What would happen if three hundred hardened convicts petitioned the United States Government for an abandoned island where, accompanied by their families, they would be set free to earn their own way? Overwhelmed by prison budgets and prison riots, the government agrees and sets the prisoners free on windswept, tree Adak in the Aleutians, the site of a former 'hard duty' Navy station. Prisoners Of The Williwaw is the story of the power struggle between the idealistic leader of this expedition, convict Frank Villa, and a smooth prison boss, James T. Gilmore. Frank Villa opens a school, arranges jobs for people in a small assembly factory and calls for free elections.
'Boss' Gilmore opens a house of prostitution, sells booze, drugs, and guns, and schemes to take over the island one way or another. Frank's struggle is internal as well as external. He strives to overcome the effects of prison on his psyche. A convict must be passive; a man in charge of a community must take command. A convict must build a wall inside himself against any relationship with a woman; a free man has to leave himself open to love. The strife between Villa and Gilmore accelerates when their wives arrive and unexpected complications develop. These conflicts play out against a backdrop of constant rain, vicious windstorms (williwaws), escape attempts, and a coup by a new group of prisoners from the federal penitentiary in Florence, Colorado, the worst of the worst.