Alcatraz: The True End of the Line is an autobiography by Darwin E. Coon, an ex-con who served four years on Alcatraz, the world’s most notorious prison. He tells the story of his life, everything from his childhood to his criminal capers, to the stints he pulled at various prisons and jails. It’s a short book, only 144 pages, and it’s not written that well (but that’s to be expected from an ex-con I suppose). But Darwin had an interesting life and he has some pretty amazing stories.
I actually knew Darwin. He was a regular at the restaurant that I work at in San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf, and we both went to the same dive bar. He would go to Alcatraz a few times a week and sell his book to tourists and he made a killing. He would tell us stories and buy us drinks. He would talk about how he used to chase the girls, and how much easier they were to catch back then. He was the local celebrity and couldn’t walk down the street without somebody recognizing him and saying hello. He was quite the character, but he was also an ex-con and you couldn’t forget that. One day he got banned from the dive bar for threatening to kill the bartender for cutting him off. He got sick not long after and became spotted less and less frequently around the Wharf. There came a day when I spotted his name in the obituaries and I knew that an era had ended. They held his memorial service at the dive bar. Darwin passed away a few years ago, but every now and then I’ll see The Rock on my way to work and think about him.
I can’t say that Alcatraz: The True End of the Line is a good book because I’m obviously biased. But I can say that Darwin Coon had an interesting life story and it won’t take long to read about it. The guy robbed banks and escaped from police custody and served time with famous criminals. He has anecdotes about kidnapping and people getting shanked in the mess hall. He lived a life that few have experienced, and this book lets you catch a glimpse of that world. R.I.P. Darwin E. Coon, Alcatraz Inmate #1422.
Critically Rated at 12/17
Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young