Folsom's 93

The Lives and Crimes of Folsom Prison's Executed Men

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Book Review from NewPages

Thank you, New Pages for the nice review of Folsom’s 93!


“The matter-of-fact detailing of events in the entries does not make for dull reading. These individual stories are not only mini-biographies but also an informal history of California.”

Check it out HERE.

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Review of Folsom’s 93


Fellow history author and researcher-extraordinaire, J’aime Rubio took the time to review Folsom’s 93. What did she have to say? Check it out HERE. While you’re at it, I encourage you to stick around and read some of her fascinating articles on mystery, murder and mayhem. You may recall I reviewed her bookBehind the Walls: A Historical Expose of The Preston School of Industry, an intriguing investigation into the murderous past of one of California’s famous reform schools. A great read.

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More Guest Blogger Fun

Folsom's 93

If you get a chance, check out my guest post on Patricia Stoltey’s blog. Pat is a good friend and fellow writer who is the author of two published mysteries. She has a great blog of book reviews, author interviews and everything writerly. 

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What Lies Behind the Walls


Author J’aime Rubio spent four years researching and compiling just a few of the many chilling stories that came out of the Preston School of Industry in Ione, California. From 1894 to 1960, the reform school, often referred to as “Preston Castle,”  garnered a cruel and murderous reputation. The Castle has been featured on several television shows including Ghost Hunters and Ghost Adventures, among others, but no one has done more research and investigating than Rubio. In Behind the Walls: A Historical Expose of The Preston School of Industry, Rubio has uncovered countless true tales of what went on behind the castle walls that not only involve suspicious deaths and unsolved murders, but tales of unlikely triumphs from former wards. Truly, a fascinating read. My only knowledge of the school came from bits and pieces of my own findings while researching for my book. Two of Folsom’s 93 “served terms” at Preston:


#44, George Donnelly

Curiously, the document pictured above lists Donnelly as an Ione ward in 1884, ten years before the reform school opened. I suspect it’s a typo, possibly meaning 1894 instead. According to Behind the Walls, a young James O’Donnell was among Ione’s first seven wards in 1894. At this point, I can only speculate, but could this be the same man?

Then we have #53, Felix Sloper.


One of six children, abused by an alcoholic father who later abandoned the family, Sloper spent much of his young life in and out of prisons. He began with the Preston School of Industry, where he served two separate terms; one for seven years, one for two,  and then escaped in 1914. (In January 1915, police arrested Sloper’s mother on a statuary charge after she married another man while still married to her childrens’ father. This earned her the nickname, “Sloper the Eloper.”)

Rubio, a former skip tracer, does a fantastic job unraveling these mysterious and often chilling tales, and bringing them to light, particularly the tragic 1950 murder of Preston housekeeper, Anna Corbin. The Preston Castle undoubtedly holds countless other secrets, but they’re no match for Rubio and her unyielding drive to seek the truth. You can order Rubio’s book on Amazon, or via her website. A dollar from each sale goes to the Preston Castle Foundation.

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Book Review: Keep it Real, edited by Lee Gutkind

When it comes to writing, my first love is fiction, so when I took on a nonfiction project, I had no idea where to begin. I knew how I wanted my book to read, but I wasn’t sure how to get there.

As the Chinese proverb says, to know the road ahead, ask those coming back, I turned to the experts, namely Lee Gutkind, a creative nonfiction guru. In Keep it Real, various authors contribute their sage advice in this 161-page book. The chapters follow an ABC format and are laden with examples from published nonfiction. Gutkind covers all the bases with short and concise chapters that give practical advice concerning everything from the legalities of writing nonfiction, to deciding whose story to tell.

One contributor (although a list of authors are named in the beginning, the chapters are not credited) discusses the importance of research and immersing oneself in the subject:

 “By staying close to the informational, journalistic roots of creative nonfiction, by simply hanging out in the world and paying close attention, we may find that a large chunk of that mundane fact collecting and routine research will lead to untold stories and to  places that we, as writers and readers, didn’t know we could go.”

 The purpose behind the book is to teach writers that nonfiction doesn’t have to be a boring narration of facts; there is a place for imagination in nonfiction, in fact, it’s imperative. Gutkind urges writers to become the reader’s “tour guide” by “[leading] a reader on a journey, allowing her to discover parts of the world that she might not normally see.”

 Keep it Real is a great read for memoirists. There are several chapters devoted or pertaining to those who are telling their own stories.

 “A good memoir offers readers a human connection. A good memoir uses life experience, not to go more deeply into the self but to reach out to others. A good memoirist makes connections. A good memoirist’s primary goal is to show us something true about ourselves, about what it means to be human.”

 Keep it Real is an easy to follow, quick read with a plethora of examples to learn from. It opened my eyes to the different ways to effectively approach creative nonfiction (including 14 different point-of-view options)! While the book stresses the importance of writing nonfiction creatively, it also shows how important the writer keep it real.