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Hard Sentences: Crime Fiction Inspired by Alcatraz

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Inside these walls, you'll find 19 stories detailing the cold, strange history of The Rock, nightmares real and imagined, including the deadly, acid-induced legacy of Whitey Bulger, Al Capone's final days, as well as dark tales of Robert "Birdman" Stroud, Creepy Karpis, and other less-notorious but equally memorable prisoners. Re-live the Civil War incarnation of Alcatraz, Inside these walls, you'll find 19 stories detailing the cold, strange history of The Rock, nightmares real and imagined, including the deadly, acid-induced legacy of Whitey Bulger, Al Capone's final days, as well as dark tales of Robert "Birdman" Stroud, Creepy Karpis, and other less-notorious but equally memorable prisoners. Re-live the Civil War incarnation of Alcatraz, sample the prison's famous mess hall menu, and discover specters of the '70s Native American occupation who still haunt the crumbling halls. Read previously unreleased transcripts outlining wild plans and long-buried secrets. Experience the day-to-day routine of Alcatraz families, which included 80 children, who tried to go about life as as usual on the island, every day playing within earshot of murderers. Learn what it takes to squeeze through the bars of a cell and why a man is sometimes better off simply serving his sentence. And find out what really happened in June of 1962 when Frank Morris and the Anglin brothers escaped the prison, only to disappear forever. Over 5,000 tourists travel to Alcatraz every day, drawn to the lonely clang of those steel doors, trying to catch glimpses of the shadows of those 1,500 former prisoners. Now you can take this experience home and read about it in solitude rather than solitary!


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Inside these walls, you'll find 19 stories detailing the cold, strange history of The Rock, nightmares real and imagined, including the deadly, acid-induced legacy of Whitey Bulger, Al Capone's final days, as well as dark tales of Robert "Birdman" Stroud, Creepy Karpis, and other less-notorious but equally memorable prisoners. Re-live the Civil War incarnation of Alcatraz, Inside these walls, you'll find 19 stories detailing the cold, strange history of The Rock, nightmares real and imagined, including the deadly, acid-induced legacy of Whitey Bulger, Al Capone's final days, as well as dark tales of Robert "Birdman" Stroud, Creepy Karpis, and other less-notorious but equally memorable prisoners. Re-live the Civil War incarnation of Alcatraz, sample the prison's famous mess hall menu, and discover specters of the '70s Native American occupation who still haunt the crumbling halls. Read previously unreleased transcripts outlining wild plans and long-buried secrets. Experience the day-to-day routine of Alcatraz families, which included 80 children, who tried to go about life as as usual on the island, every day playing within earshot of murderers. Learn what it takes to squeeze through the bars of a cell and why a man is sometimes better off simply serving his sentence. And find out what really happened in June of 1962 when Frank Morris and the Anglin brothers escaped the prison, only to disappear forever. Over 5,000 tourists travel to Alcatraz every day, drawn to the lonely clang of those steel doors, trying to catch glimpses of the shadows of those 1,500 former prisoners. Now you can take this experience home and read about it in solitude rather than solitary!

50 review for Hard Sentences: Crime Fiction Inspired by Alcatraz

  1. 5 out of 5

    Richard

    Broken River Books is one of the most exciting publishers out there, with great taste and a knack for finding interesting material. This is one of their latest releases, a collection of short fiction inspired by the country's most infamous penitentiary, from a group of great writers: folks like Jedidiah Ayres, Les Edgerton, Nik Korpon, Johnny Shaw, and Gabino Iglesias, all with different styles, ranging from Iglesias's bizarre shadow terror to the Cronenberg-sequel body horror style of Glenn Gra Broken River Books is one of the most exciting publishers out there, with great taste and a knack for finding interesting material. This is one of their latest releases, a collection of short fiction inspired by the country's most infamous penitentiary, from a group of great writers: folks like Jedidiah Ayres, Les Edgerton, Nik Korpon, Johnny Shaw, and Gabino Iglesias, all with different styles, ranging from Iglesias's bizarre shadow terror to the Cronenberg-sequel body horror style of Glenn Gray. The anthology does a good job of telling stories from different points of view surrounding Alcatraz. Sometimes they're about people intimately familiar with the place and sometimes the island haunts the stories' events from afar. We get tales from the points of view of prisoners, their relatives, children of prison employees living on the island (what a strange childhood that must have been!), and there are even some ghosts, demons, and historical figures like Capone, The Birdman, and Johnny Cash being awesome as usual. I wish there were more stories from the POV of the guards and other employees though. And although not every story is stellar, there are some great pieces here, like Ayres's "Clean Shot," Leah Rhyne's melancholy "The Music Box," Iglesias's hard-hitting "Creep," Rob Hart's punchline, "The Gas Chamber," and Matthew McBride's dynamic "A Broken Window." And all of the stories together serve to weave an inspired tapestry illustrating the undeniable notoriety of The Rock.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Benoit Lelièvre

