Star Valley Man Imagines Life After Alcatraz

Local author writes novel speculating on the fate of the escapees his father’s book made famous

Kevin Bruce

Kevin Bruce

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Writing is part of Kevin Bruce’s genetic code. His father, J. Campbell Bruce, wrote for the San Francisco Chronicle for many years, was a Sunday stringer for the New York Times, wrote for Readers Digest and authored the non-fiction book, “Escape from Alcatraz,” which inspired a successful movie starring Clint Eastwood.

Bruce himself has authored two books on art published by Random House’s Ten Speed Press.

“I always wanted to write fiction, but I didn’t know what to write,” he said.

A couple of years ago he attended a book signing by Michael Connelly, author of award-winning detective novels including those featuring LAPD Detective Hieronymus “Harry” Bosch and criminal defense attorney Mickey Haller. Connelly was the president of the Mystery Writers of America from 2003 to 2004 Bruce said Connelly gave the age-old advice, “Write what you know.”

During the course of the event, Bruce had an opportunity to speak with Connelly’s intellectual rights attorney. He told her about his father’s non-fiction and touched upon his idea to write about the imagined post-escape lives of the men at the center of “Escape from Alcatraz.” He said she was intrigued by the idea and very encouraging.

Not convinced to leap feet-first into the task of creating a realistic world and imagined full lives, Bruce continued to mull things over.

Initially he thought about writing a treatment (outline) for a screenplay on exactly how the escape was made and fill in with chases and manhunts, etc. Then he decided to do a story of the protagonists’ lives following the escape.

With the help of his good friend, Ken Gunderson, he wrote the treatment he had in mind and sent it to his daughter, who works in the movie industry.

“She told me what I had was a novel, not a movie,” Bruce said.

The story details the lives of the three men who escaped from Alcatraz June 11, 1962. He calls them Frank Morris and the Anglin brothers, who assume the identities of Christopher Stokes and John and Charles Daniels.

Stokes’ trek from Alcatraz to a small Montana town is the main thrust of the book. The Stokes story is populated by the people who took him in, helped him grow and learn to trust and create a full, new life.

Bruce said he followed Connelly’s advice by incorporating into the book what he knew about art.

Bruce said after mulling over the idea of the story, he finally started writing his book in October 2011 and had it available for purchase on the 50th anniversary of the actual escape from Alcatraz.

The genetic code having to do with writing came into play. He said his father believed in the power of the creative subconscious — if you try to force all the stuff going around in your head into what you are writing, it won’t work; if you let it be, the time to write it will come and you won’t be able to stop it.

He wrote his book, “Still Water,” first and now has it available for sale on amazon.com and through his own Web site, Kevinbrucebooks.com.

To hear Bruce discuss his work, contact him at Shadowsky@AOL.COM.

While he didn’t get a screenplay from the story he wanted to tell, he is still hoping it might be picked up and turned into a movie. Perhaps the star who made his father’s work famous — Clint Eastwood, will play Stokes as an older fellow.

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