Letters From Alcatraz

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Through a series of e-mail messages, Letters from Alcatraz invites the reader inside a man's heart and mind. As C.J. comes of age in San Francisco, he meets and falls in love with Diana. Diana is a beautiful young woman who from the tender age of one lived on Alcatraz Island. He spends the following forty years living two separate lives, the life that he shares with Diana; the other life that he fears Diana will find out about someday.

C.J. struggles as he indulges in a ...

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Letters from Alcatraz: Forty Years Later

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Through a series of e-mail messages, Letters from Alcatraz invites the reader inside a man's heart and mind. As C.J. comes of age in San Francisco, he meets and falls in love with Diana. Diana is a beautiful young woman who from the tender age of one lived on Alcatraz Island. He spends the following forty years living two separate lives, the life that he shares with Diana; the other life that he fears Diana will find out about someday.

C.J. struggles as he indulges in a lifestyle that is rife with sex, drugs, and rock & roll; a lifestyle that leads to trouble at each and every turn. His other lifestyle, the one he shares with Diana, is what he desperately wants to protect. Over the course of a year, C.J. finally opens up to a complete stranger, sharing his most intimate thoughts and memories as well as his deepest and darkest secrets.

The story that unfolds is brutally honest, compassionate, and heartfelt. As you find yourself rooting for the bad boy, you will also find yourself questioning everything that you thought you knew about emotions and deceit.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781426926136
  • Publisher: Trafford Publishing
  • Publication date: 2/11/2010
  • Pages: 152
  • Sales rank: 1,036,993
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Tina Westbrook became fascinated with Alcatraz at the age of fifteen after watching Escape from Alcatraz which starred Clint Eastwood. Through the years she has done extensive research, learning the history of Alcatraz as well as life in San Francisco during the 1960s. Tina lives in Alabama with her husband and their family.
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Read an Excerpt

Letters from Alcatraz

40 Years Later
By Tina Westbrook

Trafford Publishing

Copyright © 2010 Tina Westbrook
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4269-2614-3

Chapter One

Escape Proof

Good Morning Tina!

Welcome to what I hope is a long and mutual friendship. This site is not just for alumni classmates. This is a place where we can all come together, share stories, photo's, reconnect with old friends and build new relationships. It is good to open your heart and mind to new people, new friendships and new experiences. From the moment I stumbled across your photo's in the photography group I knew we would get along just fine. For we have something in common; Alcatraz!

May your guardian angel always walk with you!

Your friend, C.J

As I boarded the plane I found myself wishing that I had booked a flight that originated in Birmingham and not one that was simply picking up more passengers. Those that were already on the plane appeared quite comfortable and as I made my way to my seat I noticed the look of irritation creeping up on some passengers faces. They acted as if their entire lives were being inconvenienced by the person that had purchased the seat next to them.

Row 10 seat B is where I would be spending the next six hours. As I approached row 10 I immediately took notice of the two gentlemen that I would be sandwiched between. The gentleman sitting in the aisle seat looked up and smiled.

"Excuse me ... I'm sorry" was all I could think to say.

Mr. Aisle seat stood up and let me in. Thank God I didn't bring any carry on luggage! Just my purse and my file folder!

I sat down, fastened my seat belt and placed my purse under the seat in front of me. The flight attendant began her usual pre-flight instructions and I suddenly found myself becoming irritated. The gentleman sitting in the window seat next to me was reading his newspaper, but he wasn't reading it to himself, he was reading it out loud! Not so loud that the entire plane could hear him, but loud enough that / could hear him. I momentarily closed my eyes wishing that he would shut the hell up.

Once in the air, Mr. Aisle seat lowered his tray and placed his lap top on it. I quickly realized that I would need to occupy my time or continue to listen to Mr. Window seat read the entire Marietta Daily Journal.

As I ran my hands across the file folder that was resting in my lap I was reminded of two of my favorite quotes: Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the number of moments that take our breath away. I have no idea who first said those words, but they have stayed with me since hearing them. My other favorite quote came from C. J. He wrote these words in one of his e-mail messages and I have never forgotten them. To leave this world having not expressed how you feel is sad, but to live in this world and not express how you feel is a tragedy.

I opened the file folder and began to read.


