Get a FREE Books of the Moment  sampler!
Check Out These
21 Books You’ve Been Meaning to Read
See the List

Black Fire

Black Fire by Robert Graysmith
Oct 29, 2013 | 288 Pages
See All Formats (1) +
  • Paperback $15.00

    Oct 29, 2013 | 288 Pages

  • Ebook $11.99

    Oct 30, 2012 | 288 Pages

Product Details


“A harrowing account of Sawyer’s involvement in the hunt for a serial arsonist who terrorized mid-nineteenth century San Francisco.” San Francisco Chronicle

“Graysmith has amassed an impressive amount of historical detail….A well-researched work about community and fire.” Cleveland Plain Dealer

“The journalist delved deep into archival material to find the connection between Mark Twain and a heroic San Francisco firefighter named Tom Sawyer, who became the model for one of Twain’s most beloved characters.” Sacramento Bee

“Fascinating.” San Jose Mercury News

“A sizzling tale…[Graysmith] uncovers Mark Twain’s friendship with the real-life Sawyer — a colorful figure in the city’s early firefighting culture — and paints a detailed portrait of San Francisco, circa 1849-1866. It’s jam-packed with notable residents whose long-ago importance lingers in the city’s street names (Broderick, Brannan) — plus mustachioed hooligans and “The Lightkeeper,” an arsonist as mysterious as he was destructive.” San Francisco Bay Guardian

“Mark Twain fanatics and firefighter-history buffs alike will flock to the tale of the real-life Tom Sawyer’s adventures fighting fires in the Gold Rush–era city, depicted in remarkable detail by Graysmith…Black Fire captures the spirit of rugged adventure so beloved in Twain’s work and so characteristic of the undaunted city built—time and time again—on the hopes of fortune-hunters.” Booklist

“Rich…lively and chock-full of eye-opening tidbits” Kirkus Reviews

“Packing a whirlwind of events around dizzying details of boggy, impassable streets choked with decaying refuse, characters of all manner of disrepute, throughout a booming city haphazardly constructed of highly flammable material, Graysmith (who also drew the book’s illustrations) inserts a teenage Tom Sawyer, newly migrated from the east, into one of the most tumultuous periods in San Francisco’s storied history… the book truly shines.” —Publishers Weekly

Table Of Contents

Author’s Note
Dramatis Personae
PART I: THE MAN WHO BURNED DOWN SAN FRANCISCO: December 24, 1849-September 16, 1850
Chapter 1: Broderick and the Christmas Eve Catastrophe
Chapter 2: Sawyer
Chapter 3: Sleep Runners and Flying Houses
Chapter 4: Broderick’s Rogues
Chapter 5: Rainbow Rivers of Gold and Silver
PART II: THE LIGHTKEEPER: September 17, 1850-June 22, 1851
Chapter 6: Tug of War
Chapter 7: The Melting House
Chapter 8: The Lodger
Chapter 9: The Golden Ring
PART III: STEAMING WITH TWAIN AND SAWYER: May 26, 1863-December 16, 1866
Chapter 10: Steamers
Chapter 11: The Fire Girl
Chapter 12: Let Us Build a City
Sources and Acknowledgments
Selected Bibliography

Looking for More Great Reads?
Download our Spring Fiction Sampler Now
Back to Top