The Edge of Lost
On a cold night in October 1937, searchlights cut through the darkness around Alcatraz. A prison guard's only daughter—one of the youngest civilians who lives on the island—has gone missing. Tending the warden's greenhouse, convicted bank robber Tommy Capello waits anxiously. Only he knows the truth about the little girl's whereabouts, and that both of their lives depend on the search's outcome.
Almost two decades earlier and thousands of miles away, a young boy named Shanley Keagan ekes out a living as an aspiring vaudevillian in Dublin pubs. Talented and shrewd, Shan dreams of shedding his dingy existence and finding his real father in America. The chance finally comes to cross the Atlantic, but when tragedy strikes, Shan must summon all his ingenuity to forge a new life in a volatile and foreign world.
Skillfully weaving these two stories, Kristina McMorris delivers a compelling novel that moves from Ireland to New York to San Francisco Bay. As her finely crafted characters discover the true nature of loyalty, sacrifice, and betrayal, they are forced to confront the lies we tell—and believe—in order to survive.
Behind the Story
I was searching online one day when I happened across an intriguing documentary titled Children of Alcatraz. The compilation of interviews featured people who had grown up on Alcatraz Island as children of the prison staff, some even claiming to have secretly befriended notorious inmates despite rules to prevent any contact. By the end of the video, I knew I had a story to tell, one of a hardened prisoner whose acquaintance with the young daughter of a guard would lead to irreversible consequences.
When I researched Alcatraz further, I was just as surprised to learn about an inmate named Elliot Michener. As an entrusted passman, he had been assigned to work in the warden's mansion, where he later built and tended a greenhouse, and was even granted special permission to work outdoors seven days a week under limited supervision. The paradoxical setting fascinated me: one of a colorful, peaceful haven meant for nurturing and growth, set next to a bleak concrete prison where lives often withered.
During a night tour on Alcatraz, surrounded by the steel bars and cold gray walls of a cell, I gained a sense of appreciation for the respite found in that greenhouse. And when I boarded the boat to leave, I took with me a notepad full of astounding facts about the infamous prison, the inmates who once lived there, and escape attempts that often ended in tragedy.