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Publishers WeeklyIn this latest from bestselling author and political cartoonist Graysmith (Zodiac), the human inspiration for one of American literature's most mischievous characters takes center stage in embryonic San Francisco. 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. Introduced some years later to a young Mark Twain, Sawyer, along with other young "Torch Boys," lit the way for the city's first volunteer fire companies as they made one fruitless effort after another to combat a mysterious arsonist who torched the young city to the ground six times during the years 1849-1851. While biographical details of Sawyer, his fellow firefighters, and his relationship with Twain are illuminating, it is with the historical detail in descriptions of a young, seedy, and dangerous San Francisco that the book truly shines. With such destruction, coupled with municipal greed, and incompetence, it's a wonder the city rose out of the ashes to thrive at all. 20 b&w illus. Agent: Joel Gotler, Intellectual Property Group.
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