I spend my days with convicted murderers.
Some are well-dressed in bow ties and collared shirts and jackets, their hair immaculately combed. One wears a bowler hat. I’d love to sit down and talk to them through their prison bars, but they’re all dead. “Hanged by the neck until dead,” as the courts ruled. Folsom Prison executed a total of ninety-three inmates, occurring between 1895 and 1937. Folsom’s 93: The Lives and Crimes of Folsom Prison’s Executed Men is the first book to profile in detail, the lives and crimes of these men, as well as the lives of their victims.
I became acquainted with these men when I was a child. Their mug shots sat tucked away in a closet at my Great-Great Aunt’s house for over four decades. Turns out her husband Tom, a self-described “professional gambler,” paid a visit to a Folsom inmate who owed him money. My Aunt figured the warden gave Tom the photographs, but she wasn’t sure. And there was something else. Stashed in the flat box was an original forty-page, typed document—author unknown—chronicling events at Folsom from its early planning stages in the 1850s to 1943.
It wasn’t until Tom’s death in the late seventies that the documents resurfaced. Ten years later, my Aunt showed them to the rest of the family. In 2008, I began the task of researching each man, his crimes and his victims. As a writer, I was enthralled. I knew there would be incredible stories to tell, but I had no idea I would uncover so much information.
Considering the book covers 42 years, involves hundreds of people, and takes place in a notorious prison, I have accumulated more information than what the book holds. Folsom’s 93 contains many sidebars of information and anecdotes relating to the 93 men and Folsom prison, but it was impossible to include everything. The surplus of these fascinating snippets of history couldn’t go untold, however, and I’ve included many of them on my blog. They deserve to be heard.
Visit me at AprilJMoore
Folsom’s 93 is undergoing an exciting revision containing newly discovered material and information! This brand new edition, complete with a new cover, will be released in 2023 under a new press and I couldn’t be more thrilled. This revision is something I’ve been wanting to do for quite some time and I promise, it will be worth the wait. In the meantime, I’ll try to share story tidbits and progress updates here on the blog.
Cover: Scomo Design
What are readers saying?
“A great deal of research went into this book, and that research has paid off … Accessible history and noir that doesn’t require reading in a linear fashion. A thoroughly enjoyable and enlightening read, well-written and accessible.” —Trina Drotar, Sacramento Press
“Folsom’s 93 makes for a powerful collection of insights that should be required for any California social history collection and many a general law enforcement and justice holding.” —Midwest Book Review
“Haunting photos … a vivid picture of life in late nineteenth and early twentieth century California. A thoughtful and interesting book.” —Laura Tarwater Scharp, San Francisco Book Review
“Truly, one of the finest debut books to be found.” –Dean M.
“Each story is interesting and told in a way only Moore could bring to life with an uncanny precision and style.” –Chuck B.
“If you love tales of history, true crime or any other history involving prisons and inmates, look no further….this book was awesome!!” –J’aime R.
“Moore does an excellent job of presenting each person’s back story, details of their crime(s), trial, appeals if any and execution. Recommended.” –Michael O.
January 26, 2010 at 5:08 pm
very cool, cant wait to read more!
April 25, 2011 at 7:34 pm
Fascinating. Can’t wait to see more!
July 18, 2011 at 12:13 pm
Just your exploration on this would make a good movie 🙂
February 3, 2012 at 8:32 am
This is a very cool idea for a book, April. Let me know when it is published.
February 3, 2012 at 10:10 am
Thanks, Dale. My publisher has Spring of 2013 for the release. Hopefully that doesn’t change.
February 9, 2012 at 7:36 am
Beautiful. Proud to say I know you. Kinda. In a weird typing way.
February 9, 2012 at 12:17 pm
Ha! Thanks. You too, in a weird typing way as well.
March 27, 2012 at 4:23 pm
I’ve been to Folsom prison a couple of times in the 90’s. My brother was incarcerated there for 13 years. This sounds like a fascinating project. Can’t wait to read more!
March 27, 2012 at 4:26 pm
Hey thanks! Folsom’s definitely a fascinating place. I’ve been there once and that was certainly enough for me.
March 27, 2012 at 4:31 pm
Old Folsom or new Folsom?
March 27, 2012 at 4:39 pm
Old Folsom. What about you?
March 27, 2012 at 4:50 pm
My brother was housed at Old Folsom initially, but I don’t think I visited him there. I just remember that the guards were kind of rude every time I went. When I went to interview someone at the Pollunsky unit in Texas, I was taken aback by how polite everyone was. Granted, Texas kills a lot more people than California, but at least the guards (or at least my experience with them) have been pleasant.
March 27, 2012 at 5:11 pm
Interesting. I can’t even imagine the mind set these guards need when working at prisons like Folsom. Not a job I’d want.
March 27, 2012 at 5:24 pm
I worked in a jail for four months and it was horrible.
March 27, 2012 at 8:28 pm
I could only imagine. I’m sure you could write a book on your experiences!
March 28, 2012 at 5:25 am
Well, now that you mention it, I am writing a book about my “death trip.” It began as my master’s thesis about people who worked with death in their professions. Now it’s more of a memoir of my experience.
An essay I wrote about my brother was published in Creative Nonfiction and a book called “Silence Kills.”
Prison and death are the two topics that I’m drawn to, so that’s why I’m very interested in your project.
