Robert Graysmith on Black Fire: The True Story of the Original Tom Sawyer and of the Mysterious Fires That Baptized Gold Rush Era San Francisco | Tantorious

Tantorious is a semi-monthly podcast series featuring interviews with well-known authors, hosted by Allan Hoving and presented by Tantor Audio.

Robert Graysmith is the New York Times bestselling author of a number of true crime books, including The Sleeping Lady, Auto Focus, and Zodiac, the last two of which were made into major motion pictures. A San Francisco Chronicle political cartoonist and artist for 15 years, Robert lives in San Francisco.

Excerpts from the audio interview:

Q: Where did the idea for this book come from?

A: I love nonfiction and I always try to write the first book on a subject. If it’s been done before, I’m really not interested. So when I read an article about boys who ran before the fire engines in 1850 carrying torches to lead the firemen to the fire, I thought, “Boy, that’s great!” Then I learned that there were six blazes set by an arsonist in 18 months that completely destroyed the city. And I discovered there was a heroic fireman named Tom Sawyer who knew Mark Twain. Wow, what a fantastic untold story!

Q: What was it like narrating your own book?

A: That was such an incredible experience. I love old radio, I love audio, and to have a chance to read your own words – I learned so much about writing from reading it. People just don’t realize the detail that goes into doing this. It was an absolute eye-opener to me! I’ve listened to a lot of audiobooks, but now I’m going to do so with more appreciation.

Listen to a sample of the Tantor audiobook edition of Black Fire: The True Story of the Original Tom Sawyer and of the Mysterious Fires That Baptized Gold Rush Era San Francisco narrated by Robert Graysmith.

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