Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Lowell High School author visit

Doug Dorst talked with more than 600 Lowell High School students and then signed books for 100+! The school also created an awesome display.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Monday, October 5, 2009

Doug Dorst, (a)live and in person in San Francisco!

Doug's hitting the streets of SF, and the graves of Colma, and talking about Alive in Necropolis this week. Here's where you can find him 10/9-10/14:

Black, White and Read: Litquake’s Book Ball
Litquake kicks off its 10-year anniversary with a ball loosely modeled on Truman Capote’s famous Black and White ball held in the late sixties. Attendees can expect to mingle with many authors, including Doug Dorst. For complete details and ticket information visit litquake.org
Friday, October 9 – 8 p.m.
Herbst Theater’s Green Room,
401 Van Ness Ave. at McAllister Street

Doug Dorst on West Coast Live: San Francisco’s Live Radio to the World

Saturday, October 10 – 10am-12pm
Freight and Salvage, 2020 Addison St. near Shattuck, in Berkeley

Author reading with Doug Dorst
Saturday, October 10 – 3 p.m.
Books Inc. Opera Plaza
601 Van Ness Ave., (415) 776-1111

Doug Dorst reads at
Writers with Drinks
$3-$5 sliding scale, All proceeds benefit local non-profits.
Saturday, October 10 - 7:30–9:30 p.m. (doors at 7 p.m.)
The Make-Out Room
3225 22nd. St., San Francisco CA

Notable Figures of San Francisco: Free Cemetery Walking Tour in Colma

Co-sponsored by the San Francisco History Association
Joining the tour, led by Monica Williams of Holy Cross Cemetery, will be Doug Dorst, author of San Francisco’s One City One Book 2009 selection Alive in Necropolis, a remarkable and original novel set primarily in Colma’s cemeteries. For more information visit SF History Association.
Sunday, October 11 – 11 a.m.
Holy Cross Cemetery - 1500 Mission Road, Colma

Spirits, Tarot & the Page …One City One Book One Bar

Help the San Francisco Public Library celebrate this year’s One City One Book pick. It’s only fitting that we’ll be celebrating this can’t-put-down supernatural thriller with custom “Necropolis” cocktails, free Tarot card readings, and a live reading from Dorst himself. The Page Bar inspired a bar on the pages of Alive in Necropolis – have you spotted it yet? Book sales by Green Apple Books.
Monday, October 12 – 6–8 p.m.
The Page, 298 Divisadero St. at Page Street, San Francisco; 21 and over

One City One Book and Litquake present: Doug Dorst in conversation with Adam Johnson

Join us for an insightful discussion between our One City One Book author and author/Stanford University lecturer Adam Johnson. foolsFURY Theater Company, under the direction of Ben Yalom, will open the evening with a staged reading of an excerpt from Alive in Necropolis. After the conversation, there will be lots of time for audience questions and Doug Dorst will sign books. Book sales by Book Bay.
Tuesday, October 13 – 6 p.m.
San Francisco Main Library, Koret Auditorium – 100 Larkin St.

Friday, October 2, 2009

About the Cover by Tomer Hanuka

I think books are, by design, meant to evoke visuals. When reading a book, images come to mind, and some images seem to communicate on a few levels at once, a bit like metaphors: They encompass the soul or spirit or the grand concept of the text as well as being a moment in the plot. In the reading process it is these exact moments that I aim to distill into a visual.

From there, I start with visual research that is as specific as I can get. In this case, with the cemeteries of Colma.

During the sketch stage, I explored two directions, both taking place in a cemetery at night. The first was of the protagonist, Michael Mercer, tucked right under the horizon line while aiming his flashlight towards the ground. The idea was that his whole attention and body language are directed downwards, into a world or a reality that exists "underground" (an intentional visual pun to conjure the buried dead, much like the ghost scene existing under the surface of the book's reality). And as a detective, Mercer's job is to dig up the unknown, the hidden, the buried.

The second sketch is of Mercer coming from the edge of the frame and illuminating the surroundings with a bright light at the center. But with Art Director Lisa Amoroso's guidance, a third option emerged that we thought was the most compelling and thus became the cover.

On the cover, Mercer is a dynamic element, yet compositionally his figure is mostly "under-ground"-the implication is that he is stuck in a mass of black soil and digging downwards, searching for answers (both professional and personal). I wanted to preserve something of the original concept while communicating both the drama of a detective thriller and suggesting its unlikely context.