Thank you Tina for sharing your story and photo albums! I too have taken many photos of Alcatraz during the period of 1966 to 1971. My Father in Law was a penal officer on Alcatraz. After the prison closed in 1963 he and his wife remained on the island until 1971. They were contracted by GSA as caretakers of the property. I will never forget the first night I spent on Alcatraz. It was a very foggy night and the fog horn kept blasting all night long; every 30 seconds. At that time I was dating Diana, Jake's youngest daughter. The year was 1966. Many weekends Diana and I would spend leisure time on Alcatraz visiting her mom and dad. It was easy to get lost in time while being in the center of the San Francisco Bay. It truly is paradise. In those days a 300 yard off limit regulation was posted, if offended action was required.

Here's a pic from Alcatraz 1971. This was the last time I was on the island.

I will write again soon.

Take care, C.J.

Reading that first letter from C. J. about his time at Alcatraz filled me with excitement. I have been intrigued and fascinated with Alcatraz since seeing the movie "Escape From Alcatraz" in 1980. I was fifteen years old at the time and the movie left me wanting more. What ever happened to the men that escaped? Did they get off the island and begin new lives, or did they drown as many suspected? If they did drown, why were their bodies never recovered? I chose to believe that they truly escaped. They made it across the icy waters and disappeared; never to be heard from again.

It was March 1999 when I visited Alcatraz for the first time. Although I was excited to spend time in San Francisco, and experience this place that I had heard so much about, I was ecstatic about going to Alcatraz. I would walk the corridors of Alcatraz. I would see where and how the inmates of Alcatraz lived. I would, with my very own eyes, see how they escaped.

It was a very cold day and there was a light mist. I remember thinking how cold is that water? and then wondering how cold it was when the inmates escaped. Add to that the fact that it was night time and that was no short swim. Could they make it?

As I boarded the ferry I began to feel chilled to the bone. I vividly remember shaking and praying that we got to the island quickly. The wind was whipping through my hair and the water gently sprayed me. I removed my camera from my camera bag and attempted to get as many shots as possible. The entire time I was attempting to shoot I mumbled to myself. I was mad at myself for bringing such a large camera. I was mad because my hair kept flying into the lens. And, because I was shooting with film, I had no idea if any of the photographs would be worth the paper that they would be printed on. I finally calmed myself down by telling myself that I would get better shots once off the ferry. And, the real treat would be inside the prison. That's where everything happened.

As I exited the ferry I was filled with anticipation and excitement. My mind was racing and I couldn't hear anything that anyone was saying. It was as if my imagination took over and no one else was around. I immediately thought of the inmates that served time at Alcatraz. As they arrived on the island what were they thinking? For a moment, a very brief moment, I could visualize Al Capone stepping off a ferry and thinking you have got to be kidding me. What would someone think? Alcatraz had been billed as escape proof.

In 1962 three men disappeared from Alcatraz. Whether they lived to tell the tale remains a mystery. Frank Morris, Clarence Anglin, and his brother John escaped from Alcatraz on June 11, 1962. Their daring escape was made famous by the movie "Escape From Alcatraz", which starred Clint Eastwood and was directed by Don Siegel. Prison Authorities concluded that all three escapees had drowned, but their bodies were never recovered. Undoubtedly the most famous escape, but this was not the first escape from The Rock.

Alcatraz Island was seized by the United States in 1846. Work began on fortifications in 1853 and in 1857 a citadel was constructed. In 1861 the fort was designated as the official U.S. Army prison for the western states and territories. Between 1908 and 1911 the citadel was demolished and replaced by the present reinforced concrete cellhouse.

The most successful escape from Alcatraz occurred on November 28, 1918. Four prisoners managed to escape with rafts. The authorities assumed they had drowned in the San Francisco Bay, but they later appeared in Sutro Forest. One of the prisoners was recaptured, leaving the remaining three unaccounted for.

In 1934 Alcatraz was converted into a Federal prison. The old military prison was upgraded and equipped with the latest "escape-proof" safeguards. Authorities were convinced that the treacherous waters of the San Francisco Bay would be a major barrier to those who attempted to escape. However, in 1933, one year before converting the old military prison, three girls were able to prove that it wasn't impossible to swim across the bay successfully.

On December 16, 1937, just three years after Alcatraz was converted into a Federal prison Theodore Cole and Ralph Roe disappeared from Alcatraz. They were never seen again. Four years later a reporter from the San Francisco Chronicle declared they were still alive and living in South America.

Twenty five years to the day that Cole and Roe escaped John Paul Scott would make the last escape from Alcatraz. At the age of 35 John Paul Scott swam from the island to Fort Point, under the southern part of the Golden Gate Bridge, proving that it could be done by a convict.

Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary was officially closed on March 21, 1963.

