Black Fire : The True Story of the Original Tom Sawyer--and of the Mysterious Fires That Baptized Gold Rush-Era San Francisco
The first biography of the little-known real-life Tom Sawyer (a friend of Mark Twain during his brief tenure as a California newspaper reporter), told through a harrowing account of Sawyers involvement in the hunt for a serial arsonist who terrorized mid-nineteenth century San Francisco. When 28-year-old San FranciscoDaily Morning Callreporter Mark Twain met Tom Sawyer at a local bathhouse in 1863, he was seeking a subject for his first novel.' As Twain steamed, played cards, and drank beer with Sawyer (a volunteer firefighter, customs inspector, and local hero responsible for having saved ninety lives at sea), he had second thoughts aboutShirley Tempest, his proposed book about a local girl firefighter, and began to envision a novel of wider scope.' Twain learned that a dozen years earlier the then eighteen-year-old New York-born Sawyer had been a ldquo;Torch Boy,rdquo; one of the youths who raced ahead of the volunteer firemenrsquo;s hand-drawn engines at night carrying torches to light the way, always aware that a single spark could reduce the all-wood city of San Francisco to ashes in an instant.'
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October 29, 2012
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