NEWS &
REVIEWS

 

David Ward appeared at the, Los Angeles Times Festival of Books held at the UCLA campus, Los Angeles, CA.
on Sunday, April 26th. He was one of 4 panelists discussing the topic, "History: The Underbelly of California".
Ward covered gangsters, public enemies, bank robbers, how they were handled by Alcatraz and what became
of some of them post release. He then answered numerous questions from the audience on subjects ranging from gun
control to the psychological effects that solitary confinement has on convicts. Following the panel discussion
Ward signed copies of his new book; "ALCATRAZ, The Gangster Years".

Please see the follow up article on the Los Angeles Times blog at the URL below:

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/jacketcopy/2009/04/probing-californias-underbelly.html

CALIFORNIA LAWYER MAGAZINE, May 2009, Review by Ben Pesta

"David Ward's magisterial study of the prison, Alcatraz: The Gangster Years, will appeal to anyone interested in crime and punishment, although, at 616 pages, it's longer than Crime and Punishment. The book is the Peter Jackson film of prison studies. . . . Ward and his longtime collaborator, Gene Kassebaum, have produced a combination oral history, documentary history, and longitudinal study (with a few statistics thrown in) unprecedented in scope and duration. . . . Alcatraz, as David Ward has re-created it, is irresistible to read about. But we should be very wary about projecting any Alcatraz-derived conclusions into the present."

"David Ward's magisterial study of the prison, Alcatraz: The Gangster Years, will appeal to anyone interested in crime and punishment. . . . Ward and his longtime collaborator, Gene Kassebaum, have produced a combination oral history, documentary history, and longitudinal study (with a few statistics thrown in) unprecedented in scope and duration. . . . Alcatraz, as David Ward has re-created it, is irresistible to read about."

Read the full text of the review online at:

http://www.callawyer.com/story.cfm?eid=901288&evid=1

 

SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE

'Alcatraz, The Gangster Years' reviewed by Martin Rubin, Special to The Chronicle
Sunday, May 24, 2009

To tell San Franciscans who see the island daily (fog permitting) to read a book all about Alcatraz might seem the height of chutzpah, but this one is so exhaustive as history and analysis that it is well worthwhile. Of course, Alcatraz is a name that resonates nationally, even globally, as a symbol of doing hard time, of isolation - a true island fortress. The authors, two emeritus professors of sociology, know a good description when they see it and so they begin their introduction with words from one of those incomparable BBC broadcast "Letters From America" by Alastair Cooke:

"In the middle of San Francisco Bay there rises an island that looks like a battleship ... and when it has not been armed as such, first by the Spaniards and then by the United States Army, it has been a prison of one kind or another. First it was a so-called disciplinary barracks for renegade Indian scouts. Then for captured Filipinos. And always for army traitors. The Spanish lieutenant who discovered it in 1775 might well have called it the Alcazar if he had not been struck by clouds of pelicans that floated around it. So he called it after the bird itself - Alcatraz."

But as this book's subtitle indicates, its focus is on a particular period in Alcatraz history, what you might term its heyday, the period in the 1930s and '40s when its special mission was to house the nation's most notorious villains, master criminals like the legendary Al Capone, Alvin Karpis and George "Machine Gun" Kelly....

Read the full text of the review online at:

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2009/05/24/RVMH17MK64.DTL&hw=book+reviews&sn=007&sc=236

 

AMERICAN HISTORY (MAGAZINE)

Excerpts from the review of the book by William Bergman, June 2009 issue

EARLY ON THE morning of August 19, 1934, a special train-call it the Damned Soul Train-left Atlanta carrying Al Capone and much of America's criminal elite. Among the passenger amenities were free meals, individual seat chains and cages with tommy-gun- toting guards in each car. As the armed locomotive moved west through the searing heat of the Dust Bowl drought, career gangsters, bank robbers and kidnappers mulled over rumors about their destination, a minute craggy island within sight of the Golden Gate Bridge known as Alcatraz. Was this new maximum-security facility, as the press proclaimed, the American Devil's Island, using demonic means to break incorrigibles other prisons couldn't control? For reasons of security and public relations, the Bureau of Prisons hung a nearly impenetrable veil of secrecy around the fog-bound Rock. Throughout its 30- year history and after, this secrecy allowed the legend of an abusive, insanity- producing California Bastille to grow, siring books and films on oppressed birdmen and escapees that were, well, imaginative fiction.
Through unprecedented documentation, including a hundred interviews with inmates and guards, David Ward, a
veteran consultant on penology, shows that in Alcatraz's first decade, which marked its most severe regime and most
notorious prisoners, the Rock was actually deadly boring….
And though the intent was old-school discipline-and-punish with no thought of rehabilitation, an amazing two-thirds
of Alcatraz graduates went on to lead what Ward calls "constructive, law-abiding lives." His goal is to explain this result….

PAT MORRISON INTERVIEW, KPCC Public Radio

Pasadena, CA. June 22, 2009

David Ward was interviewed about "ALCATRAZ, The Gangster Years"
on the Pat Morrison show. The subject of the broadcast was,"Public Enemies"
and the role Alcatraz played in dealing with this kind of criminal.
Below is the link to a recording of that broadcast.

Listen to the PAT MORRISON INTERVIEW

 

MARIN INDEPENDANT JOURNAL

Book review by Paul Liberatore, June 30, 2009

Gangsters on the Rock: Mill Valley author details fascinating years at Alcatraz in new book

Al Capone visited Tiburon once. He didn't have an opportunity to sightsee or shop or have lunch on Main Street. He was in a Southern Pacific railroad car with barred windows on his way to do hard time on Alcatraz, aka "the Rock."
In 1934, the notorious Chicago mobster was shunted through Marin County to avoid the press as he began serving a 10-year federal prison sentence for income tax evasion in America's first supermax prison. They weren't taking any chances with this particular gangster. From Tiburon, his railcar was loaded on a barge and towed by tugboat to Alcatraz. While the new prisoners were being checked in, the warden asked the celebrity gangster his name. Capone told him, "You know who I am. I'm Al Capone."

To which the warden replied, "Well, from now on you're Prisoner No. 85." That anecdote is among the stories about "public enemies" like Capone, George "Machine Gun" Kelly, "Birdman" Robert Stroud, Alvin Karpis and Dock Barker that are recounted in engrossing detail in "Alcatraz: the Gangster Years," a compelling new book by Marin author David Ward, written with Gene Kassebaum.

Read the full text of the review online at:

http://www.marinij.com/lifestyles/ci_12718435?nclick_check=1

 

"INSIGHT", capital Public Radio, KXJZ

Interview, July 1, 2009

David Ward and Gene Kassebaum were interviewed by host, Jeffery Callison about the facts and
mythology surrounding Alcatraz on Capital Public Radio's, "Insight" program.

Listen to the Jeffery Callison, "INSIGHT" interview

 

"FORUM", KQED Public Radio

Interview, Aug 6, 2009

Host, Michael Krasny talked to David Ward about, "Alcatraz: The Gangster Years" .
Ward addressed the history of the prison and what became of the convicts who
managed to leave, "The Rock" alive. Ward answered numerous questions by Mr. Krasny
and from callers to the show.

Listen to the Michael Krasny, "FORUM" interview

 

"AMERICANA", BBC Radio

Interview, Aug 23, 2009

BBC's, Matt Frei featured a program produced by KQED reporter, Michael Montgomery based on Ward's ,
"Alcatraz: The Gangster Years". Montgomery interviewed Ward, criminologist John Irwin and ex-Alcatraz
convict Morton Sobell about doing time on the "Rock".

Listen to the BBC, "Americana" interview