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   Karpis as a Teenager
Alvin Karpis
 
Alvin Karpis in front
of a Spanish Bank
 
Alvin Karpis in front of a
Spanish appartment building
 
Alvin Karpis with his
girlfriend Nancy
 
 Post-Prison 

Alvin Karpis was released from prison in 1969 and, because he had never been given official immigrant status in the USA, he was deported to the country of his birth, Canada.

In Canada he wrote the first book about his criminal career,
 Public Enemy Number One: The Alvin Karpis Story,
with a Montreal reporter, Bill Trent. (published in 1971)

Within a few years, Alvin Karpis retired to Spain where the weather was pleasant year round and he could live frugally on his limited budget.

It was in the mid 1970s that I became involved and met Alvin Karpis. I was a high school teacher in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada. Some of my students, who were delivering pizza for a local Italian owner, had told him that I wrote books. (textbooks at that time) He invited me over to have a free meal to discuss writing a book. I accepted the invitation hesitantly, thinking I did not want to write “One Hundred and One Ways to prepare Pizza.”

But he informed me that he had an apartment on the Costal de Sol, in Spain and that he had a tenant named Alvin Karpis, who had been Public Enemy #1 in the USA back in the 1930s. It was Karpis who wanted to write a book, about his prison career in Alcatraz.

Karpis as a Teenager   
Alvin Karpis and
Robert Livesey in Spain
 
I agreed to travel to Spain for a week to meet Alvin Karpis. I did not want to commit myself to writing a book with a former criminal and killer without first meeting him face to face and deciding whether or not he had a story to tell.

When I arrived in Spain, Alvin Karpis was not what I expected. There were few signs of the criminal/killer whom I had anticipated. Instead there was a pleasant, grand-fatherly individual who was well read and informed (due to 33 years in prison with nothing to do but explore the prison library). He could communicate at ease with all types of individuals. (again the ability to survive in prison at close quarters with dangerous, sometimes insane inmates, as well as former professionals who ended up behind bars had served him well.)

Aside from being friendly and easy to talk to, it was clear that Al had a photographic memory for events and dates and an endless number of interesting anecdotes about his spectacular criminal and prison career. I agreed to write the book with him and returned to Spain the next summer to spend two months recording hundreds of tapes describing his experiences in Alcatraz.

Alvin Karpis travelled to Canada on two occasions after I had written the original manuscript of On the Rock, to proof read it and ensure that it was accurate.

When I had visited him in Spain, he always had a different girlfriend staying with him in the apartment. They were usually wealthy women about twenty years younger than he was and attracted to him. The first one I had met was Pat, who drove her Jaguar sports car on the winding roads along the Mediterranean coast.

While in Canada reading the manuscript, Al stayed at my home. He brought another girl friend, Nancy, from Chicago to keep him company. It was during one of these visits that I arranged for him to make a one hour television documentary,
Alvin Karpis: Public Enemy #1, (Video)
with producer Bob Gibbons of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

(This rare interview with the only surviving Public Enemy #1 from the 1930s is available from this web page and allows the viewers to see and judge the character of Alvin Karpis for themselves.)

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 Karpis in 1978 with Machine-Gun 

 

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Last Updated March, 2005.