March 28, 2012 at 7:38 am
I don’t know how people deal with death on a daily basis, so your book sounds like a very intriguing read. I guess now I know more about executions and prisons than I ever thought I would! And I find the prison industry and prison life incredibly fascinating, especially during the turn of the 20th century. Keep me posted on your progress with your book–I’d love to know more about it.
May 24, 2012 at 9:57 pm
April, Since talking to you via email this week, I have to tell you that your blog is absolutely amazing! I can’t wait to read your new book, too. From one writer to another I truly wish you all the best in your career and I will continue to read your work!! – J’aime Rubio
May 24, 2012 at 10:23 pm
Thank you, J’aime–that means a lot. You have a fantastic blog and I’m looking forward to your book, too!
June 18, 2012 at 7:12 pm
Looking forward to book in 2013.
A bit of a personal interest.
June 19, 2012 at 12:50 pm
Yes, it sounds like you have a connection to Folsom’s 3rd execution. Such a sad, yet fascinating case.
March 25, 2013 at 11:21 am
Very creative, insightful, meaningful, cool undertaking April
I want to see the movie. Bill
March 25, 2013 at 11:33 am
Thanks, Bill. I hope to see the movie, too!
May 31, 2013 at 9:41 pm
My dad worked at Folsom for many years. I remember going there as a child and eating in the mess hall….one inmate in particular made the best cherry pie in this world. We used to visit the guards that lived on the prison grounds, in Represa. When they built the ‘new folsom’, I got to tour it and go into the cells. It was all pretty neat. I also remember that one of my favorite books to read growing up was the execution records of the hung. My dad had turned negatives of the original records into books, and I would look at those all the time. I was fascinated by who they were and their crimes, and even the physical records that showed a minute by minute exam of the men as they hung was strangely neat to me. I often wondered if they really did do the crimes. I look forward to reading your book 🙂
June 1, 2013 at 8:32 am
Oh, wow. Is Jim your dad? I can only imagine the stories you have about Folsom. The fact that the best cherry pie you ever had was made by an inmate, is a story in of itself. We certainly shared the same fascination with Folsom’s executed men while growing up. My great-great- aunt had those mug shots and we used to love going through them and getting creeped out by their appearances. I always wanted to find out the stories behind the faces, but never imagined I’d be the one to research them and write a book about them! I also think that a few of them were innocent. I’ll be at the prison on July 20th for the initial book launch. I’m looking forward to being at the museum and hearing stories about Folsom.
June 1, 2013 at 9:38 am
I will try to be there for sure to meet you. My dad was Gil, and he used to do several things. At one point while growing up, he was the one (of several maybe) that took pics of when the inmates rioted or were killed. He had a distaste for Johnny Cash because he basically caused and encouraged rioting when he was there, and he met several of the movie stars during various filming. Of course this was either before I was born, or shortly after, so I don’t know these things personally. I guess if I were to think about it, it was weird being a child…running, skipping, and playing on the grounds ‘right next to’ convicted murderers and rapists, and all sorts of very violent gangs. Of course there was a huge wall and armed guards protecting us. My dad’s life has been threatened, my life has been threatened. You do grow up with a small realization of what people can really be capable of.
I haven’t been there in decades…since the new prison really. It will be nice to see the museum again. Sheesh, we used to buy the most amazing things from there..I wonder if you still can? Probably not…they don’t have the same tools and materials they used to have decades ago. Guess I’ll find out when I go there to meet you 🙂
June 1, 2013 at 10:22 am
I would love to get a chance to meet you—I hope you can make it. I think you and the retired guards who run the museum will have a great time swapping stories. That’s funny about Johnny Cash—I can see where your dad (and other guards) wouldn’t be thrilled with him. I’m looking forward to meeting you!
July 23, 2013 at 7:54 pm
I was out of town last Saturday when you visited the Folsom Prison Museum. However, I see that you will be at Time Tested Books tomorrow. I plan on attending and hopefully meeting you.
July 23, 2013 at 9:15 pm
I’m honored that you’ll be there and I’m looking forward to meeting you!
August 3, 2013 at 5:10 pm
@Amy Moore – Are you local to Sacramento/Folsom? I can’t wait to read this book. Also, where’d you do your research? If you don’t mind me asking.
August 3, 2013 at 8:53 pm
Hi, David. Thanks! No, I live in CO, but I spent a lot of time at the archives and state library in Sacramento, as well as the the Folsom Prison museum in order to gather research.
August 3, 2013 at 9:30 pm
Thanks for the information. I love the state library and as a history major, life long resident of Sacramento and grandson of a former Folsom Prison inmate I have to say thank you for preserving a little nugget of our history.
January 1, 2014 at 8:06 am
are you speaking about ur book soon here in northern colorado? I just hear a blurb on the radio.
January 1, 2014 at 9:31 am
I will be at Barnes & Noble at Centerra in Loveland this Sat the 4th from noon to 6. You heard a blurb about it on the radio?
March 26, 2015 at 3:10 pm
this book was very cool; a brilliant idea. there should be such a book for every prison where executions were conducted.
March 26, 2015 at 9:09 pm
Hey, thanks…glad you enjoyed it. I agree, there should be a book for every prison’s executions. Wow–the research!
April 2, 2015 at 2:54 pm
This looks excellent!
April 4, 2015 at 6:50 am
Thank you! I had a great time writing it. 🙂
February 8, 2016 at 7:54 pm
July 15, 2020 at 3:33 pm
I had a nice two years as free staff at FSP. I would love to read your book to add to my knowledge of the prison
September 5, 2021 at 2:42 pm
Hoping for the update 2022.