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Brian Stannard - Alcatraz Ghost Story

The Incredible True Story of the Most Hunted Man in Pacific Coast History––and the Woman He Loved


Before the 1920s found their roar, a charismatic gambling addict named Roy Gardner dominated news headlines with daring train robberies and escapes from incarceration. Nicknamed "the Smiling Bandit," Gardner spilled no blood––except his own––as he cut a felonious path across the western United States, as the country hobbled through a recession in the aftermath of the First World War.


Once imprisoned for the long term in federal prisons, including Alcatraz, the most notorious prison's second-most-notorious inmate won over some unlikely champions. Both Gardner's wife, Dollie, and a police officer who once arrested him launched extensive campaigns for Gardner's release on the vaudeville circuit, claiming a brain operation would cure his lawless ways. Was Gardner a good man who made bad decisions as the victim of injury and circumstance? Or was his charming personality merely the poker face of a scoundrel?


Richly researched, drawing on contemporary newspaper accounts, Alcatraz Ghost Story explores the life of Roy Gardner in the context of his great love story and the larger backdrop of drug addiction, incarceration, and the racial and labor violence of the 1920s and 1930s.

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