The first biography of the little-known real-life Tom Sawyer, told through a harrowing account of Sawyer's involvement in the hunt for a serial arsonist who terrorized mid-nineteenth century San Francisco.
When San Francisco Daily Morning Call reporter Mark Twain met Tom Sawyer in 1863, he was seeking a subject for his first novel. He learned that Sawyer was a volunteer firefighter, local hero, and a former "Torch Boy," racing ahead of hand-drawn fire engines at night carrying torches to light the way. When a mysterious serial arsonist known as "The Lightkeeper" was in the process of burning San Francisco to the ground, Sawyer played a key role in stopping him, helping to contain what is now considered the most disastrous and costly series of fires ever experienced by an American metropolis. By chronicling how Sawyer took it upon himself to investigate, expose, and stop the arsonist, Black Fire details Sawyer's remarkable life and illustrates why Twain would later feel compelled to name his iconic character after him when writing The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.
A vivid portrayal of the gritty, corrupt, and violent world of the Gold Rush-era West, Black Fire is the most vibrant and thorough account of Sawyer's relationship with Mark Twain, and of the devastating fires that baptized San Francisco.