As a Military Prison there have been eighty documented attempted escapes in twenty nine separate attempts. Sixty two of the men were caught, one may have drowned and seventeen are unknown.

As a Federal Penitentiary and from a total of 1,033 inmates, thirty four men had attempted to escape in fourteen separate attempts. Twenty three were caught, six were shot and killed, and five are missing. Prison authorities assumed the five missing men drowned.

On October 12, 1972 Alcatraz became part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and is currently managed by the National Park Service.

Chapter Two

Falling in love with Diana and Alcatraz


Hello Tina,

Here's hoping you're well. I've been giving much thought to my days spent at Alcatraz and it occurred to me that to tell the story properly you should know how I came to experience Alcatraz.

In 1966 I was 23 years old and dating a beautiful young lady, Diana. To this day I speak her name and feel the rush of excitement as I had as a young man.

I met Diana in San Francisco and it was surely a time that I, nor anyone that was alive in 1966 and living in the Bay area, will ever forget. Life was different than it is today. I truly feel privileged to have come into my own in a place as vibrant and alive as San Francisco. This is surely before your time, but there's a song "I left my heart in San Francisco" and it holds true for me.

Some do not believe in love at first sight, but as I locked eyes with Diana for the first time, I knew that love at first sight truly existed. For at that moment I fell in love and that love continues today. It has endured 40 years.

"Excuse me ... Ma'am ... excuse me" I looked over at Mr. Window seat. "I'm sorry to bother you, but I need to get up". Great ... one hour of reading to everyone on the plane and he needs to get up. I swiveled my legs toward Mr. Aisle seat and let Mr. Window seat go past.

"Are you going to California for pleasure or business?" Okay ... now Mr. Aisle seat wants to strike up a conversation.

"I'm not really sure how to answer that question. Pleasure I guess".

Mr. Aisle seat looked at me as if he didn't quite understand my reply. "I'm going to meet someone that I've been corresponding with for about a year or so".

Now looking even more puzzled he replied "Oh ... internet relationship?"

In that moment I couldn't help myself but to laugh. Internet relationship? Oh my God! He thinks I'm going to California to hook up with someone! "No. Well, yes. I don't know how to answer that. I've been corresponding with someone, but it's not like that! The man that I'm going to meet is 63 years old. He's become a very dear friend". Mr. Aisle seat shook his head as if to say Uh huh, I bet! and then lowered his head and went back to reading his newspaper.


Hello Tina!

I'm keeping my promise as I said I would send you some personal accounts of my experience on Alcatraz Island. On Alcatraz one can barely hear the bustling city of San Francisco. During the day many boats would push the 300 yard off limit distance one could come within the island. Twice a year sailboats would race the San Francisco Regatta. It is a picture sight to see the bellowing sails as the boats tack close in a circular formation between the Golden Gate Bridge and Sausalito. On any given day one could see all different types of water craft pass by Alcatraz Island. The Navy has installations at Treasure Island and Alamedia. Ships such as battleships to flat top carriers and submarines would pass by.

In 1967 Diana and I were married on Alcatraz. All guests had to be approved by General Service Administrations. Guests were limited to one hundred and fifty. We invited mostly close friends and family. Because of the notoriety at the time many vendors agreed to perform services for free; just to have the privilege to come on the island. It was a big deal back then.

Flowers, entertainment, catering and transportation were provided close to nothing. Even the services from a local television station were provided at no cost. It was on their helicopter that Diana and I were lifted off the island as we waived goodbye from the air on that August 29, 1967 wedding day.

After returning from our honeymoon we discovered that the band had continued to play even after we left the island. To this day people continue to remark that it was the best wedding they have ever attended.

I will always regard that day as the best day of my life. One look at Diana is all I've ever needed to remind me that I was destined to love her.

I have lived a life that many people have only dreamed of. I have loved and been loved. Diana and I have grown together and sustained a loving relationship. The world has changed. Our country has changed. San Francisco has changed. Yet throughout the years, Diana has never changed. For that I am eternally grateful.

May God Bless you C.J.

"I'm back ... sorry ... excuse me." Mr. Window seat has returned. As he sat back down I closed my file folder and decided to close my eyes; perhaps take a cat nap, but Mr. Window seat had other plans.

"Do you live in Birmingham?" he asked. I opened my eyes and explained to him that I live about an hour northwest of Birmingham.

"Oh, so what takes ya to California?"

Oh God! Not this again! "Well, I'm going to see a friend."

