In 1938, Tom Runyon, an infamous depression-era bank robber confined to the Iowa State Penitentiary at Fort Madison, hesitatingly submitted his first contribution to the prison's four-year-old magazine. Runyon had been sent to the state prison in 1937 following a four-year career as a bank robber. In time, Runyon discovered the prison library. Runyon began sending his articles, along with a three-dollar "criticism fee," to a West Coast agent. With the announced intention of making sure that Runyon would never again be free, the Department of Justice began legal proceedings against him for his involvement in a bank robbery that had included taking hostages. In November 1948, Runyon started a monthly column, Leaves from a Lifer's Notebook, to take care of the small random ideas, reminiscences, updates, and other items he accumulated but could not include elsewhere. Runyon had demonstrated an interest in writing about other lifers ever since he first began writing for the Presidio in 1938.