--Tomer Hanuka, Alive in Necropolis cover illustrator

"Ask the Book Guy" Giveaway - 10/6 at 8am

What: 30 copies of Alive in Necropolis up for grabs

Dynamo Donuts, 2760 24th St

Tuesday, October 6 starting at 8am, till the books are gone

Oscar Villalon, former SF Chronicle book editor and current publisher of McSweeney's will be outside of Dynamo with the books. Ask him a question about books and/or football and receive a thoughtful answer, a free book + a very informative and super-exciting program guide and bookmark.

Dynamo will be selling the "Colma Copper" donut on 10/6, a custom blueberry cornmeal treat made especially for One City One Book.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Spooky! Send in your photos today!

The Curiosity Shoppe is asking you to send your very best, most "spooky-iest" picture to smartsandcrafts@gmail.com. They'll pick the one that gives us the biggest chills and that lucky person will get a free copy of the book, courtesy of the SF Public Library.

Deadline is today! Here are complete details.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

San Francisco's "Dove Cove"

Last night a nice crowd in SFPL's Koret Auditorium enjoyed watching Trina Lopez's A Second Final Rest: The History of San Francisco's Lost Cemeteries , her documentary about "the hidden history of how this modern metropolis managed to systematically relocate nearly all of its burial grounds to make room for the living."

Trina got some terrific stories on tape from native San Franciscans with childhood memories of playing in the graveyards. One of the most compelling and charming characters in her documentary is Emmitt Watson, caretaker and unofficial historian of the SF Columbarium, now owned and operated by the Neptune Society.

Here is a "Finding My Religion" interview with Watson by David Ian Miller on sfgate from 2006, definitely worth a read. My favorite question/answer:

"Where do you want to go as your final resting place?

In a paint bucket inside the house. I got the idea from some of these families here. They put objects in their apartments, whatever their loved ones treasured. I want to be in a paint bucket because I'm a painter. That's what I do. Besides, my loved ones need the money. I don't need no $5,000 casket."

Monday, September 28, 2009

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Doug Dorst and Jenny Boylan on fiction, invention, and zombies

In late summer, 2009, Doug Dorst (ALIVE IN NECROPOLIS) and Jennifer Finney Boylan (SHE’S NOT THERE; I’M LOOKING THROUGH YOU) shared this brief exchange about writing, invention, and the nature of zombie mutants:

Jenny Boylan: Doug, I loved your book. One of the things I found so engaging about it was the tension between the realism of the police/detective sections, on the one hand, and the more invented and imagined sensibilities of the zombies. Did you have a hard time balancing the two?

Doug Dorst: Balancing the two storylines (living folks dead folks) was by far the most difficult part of writing the novel. In the first draft (which was about 900 pages), the dead people ran away with the story, largely because I was having such a good time inhabiting their world. I had developed a Root-based economy for them, along with some pruno-bootlegging wars, and… well, it’d take me about 900 pages to describe it. I’ll just say that it was a bit of a mess.

In the second draft, I cut the dead folks back to the point that they were no more than grace notes in the narrative–which pretty much stripped them of any purpose for being in the book at all. My editor helped me find more of a balance in the third draft, but I was still trying to fine-tune it until the last minute.

Jenny Boylan: I wonder, sometimes, if there is less of a difference between the laws of writing “horror” fiction, as a genre, and writing “realism,” than readers–and writers–think. Did you feel like you were encountering a whole different set of rules, in terms of what your reader might be willing to believe, when you switched from zombies to cops? Or did you find that your cops and your zombies both were constructed from the same writers’ toolkit? (I’ll note, as an aside, something my friend Richard Russo once said to me; I’d been working on an allegedly comic scene in which some guy winds up wearing pants made out of ice cream (don’t ask), and he just shook his head and said, “See, the sad thing is, given the way your mind works, Boylan, you think this is realism.) Anyway: cops? zombies? Same approach to both for you as a writer? Which one was harder to make real?

Doug Dorst: Wait– ice cream pants aren’t real? I begged my parents for them when I was in middle school. I suppose it’s for the best that they said no.

Anyway: Same toolkit, different tools, I think–say, socket wrench vs. crescent wrench. I mean, character is character, regardless of genre, don’t you think? Either that person-on-the-page’s experience feels emotionally true in some way–even if it’s not perfectly grounded in everyday realism–or it doesn’t.

