Alcatraz Ghost Story
Roy Gardner’s Amazing Train Robberies, Escapes, and Lifelong Love
- 264 Pages
- January 23, 2024
- ISBN: 9781510778245
- Imprint: Skyhorse Publishing
- Trim Size: 6in x 9in x 0in
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.
“Brian Stannard brings history to life in Alcatraz Ghost Story. Roy Gardner is the most infamous bandit most people have never heard of.”
––Cynthia Schreiner Smith, co-author of Alvin Karpis and the Barker Gang in Minnesota and co-owner of Cyn City Gangster and History Tours of St. Paul
“A riveting true story of hard living, heartbreak, and loss that also happens to include train robberies. In page-turning prose, Stannard reminds us that reality is always stranger than fiction. A must read for fans of US western history and jailbreaks.”
––Jason De León, author of The Land of Open Graves and Soldiers and Kings
“A brilliant lost brother to the iconic You Can’t Win by Jack Black. Brian Stannard’s Alcatraz Ghost Story tells the life of Roy Gardner, a charismatic gambler, thief, and eventual convict at Alcatraz. Part history, part cautionary tale, and part love story. This is a wild ride of a book about a larger-than-life criminal trying to navigate the modern Progressive Era.”
––Willy Vlautin, author of Lean on Pete and The Motel Life.