Black Bird Bookstore

Author Event w/Brian Stannard

Join Outer Sunset-based author Brian Stannard for a reading and signing of his book Alcatraz Ghost Story, the true tale of 'The Smiling Bandit' from the 1920s.

About 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.

Brian Stannard is a guide with Alcatraz Cellhouse Tours. Previously he delivered meals in San Francisco’s Tenderloin with Project Open Hand. When experiencing writer’s block, he paints, and his artwork is displayed in bars from the Mission District to Australia’s Gold Coast. He also illustrated the book You Don’t Know Jack. He lives in San Francisco with his wife and son.