In 1936 the FBI arrested Alvin Karpis in New Orleans. He was the leader, along with Freddie Barker, of the Karpis/Barker gang of outlaws. (The FBI falsely claimed that Freddie's mother, Ma Barker, was the leader of the gang only after they killed the old lady with her son Freddie in Florida.) Alvin Karpis was wanted for 14 murders at the time of his arrest, but none could be proven. He was given a life sentence on a kidnapping charge and sent to the mysterious super-prison in San Francisco - Alcatraz. For 25 years Alcatraz housed the most dangerous criminals, and inside the walls and cells, bloody death, sexual perversity, and the brutality of guards were commonplace.Karpis describes the black hole - solitary confinement - and tells of the violent deaths of the cons who failed in their bids for freedom. "On the Rock" is Karpis's personal story of the desperate and insane who lead a timeless existence on the rock of Alcatraz Island.Karpis describes his fellow inmates: Al Capone, "Machine-Gun" Kelly, Doc Barker, Robert Stroud (the "Bird-Man of Alcatraz"), and (at McNeil Island) a young Charlie Manson whom Karpis taught to play guitar. His descriptions often contradict public mythologies about the infamous criminals. This special edition in 2008 has an author's appendix describing Alvin Karpis's life after prison for 10 years before his death in Spain in 1979.
In the history of American crime, the FBI tagged only four men as Public Enemy Number One - John Dillenger, "Pretty Boy" Floyd, "Baby Face" Nelson and Alvin "Creepy" Karpis. All but Karpis met violent ends. In 1936, Karpis, the last of the Public Enemies was captured and given a life sentence on a kidnapping charge to be served in Alcatraz. He served more years in Alcatraz 1936-1962 than any other prisoner. Karpis was transferred to McNeil Island Penitentiary in 1962 and released in 1969. He lived for 10 years until his death in Spain in 1979.
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