At that point Mr. Aisle seat chimed in "Not really a friend, is he? I mean, you don't even know this guy, right?"

Mr. Window seat looked at me as if I had horns growing out of my head and before I could open my mouth he said "You're going to see some guy you don't know?!" Gee, thanks Mr. Aisle seat!

"Not exactly. I mean, no, I don't know him. I've never met him, but we've been writing to each other for over a year now".

Mr. Window seat had an expression of concern on his face. "I don't get it. Why? This guy could be a serial killer for all you know, and you're meeting him by yourself? I hope you're meeting him in a public place. You know, people come up missing all the time after meeting up with someone they met on the internet."

Yep ... Thanks Mr. Aisle seat! "It's not what you think. This gentleman is 63 years old. He's a friend that I've made a promise to and I intend on fulfilling that promise. Even if he is a serial killer!" Both just shook their heads and resumed their reading.


Good Morning My Dear Friend!

Here's hoping that today finds you well As I close my eyes and think back to 1966, the year that my life was forever changed, I realize that I have not shared with you "how" I met Diana. The date was August 29, 1966. This date is quite historical; that you will understand shortly.

The Beatles were performing at Candlestick Park, which is located in San Francisco. A very good friend of mine, sadly who has passed recently, had tickets and invited me to go with him. It was a Monday ... I'm certain of that. There are some things that one never forgets, in spite of what seems to be an insignificant detail. Paul, John, George and Ringo had just taken the stage and I suddenly felt liquid running down my back. I turned to find the most beautiful woman I had ever laid eyes on looking at me as though she wished she were anywhere else in the world. She immediately apologized and explained that her hand had been bumped. I told her that it was okay and we laughed it off. During the 33 minutes that the Beatles performed I found myself looking back at this beautiful lady on several occasions.

The moment the concert was over I once again turned to the woman that spilled the drink on me and she asked if I had dried out. I replied that I had indeed and asked her if she enjoyed the show. We began talking about our love of music, and more importantly, our love of the Beatles. After a few minutes I asked her name. Diana. Her name was Diana. Without thinking about the possibility that this beautiful woman could reject me in front of one of my best friends, I asked her if I could call her sometime. She smiled, said yes, and casually removed an ink pen from her purse. She reached for my hand and wrote her phone number on my palm. With that she walked away with her friends and I endured an hour of harassment from my friend.

August 29, 1966 is the day that changed my life. I met the woman that I would love for eternity and I was a part of history. There was no way of knowing at that point in time, but this would be the Beatles very last concert. They played for 33 minutes and during those 33 minutes I fell in love with my future and said goodbye to my past.

Have a wonderful day my friend C.J.


Excerpted from Letters from Alcatraz by Tina Westbrook Copyright © 2010 by Tina Westbrook. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 6 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 25, 2012

    Finished the books "Letters from Alcatraz" and "R

    Finished the books "Letters from Alcatraz" and "Return to Alcatraz" by Tina Tina Marie Westbrook . It's follows a man through letters he wrote to Tina about the sixties on. Back when it was hippies and free love. Not only how he was connected with Alcatraz and history of it but his crossroads in life and living two seperate ones.How he made choices and how he dealt with them . It makes you think of your own choices good or bad and what would you do. Both books were a really good read the books really suprised me it was so different in what I thought I was going to read. It's a must read. You could of knocked me over with a feather,truly shocked and suprised.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 3, 2013

    Sooo wierd

    What the hecko?

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 10, 2010

    Letters from Alcatraz, Forty years later

    Letters from Alcatraz is taken from a series of email messages from a young man coming of age in San Fransisco, a man leading two lives, one with a troubled past and one of undying love for a woman. The characters, the story and how the author wove it all together made it hard to put down. Letters is a story filled with passion, intrigue and will surely keep the book in your hands until your done. The author left the ending open and I'm sensing a sequel in the works. Letters is a wonderful escape from everyday life and I look forward to the next one from this author.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 16, 2010

    Letter from Alcatraz / Fourty Years Later / by Tina Westbrook

    "Letter from Alcatraz forty years later" Author Tina Westbrook creates a dramatic adventure taking the reader's into curves and thrills during periods the 1960s and 70s. Flashing back to Alcatraz & San Francisco,then being in the NOW...and advancing into the future. This story definately has a lift not one the reader would likely forget.

    I could not honestly put this book down, it was joyful, thrilling, sincere,honest,and heart felt. I loved the story,and the charitor.

    A must read book for every one.


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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 9, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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    Posted April 9, 2010

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