The living characters were more challenging because they had to experience a range of emotions truthfully. The dead were drawn a bit more simply– my intent was for them still to be motivated by the sorts of things that motivate the rest of us, but in an amplified or distorted way. (You’ve got Phineas Gage, for example, with his monomaniacal need to possess this object that he needs in order to feel whole.) If the underlying emotions feel somehow recognizable, then I think you have a lot of latitude to play around with the sort of world the character is operating in. (And “play” is the right word there… one of the reasons I wanted to work in the world of Colma’s dead was that I thought it’d be fun–a big ol’ sandbox where I had thousands of cool toys and got to make all the rules, too.)

As for what readers might be willing to believe: I didn’t overthink it, and it’s probably for the best that I didn’t. I was aware that I was writing a strange little (well, sprawling) book that straddled genres and made use of both the everyday and the fantastic. At some point, after a great deal of worrying, I figured that there was no way for me to predict how readers (who no doubt would have different tastes or sets of expectations) were going to respond and that I should just follow the characters wherever they took me. In retrospect, that was the best decision I could’ve made, although I didn’t fully understand why at the time.

So, yeah: character. I think it’s what makes realist fiction work, and I think it’s what makes the very best genre fiction work–e.g., The Shining (Stephen King’s book, I mean. The film is terrifying, but for different reasons.). I figure it’s what makes all the stuff in between work, too. In short: whether our person-on-the-page’s trousers are made of denim or Rocky Road (ouch), what matters is that we believe in his experience of wearing them.

I would love to see that ice cream pants scene, by the way. Any chance I can convince you to share it?

Jenny Boylan: Doug, as you well know, some drafts are better left unshared. Although I can tell you that the key line I kept straining to get at in that story was this: One person has forced our hero to wear the pants made out of ice cream–which, if I recall right, were one leg vanilla, one leg chocolate, and the crotch strawberry–making these “Neapolitan” pants– and then says, sadistically, “So! How do you LIKE wearing these pants made our of ice cream NOW?” And our hero says– and this is the single phrase I was reaching for– and I quote, “They’re cold!”

To change the subject a little, I’m curious about the way you leave some questions unanswered in
ALIVE IN NECROPOLIS–and other questions are answered, but only slowly. Was this part of a conscious plan, following Dickens’ motto of, “Make’em laugh, make’em cry, make’em wait?” Or was the difference between your 900 page first draft and your much-shorter final draft the difference between answering all questions, and leaving some open? Do I smell a sequel?

Doug Dorst: I don’t think that it was a strategic decision to “make ‘em wait”. It was more that I was having a lot of fun working on a large canvas, and I made my peace early on with the fact that the novel was going to be a little shaggy and sprawly. I think one certainly could do a much shorter, tighter, and more action-focused cut of the book — and who knows, maybe that’d be a better book –but it wouldn’t have been the book I wanted to write. Or, more precisely, it wouldn’t have been the one I wanted as much to write at the time I was writing it.

As for the unanswered questions: some were definitely a result of my having to cut the manuscript in half. Some things I chose to scale back, and some things I chose to cut out. (There are also a couple of things that I chose to cut, but I screwed up and didn’t cut them out completely– so, yeah, there are a couple of sore thumbs in there that make me cringe a little. Live and learn.)

Another big struggle for me was the ending. When I finished the third draft, I realized with some horror that the book went on for over a hundred pages after the climax of the action because I had so many ends to tie up. I decided that I couldn’t subject the reader to a hundred pages of denouement and that I’d have to make some sacrifices in order to bring the proceedings to a close more quickly. In retrospect, did I make all of the best choices? Probably not. But again, all you can do is make your peace with the idea that the book is what it is, move on to the next project, and try to turn your regrets into learning experiences.

How about you– any tales of post-publication regret? And if so, how did you deal with it?

Jenny Boylan: I think there are different kinds of post-publication regret. There’s the little kind, where you find something you missed– a copy-editing mistake, or a vestigial trace of an earlier draft you forgot to sand down; those make me sad, but not for long. Then there’s the other kind, where you look at a whole book you’ve published, and say, kind of resentfully, “Oh jeez. What’d you all go and let me do that for?” There’s at least one book of mine I’m still wondering, What was I thinking? Fortunately, nearly fifteen years later, it’s out of print, so the damage at this hour is somewhat contained.

