Rock Hard: Autobiography of Former Alcatraz Inmate Leon ""Whitey"" Thompson

Leon Whitney Thompson, Author, Eric Tobias, Editor
Leon Whitney Thompson, Author, Eric Tobias, Editor Pocket Books $6.99 (384p) ISBN 978-0-671-74363-5
Reviewed on: 02/28/1994
Release date: 03/01/1994
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Thompson spent the years 1958-1962 in the notorious Alcatraz prison in San Francisco Bay, and his book offers some interesting Alcatraz tales. However, the book also tells Thompson's entire life story, and despite the 70-year-old author's grit, the third-person narrative is burdened by excessive detail, cliched writing and dubiously reconstructed dialogue. Thompson recounts a troubled youth at the hands of a violent father, an early career as an armed robber and his betrayal by a confederate. Sentenced in 1948 to 15 years for bank robbery and other crimes, Thompson's volatile behavior earned him a transfer to Alcatraz. He describes a dog-eat-dog world, in which he would test his cell's light bulb daily for explosives and barely avoided killing a snitch. Despite an absence of rehabilitation programs, Thompson, prompted by a fellow inmate, took up painting and kept his cool when scapegoated for an escape. Released thanks to a court decision that while the ``robbery charges were within the law, . . .the shotgun charge was wrong,'' Thompson struggled to rebuild his life, serving two more prison terms before meeting a woman who not only became his soulmate but also encouraged him to lecture about his experiences and write this book. (Mar.)
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