of Quillen's childhood and his introduction to crime and frankly I just wa
Oct 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
I think that more than anything, this book is a hopeful book. And that this man, while not exactly a writer, had a very important story to share.

I can't say that I THOROUGHLY enjoyed this book and I was nervous that the "best part" was going to be Quillen's account of the Battle of Alcatraz (didn't really enjoy that part that much; it was pretty hyped up in the beginning of the book so I thought that that would be its bread and butter. It was, in some ways, but I didn't choose to think of it th
James Tidd
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Leah Gray-Scaife
Aug 28, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've read a few prison books this year and this one was a genuinely interesting read and one written with a lot of honesty. Jim takes us through his life from his troubled childhood and upbringing to his crimes, incarceration and even escape, all of which ends with him in the hellish Alcatraz prison. It isn't just about his daily routine and his rehabilitation but also his experience being caught up in a dangerous siege on the prison in 1942. He writes with balance and though he openly admits he ...more
Jun 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
Having recently visited Alcatraz, it was fascinating to read this book written by an actual inmate of the prison-- and I was able to picture each part of the prison he mentioned. Hi story shared the realities of serving time there (and in other prisons) and it was different from what I have always assumed based on movies and other times I've heard about Alcatraz in my life.

But more than him sharing of his Alcatraz experience, I liked hearing about his entire life-- his life leading up to his cri
This book is an inspiration, a proof that any criminal, how much ever hardened can return to the normal society if treated with love and care and has the determination to be a better person.
I have mixed feelings towards the book because it highlights the atrocities done on criminals in Alcatraz from a then criminal in the prison. It doesn't provide the point of view of the guards, the government, and other security forces. True, the criminals were treated unjustly, inhumanely quite often, which
No real literary value. Not artfully written (to say the least) - rambling, confusing, disjointed. However, I found it worth the read to gain insight into the making of a career criminal and the forces of conscience and sheer determination in leading to rehabilitation. The author of this autobiographical account is introspective and convincing in his analysis of his own failings, a little less convincing in his analysis of the prison system. An interesting story. I don't normally post reviews, b ...more
Erik Surewaard
Aug 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is really a brilliant read. A very good prison story! I really can recommend reading this book.

It was hard to decide whether to give this book four or five stars! I originally gave it four stars, but after a few days decided to give it five stars. Certain events described in this book probably will stick for the rest of my life.

I find this book an utterly interesting an enjoyable read and was at moments shocked by what happened in this prison. It is a combination of everyday live in Alcatra
Tom Schulte
Mar 04, 2020 rated it really liked it
A fascinating, candid read from a long term inmate. Act I is his rootless existence and hooliganism during The Depression that led to criminal convictions. Act II is life on "The Rock" culminating in a detailed review of the "Battle of Alcatraz". He can characterize many of the participants and supply a point of view that supports a general depiction of trigger-happy, heartless authority. The final act of success and redemption through love and labor tells a true story of the success of preparat ...more
Apr 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
Excellent book. I wish it was a little more descriptive about the actual conditions inside of Alcatraz but it was more about Quillen’s direct experience and that’s how he wanted it. The only problem with that is because he was stating how horrible the conditions were, more descriptors would have been helpful. The adventures in the beginning made it hard to put the book down, as did wanting to know the outcome. Quillen certainly made the reader cheer for positive outcomes for him and is proof tha ...more
Evan Barr
Oct 09, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have always been interested in Alcatraz and the life of a prisoner while on it, and this book fulfilled my needs. In recent years I have visited Alcatraz and when leaving I felt there was so much that I didn't know about the prison. This book extended my knowledge of The Rock by giving me a taste of what kind of lifestyle Jim Quillen had to take on while doing his time. His writing really put me there, showed me what it was like to live his life at the time, and how he came to recover and rebu ...more
Srikumar Krishna Iyer
A very fast paced autobiographical memoir of an ex-convict, a journey starting as a convict to complete rehabilitation.
Really very inspirational to hear the story from Jim, especially to hear his passion to become a part of the respected folks of the society where he is feared due to his bad past.
Jim doesn't waste much time on any section of his life, just only briefly recollecting his journey.
Only the 1946 riot in Alcatraz is explained in detail, which could have completely ruined his life or e
Jodie Luker
Jan 01, 2021 rated it really liked it
This book details the life story of Jim Quillen, from early childhood through to his late years. He articulates his whole criminal history with no detail spared. He explains how his lifetime of crime and his time spent ‘on the rock’ lead him to change his ways, becoming an excellent radiologist, through earning a governor and presidential pardon. He tells of the infamous escape attempt of 1946 from Alcatraz and brings to light the ‘other side’ of the argument within the walls of what appears to ...more
Ari Landa
A engaging memoir of a child/teen's descent into crime and eventually finding himself incarcerated at Alcatraz at just 21 years old. The author reviews the life events and emotions that led him to crime, and those that made him further relinquish all desires towards living a wholesome life; as well as those that gave him a renewed hope and purpose. We can learn a lot about the criminal psyche, the failures of our penal institutions and the importance of religion and family. ...more
Sarah Caroline
Having visited Alcatraz a couple of years ago & just being overwhelmed by the type of place it was; I was looking forward to reading this. I couldn't put it down.. it was just brilliant. My only criticism..he describes one of the escapes in detail and I found it hard to follow in regards to the movements of the guards and inmates. Maybe a map in the middle?! The full story of his life was so compelling. It didn't need the escape story.. in my opinion. ...more
Mortisha Cassavetes
I must be honest and say that this book is the oldest book I bought for my forever shelf and it is autographed by the author before his death in 1998. This is not the first time I have read it but I wanted to revisit the world now that I am older. The book is a true account of Jim Quillen's life before, during and after his time in Alcatraz prison. I especially loved the accounts of the attempted escape he witnessed that almost led into a riot. I highly recommend this book! ...more
Mar 03, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this book although there could have been more about Alcatraz itself, I believe it is good because it shows that no prisoner, ever, is beyond rehabilitation, if they want to be rehabilitated.

Jim did a fine job in making things right and re entering society as a better man. In the beginning he was an arrogant man, particularly in his youth, but after the fiasco of 1946 he really turned things around.

That for me proves that this book is a success as was Jim's time on The Rock.
Jennifer Hollandbeck
Finished just in time for our Alcatraz tour tonight! Will definitely add to my experience at Alcatraz, but I wouldn't recommend it otherwise. The author led a very interesting life, and it's amazing that he survived all that he did and turned his life around. However, I found myself skimming through the part about the 1946 prisoner uprising because I couldn't visualize what was happening. ...more
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