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These Are Some of the Best Book Reviews We’ve Ever Read. A Sing Sing Prisoner Wrote Them Over a Century Ago.

The reporter who combed the reviews for clues came up with a few — many of them were peppered with vernacular Boston slang; at least one mentioned a wife — and speculated that William Bush, the assistant prison librarian, might have written some or all of them before his escape on Jan. 26, 1911: “In the nine years of his imprisonment for murder, he naturally became familiar with all the books of the prison library, and was able to criticize them perhaps as well, or better, than any other convict there.”

But a search of Sing Sing’s intake records shows that Bush’s prisoner number isn’t a match. Prisoner No. 57,709 turns out to be one Fred L. Stockford, 35, a clerk and traveling salesman who entered Sing Sing on Jan. 27, 1908, convicted of “depositing obscene matter in U.S. mails.” He’s described as a trim man with grayish-blue eyes and graying brown hair, a “rather large, long, slightly Roman” nose, five gold-capped teeth (“balance false”), “arched and heavy” eyebrows and medium-size ears. He used tobacco, he was married, he had no children and — last but certainly not least — he was born in Boston, where his mother still lived.

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