On the other hand, as someone who’s been well published over the years, I have to say that post-publication regret is a luxury. It’s no-publication regret that breaks my heart. I remember what it was like to keep getting those rejection slips. Anybody who survives long enough to publish a book–even one riddled with mistakes, as mine always are– should still be grateful. Period.

I like your comments about “writing past the ending.” I have heard both Stephen King and Richard Russo talk about this. It’s funny, we always think of ourselves as writers struggling to come up with the satisfying ending– but we think less about the not-uncommon affliction of writing right past that ending and coming up with chapters and chapters more stuff. I think this is why they have closing times in pubs, in Ireland, anyhow. There are a number of projects I’ve found myself at the 700 page mark where I wish someone would ring the bell and say, “Hurry up please, it’s time.”

I’m actually at about the 650 page mark on my own next project– is this where I get to plug it? This is a young adult series, commencing with volume one, FALCON QUINN AND THE BLACK MIRROR, which is a book about monsters. The quick pitch: when kids in a certain town reach thirteen, they start turning into monsters: Banshees, vampires, mummies, the works. So they get sent to a “school” where they’re taught how to disguise themselves, how to pretend to be humans, in order to survive. So the question becomes: What’s the right thing: to pretend to be something you’re not, in order to live? Or to embrace your “true self”, even if your true self is, say, a zombie.

Which I hope will be a gas for young people to read– I wrote FALCON QUINN with and for my middle-school age boys–but you don’t have to squint real hard to see that these books are sort of about some of the same issues I’ve been writing about for the last seven years, only in a more oblique and playful way. It’s very freeing, writing about zombies. I should have done it years ago.

I guess this is a good place to leave things, unless you want another chance to dodge the question about a sequel to ALIVE. What next for Doug Dorst, besides faculty meetings and syllabi? A novel about bugs and spiders, maybe? Tell you what, next time YOU have the sex change, and I’ll write about SF cops and–as Groucho Marx once noted, “outside of the improvement, you’ll never notice the difference.”

Doug Dorst: Whoops— didn’t mean to dodge the sequel question. I suppose the ending of Necropolis might work well as a bridge to a second book, but that wasn’t my intent, and I don’t currently have plans to write a sequel. Every now and then, though, I do find myself wondering what the next chapter in Mike Mercer’s life might be like. So who knows? If the right “Mercer 2.0” story finds me, I’ll write it. For now, though, there are other projects I’m excited to be working on. One of these is the short-story collection (The Surf Guru) that’s coming out next year, which I’m putting the finishing touches on as we speak.

As for the next novel: will there be dead people in it? There aren’t yet, but, again, who knows? (I’m a big fan of William Kennedy’s work, and dead folks slip into his novels all the time.) I agree that it’s freeing to write dead characters—I wonder if it’s because you somehow have more license to super-size their desires and their quirks. Or maybe it’s just fun to refuse to play by the rules of everyday reality. Whatever the reason, when I was writing Necropolis, it was usually the dead-person storyline that would get me excited about writing again after a dry spell. And believe me, there were some dry spells.

The next novel will definitely have its share of horrible, crawly bugs and spiders and other critters. Some of it takes place in Central America, and if there’s one thing that moving to Texas has taught me, it’s that the farther south you go, the scarier the insects are. I hadn’t planned on any of the characters (or the author) having a sex change, although I now think you’ve just given me a way to liven up the third act.

Falcon Quinn sounds like a blast—and a great way of approaching what I think is the most fundamental question a person can face: how to harmonize who you are with who you present yourself to be. (And middle school is right about the time that it gets excruciatingly difficult.) In a way, that’s the very issue that Mercer and Jude struggle with throughout Necropolis. Anyway: I’ve got a place on my bookshelf reserved for Mr. Falcon Quinn, and I look forward to meeting him on the page.

As a final thought, I just want to echo my agreement with something that you put quite well: post-publishing regrets are a luxury. Writing is a hard gig, especially in this economy, and I know a lot of incredibly talented writers who are having trouble getting their work out. I’ve caught more than my share of breaks, especially lately. Case in point, One City One Book—in which I get to have my book widely read in the city I love most, and through which I’m getting the chance to talk to a lot of amazing, talented, and inspiring people about words and stories and writing. Case in point, Jenny Boylan.