    Well, that was fun. And original. I wouldn't have expected this out of an anthology about Alcatraz. These are prison stories, sure but none of them are directly about being in prison. Alcatraz is much more of a state of mind than I would've expected it to be. And it was a pleasant surprise. I loved Glen Gray's opening story of a man with a special condition treating Alcatraz as a puzzle to solve, Amber Sparks' beautiful short that does against what prison stories usually are, Joshua Chaplinsky's Well, that was fun. And original. I wouldn't have expected this out of an anthology about Alcatraz. These are prison stories, sure but none of them are directly about being in prison. Alcatraz is much more of a state of mind than I would've expected it to be. And it was a pleasant surprise. I loved Glen Gray's opening story of a man with a special condition treating Alcatraz as a puzzle to solve, Amber Sparks' beautiful short that does against what prison stories usually are, Joshua Chaplinsky's eerie, surreal and claustrophobic tale, Max Booth's Birdman short and Leah Rhyne graceful and ethereal story about the island in particular. None of the tales here are particularly week, but there is something for every kind of reader that exposes the entire panorama of this legendary prison. Really enjoyed it.

  3. 5 out of 5

    The Grim Reader

    Alcatraz-a place synonymous with hopelessness and despair. The infamous prison island is the catalyst for a series of crime stories that sit trapped inside this anthology from Broken River Books, edited by David James Keaton and Joe Clifford. I’ve been looking forward to this anthology since I first heard about it and to a large extent, I was very, very happy with what I read. Your mileage always varies with anthologies and I chose to digest this one slowly, though my new job has also had a big i Alcatraz-a place synonymous with hopelessness and despair. The infamous prison island is the catalyst for a series of crime stories that sit trapped inside this anthology from Broken River Books, edited by David James Keaton and Joe Clifford. I’ve been looking forward to this anthology since I first heard about it and to a large extent, I was very, very happy with what I read. Your mileage always varies with anthologies and I chose to digest this one slowly, though my new job has also had a big impact on my reading time of late. The book’s intro is typical Keaton-bonkers but very funny (slam-dunking severed heads, anyone?), and some of the stories selected definitely have a sort of Keaton vibe to them in that they aren’t straight forward crime tales of escape, which is probably what you’d expect from an anthology such as this. There are stories that run the gauntlet of people trying to leave the island, but this collection should be commended for its originality and most of the authors do a great job in harnessing the grim hopelessness of the rock. Rather than give a run down of every single tale, I’ll simply highlight a few that really stood out for me. The opening story by Glenn Gray is terrific. It tells of a botched escape by a man born with a brittle bone disease. Lots of medical talk about bones breaking all add to the authenticity of the narrative and this is a story sure to make you wince a little. This darkly humorous entry is a great way to get things started. It turned out to be my favourite story, so much so I read it twice! Nick Mamatas’ story had me scratching my head a little. I really didn’t have a Scooby Doo what was going on at first, it’s kind of weird and trippy, something about seeing things through the eyes of prisoners? Very odd but pretty cool, too. Clean Shot by Jedidiah Ayers is a real highlight. It’s the story of a prison guard that doesn’t intend on making the same mistake twice and Michael Paul Gonzalez spins a good yarn with Last Man Out (or, Eat Shit and Die). This is another botched escape attempt tale that I really enjoyed. It tells of a man trapped between the walls at Alcatraz. His only companion is a Rat. Really good story, funny and with a great ending too. Other highlights include The Ghosts of 14D by Joshua Chaplinsky, which is a pretty unsettling tale about life in the hole. Rob Hart’s The Gas Chamber, a story that takes place in the mess hall is also very cool, as is Max Booth III’s entry about Robert Stroud-the Birdman of Alcatraz in a story that has some trademark Boothisms, but it’s actually quite sad to read as well. Both these stories added a little something different to what came before and are well worth another read. The Music Box by Leah Rhyme and in particular, Live at Alcatraz by Nick Kolakowski was also excellent. I loved the Kolakowski tale a great deal. A band travels to the rock led by the “Man in Black” to play a gig. A full-scale riot breaks out and the guitarist goes missing. Can the man in black get him back? Live at Alcatraz is excellent, the man in black is great and bears all the characteristics of the late Johnny Cash. This tale is a terrific homage to the legend and in particular his live album, At Folsom Prison. Hard Sentences is a really good anthology. The stories are all short, sharp and mostly on point. The writers’ that I expected to deliver strong stories did and a few others I was unfamiliar with also chipped in with commendable tales. One or two didn’t quite work for me, but that’s purely down to taste rather than a reflection of the books overall quality which I think is very high. If you like themed crime anthologies with great variety then Hard Sentences is a book that should be on your radar. Broken River Books continue to publish original and exciting fiction. Their releases are varied and the quality never lacking. If you are unfamiliar with them then you’re seriously missing out. Fix that…now. 4/5 life sentences from the Grim Reader.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Shane Keene

