The author, born Thomas Eugene Gaddis, wrote Birdman of Alcatraz in 1955. The biography became one of the nation's best-known prison biographies. Birdman of Alcatraz was the story of Robert Stroud, the grandson of a Federal judge, who was sentenced to life imprisonment in solitary confinement after stabbing a guard to death in Leavenworth Federal prison in Kansas. He was serving time in Leavenworth as a consequence of a slaying he committed in Alaska. While in solitary in Leavenworth, Stroud became an expert on birds, writing Stroud's Digest of the Diseases of Birds in Leavenworth from 1939 to 1941.