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The prison record of Number 594, Alcatraz, Robert Stroud- who for the last 39 years has survived the living death of an isolation cell, provides the life story of a lifer, which has many fantastic features. The victim of a bitter home, Stroud ran away at 13, at 19 killed a man to protect a prostitute, and drew 12 years in McNeil, a hard prison. Unstable physically and mentally, he killed a guard in 1916, was sentenced to hang, and only after several trials and his mother's appeal to Woodrow Wilson, faced instead a future of indefinite solitude in Leavenworth. Three baby sparrows which he raised- and trained-were to give him an interest which led to the care and breeding of canaries in his cell; he fashioned a cage out of a soapbox; he studied intensively (his formal education had ended in the third grade), experimented with diseases and cures (and found one for septic fever which is identical to poultry scourge), became an authority- by correspondence, wrote a standard book on the subject. New restrictions began to cripple his profession, and with a transfer to Alcatraz his wings were really clipped and he was forced to give up his birds. There he studied law- and penology- and attempted to secure a pardon- but his health failed, along with his morale. He is now 65- and there is little time left for the dream of release- and the pursuit of his avian affairs... Along with pity and anger, Stroud's story commands a tremendous respect for the intelligence and resignation of the man who could not redeem his youth.

Pub Date: Sept. 12th, 1955
Publisher: Random House