The Gold Rush, Fire, and Tom Sawyer in Black Fire

Black FireThe gold rush made San Francisco a wild boom town where the streets were pure mud and the buildings were built haphazardly of canvas, oilcloth, and wood. Gangs ran the streets and crime was rife, and the city didn’t have much of a police force or even a fire department. San Francisco was poised for a disaster that would come in the form of fire because a serial arsonist known as the Lightkeeper was on the loose. In only eighteen months the city would burn six times.

Jump ahead thirteen years and living in San Francisco is the journalist and future author Mark Twain who has become friends with Tom Sawyer, one of the men who fought the serial fires. Twain is fascinated by Sawyer’s story and eventually Sawyer would become the namesake of the lead character in Twain’s classic novel. Black Fire: The True Story of the Original Tom Sawyer- and of the Mysterious Fires That Baptized Gold Rush-Era San Francisco is the thrilling account of the hunt for the serial killer and the story of Sawyer and the lawless boom town. Robert Graysmith is both writer and illustrator for this true story, and he is also the author of Amerithrax: The Hunt for the Anthrax Killer and The Girl in Alfred Hitchcock’s Shower: A Murder that Becomes a Real-life Mystery.


Christina Callison has been blogging about books for the library’s website since 2006. She has read hundreds of books that include mysteries, fantasies, horror, thrillers, non-fiction, general fiction, and some science fiction. She continues with her goal of finding new books and authors to recommend.