    I'll have a full length review coming very soon, but in the meantime, I just wanted to say the contributor list should give you an idea of what you're getting when you come to Alcatraz. This thing is sublime from cover to cover, featuring some of the best authors in the business and edited by two masters of the form. Story for story, there's not a bad apple in the bunch and you're likely to find yourself devouring this collection in a sitting or two. Amazing book!

  5. 5 out of 5

    Rory Costello

    * Disclaimer * I am the author of one of the stories in this collection. The editors took a great idea and let the authors run with it in some really unusual, cool, and imaginative directions. As is typically the case with anthologies, I can't say that all of them were home runs for me, but a lot of them were. I was most impressed by the entries from Max Booth III (who wrote about Robert Stroud, the Birdman of Alcatraz) and Glenn Gray (whose stock in trade, gruesome medical oddities, worked beaut * Disclaimer * I am the author of one of the stories in this collection. The editors took a great idea and let the authors run with it in some really unusual, cool, and imaginative directions. As is typically the case with anthologies, I can't say that all of them were home runs for me, but a lot of them were. I was most impressed by the entries from Max Booth III (who wrote about Robert Stroud, the Birdman of Alcatraz) and Glenn Gray (whose stock in trade, gruesome medical oddities, worked beautifully here).

  6. 4 out of 5

    David Bridges

    Another great release, from in my opinion one of the strongest indie publishers out there, Broken River Books. This, obviously, is an Alcatraz themed anthology that happens to be stacked with some of the tightest writers of contemporary noir. All of the stories, while centered around the infamous Alcatraz, are original and creative in their own ways. Some are just good stories with Alcatraz in the backdrop while others delve inside the prison and reminded me of why I loved shows like OZ. I never Another great release, from in my opinion one of the strongest indie publishers out there, Broken River Books. This, obviously, is an Alcatraz themed anthology that happens to be stacked with some of the tightest writers of contemporary noir. All of the stories, while centered around the infamous Alcatraz, are original and creative in their own ways. Some are just good stories with Alcatraz in the backdrop while others delve inside the prison and reminded me of why I loved shows like OZ. I never have and never want to spend time on that side of the bars in prison, but I can’t help but be fascinated by art set in an environment that is so ripe for violence, corruption, and humanity. Hard Sentences covers all of that for sure. I enjoyed all of the stories but just wanted to make a few notes on a couple of them that I loved. Starting with the opening story, Break, which is a gruesome body horror type story that got my attention for sure. Next, The Children and the Gardner by Amber Sparks is the short dark tale (Shortest in the book I think) but definitely one of my favorites. There are a couple of great stories by more seasoned writers of hard noir fiction like Nick Mamatas and Les Edgerton. Clean Shot by Jedidiah Ayres is another of my favorites in this collection. It is an incredible meditation on mental illness and the tribulations of life with an incredible ending. I think it is a flawless short story. I will be grabbing for Ayres’ collection soon. Gabino Iglesias’ Creeping is a wicked story of shadow horror that is just right up my alley. I have read a good amount of Max Booth III’s work, and his story Roller Canary is just another great addition to his body of work. It has all the cynicism, acrimony, and heart that I love in Booth III’s work. I have read most of the authors in this anthology previous to reading this book with the exception of a couple, Leah Rhyne’s The Music Box was one of the pleasant surprises that will be leading me to more of her writing in the future. That is one of the reasons I like to read anthologies. As I said before all of the stories in this collection are good in their own way. The book flows well and most of the stories are 10ish pages. I tend to like longer stories but Hard Sentences kept me flipping pages to the end. Kudos to Broken River, Joe Clifford and David James Keaton (who has a hilarious introduction in this book, something about slam dunking severed heads). Alcatraz or no Alcatraz if you like great stories then pick up this book. Just keep in mind that once you are inside no one ever escapes.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Thomas Pluck

    Some real good stories in here, especially liked Iglesias, Sparks, Shaw, and Rory Costello's.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Scott Cumming

    This is a pretty solid collection of stories based around Alcatraz and I guess the reason it's ended up with a three star rating is due to the monotony in tone that's carried throughout the stories. They're all as hard and tough as the prison itself was and there just weren't enough stories that truly grabbed me. The opening story "Break" by Glenn Gray is excellent and sets us up with what you'd expect from an Alcatraz collection with an ingenius escape plan. There are a few more of these types o This is a pretty solid collection of stories based around Alcatraz and I guess the reason it's ended up with a three star rating is due to the monotony in tone that's carried throughout the stories. They're all as hard and tough as the prison itself was and there just weren't enough stories that truly grabbed me. The opening story "Break" by Glenn Gray is excellent and sets us up with what you'd expect from an Alcatraz collection with an ingenius escape plan. There are a few more of these types of stories, but there's plenty madness here too with Whitey Bulger LSD experiments, cyanide filled millipedes, banjo picking Al Capone, The Birdman and Johnny Cash coming to play. My favourite story was very much of a different flavour in Rory Costello's "The Sympathizers" which recounts the tale of Confederate sympathizers speaking ill of Abe Lincoln following his assassination and being decreed to be forced labour at Alcatraz. It offered up lots I didn't know about whereas other stories hit upon the well worn myths of the prison. "The Eighth" by Johnny Shaw was the other tale that I really enjoyed about the wife of an inmate coming to visit her husband on the eighth of each month.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Philip Omdahl

    Alcatraz Crime Fiction Yes, truly fiction. In some ways a bit weird but all fictional. However, one might say otherwise to think some of these stories have a ring of truth-somewhere.

  10. 5 out of 5

    David Keaton

    These sentences were hard. Wish they would have warned me somehow.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Kelby Losack

  12. 4 out of 5

    Steven Jorgenson

  13. 5 out of 5

    Joe

  14. 5 out of 5

    Michael

  15. 4 out of 5

    Alex

  16. 5 out of 5

    Tanya

  17. 4 out of 5

    Nick Kolakowski

  18. 5 out of 5

    Mark

  19. 4 out of 5

    Carrie Laben

  20. 5 out of 5

    Joe Quenell

  21. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth A.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Frederic

  23. 5 out of 5

    Joshua Chaplinsky

  24. 4 out of 5

    Meghan

  25. 4 out of 5

    Ryan Ram

  26. 5 out of 5

    Randy

  27. 4 out of 5

    Turi

  28. 5 out of 5

    Jamie Piper

  29. 5 out of 5

    Kim Friant

  30. 5 out of 5

    Shelley

  31. 4 out of 5

    Melly Mel

  32. 4 out of 5

    Micielle

  33. 4 out of 5

    Frederick Rotzien

  34. 4 out of 5

    Cynthia Daniel

  35. 5 out of 5

    Samantha

  36. 5 out of 5

    Nicola Fantom

  37. 4 out of 5

    Betty

  38. 4 out of 5

    Patricia Atkinson

  39. 5 out of 5

    Brandon Fritz

  40. 5 out of 5

    Mary A.

  41. 4 out of 5

    Daniel Muscat

  42. 5 out of 5

    Laura Pritchard

  43. 5 out of 5

    Edgar Connell

  44. 5 out of 5

    Eileen

  45. 4 out of 5

    Lisa Henderson-Farr

  46. 5 out of 5

    Emma

  47. 4 out of 5

    Shawn Manning

  48. 5 out of 5

    Emily

  49. 5 out of 5

    Lana

  50. 5 out of 5

    Agnes

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