Jenny Boylan: Well, case in point, your own damn self. Thanks for this exchange, Doug, and I do hope I get to see some of your Texas bugs some day. Although, just out of home-state pride, allow me note that while Maine blackflies might be small, they do get the job done. Congratulations on a fine book, and good luck with the next one! J.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Van Ness/Turk

Monday, September 21, 2009

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Also Known As: Locations in Alive in Necropolis

Doug Dorst has provided handy notes to help you place some of the spots whose names have been changed in the book...to protect the innocent. *Spoiler Alert - You may want to finish the book before you read these!*

Fern Grotto is in Cypress Lawn Cemetery, on the east side. Go in the main entrance (under the archway, where Featherstone was found), head up the hill to your right, and you’ll see it on your right after a couple hundred yards or so.

The Death’s Door Tavern is loosely based on the Globe Tavern, 379 Mission St. in Daly City.

The Hard Ten is based on The Page (formerly Chances, and before that, another name that I’ve since forgotten). 298 Divisadero (@ Page). (ed. note - did you know we're having One City One Book One Bar at The Page on 10/12/09? More info if you scroll down here.)

Mia’s apartment is on Grove Street, near Broderick. I used to live on Baker between Grove and Fulton, and I’d walk down Grove with my dog twice a day (en route to Alamo Square Park).

The DiMaio house is
at a nonexistent address on Buena Vista Park Ave. West. Interesting thing about Buena Vista Park itself - if you look closely at the stones that line the walking paths, you can find some with letters and numbers. These are pieces of old tombstones that were “repurposed” after the cemeteries were taken out. I’m told that old stones were also used in the retaining wall at Fort Point.

Neptune, where Mercer’s gang gathers, is loosely based on Mars (798 Brannan @ 7th St.). The SF Writers’ Grotto folks used to gather here for a weekly happy hour. This was back when I was working as a lawyer, and I really enjoyed having this social connection to other writers in town.

The Tonga Room, where Toronto proposes to Mia, is at 950 Mason (bottom floor of Fairmont Hotel).

The San Francisco Zen Center, where Toronto has a moment of grace, is at 300 Page (@ Laguna).

Monday, September 14, 2009

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

One City One Book in Pictures

Two videos for your viewing pleasure!

Both were created as public service announcements which will run on KPIX CBS5 this fall. The One City One Book PSA was created by Jacob Kornbluth.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Attention Coffee Drinkers!

Order Sumatra Gayo/Supreme Necropolis from Blue Bottle Coffee, San Francisco's best coffee!

In 2008, Doug Dorst added another layer to the already-rich canon of San Francisco-area detective fiction with Alive in Necropolis. This year’s selection for One City One Book, “Alive,” is less about the formulaic search for who did it, and more about the ones doing it, and the ghosts watching. Yes, ghosts.

But what does it have to do with Sumatra? Sumatra, as a coffee origin, is like the proverbial detective novel. Many people drink it because they associate it with certain known qualities: “Rich” and “bold,” as if the coffee was a dashing oil magnate tooling around town in his new convertible. To be fair, the Gayo Supreme is big-bodied and blunt-nosed. But just as Chandler really wrote about why people would kill more than the fact that they did, this particular Sumatran coffee is really more about nuance. Raisins, port, and the sweet earthiness of the candy cap mushroom all ooze out of this coffee. For the full experience, we urge you to try it with the blueberry cornmeal donut that Dynamo Donuts is baking for One City One Book. $1 from every pound sold will be donated to the One City One Book program, so drink up!

Sumatra FTO Gayo Supreme
Location: Takengon, Aceh Tengah, Indonesia
Altitude: 1300-1900 meters
Varietal: 80% Hybrido da Timor, 20% Typica
Processing Method: Wet-Hulled Process/ Semi-Washed
Certifications: FairTrade, Organic
*Cooperative: Koperasi Baitul Giradh Baburrayyan
*Number of growers:6,700 farmer members

Order some right now!

Monday, August 31, 2009

2 Questions for Doug Dorst

What is your favorite story of death in San Francisco? Warren Harding? Al Jolson? Emperor Norton?

Well, I'd hate to call any death my favorite. The death that grabbed me most, though, was that of Lincoln Beachey, whose plane crashed into the bay during an airshow in front of a quarter of a million people at the 1915 Panama-Pacific Expo. The drama of his death aside, though, Beachey was a remarkable guy, one who lived life to the fullest and entirely on his own terms, and the more I read about him, the more fascinating I found him. There's an excellent biography by Frank Marrero called Lincoln Beachey: The Man Who Owned the Sky, which I recommend to anyone who's interested in finding out more about him.

Which story line came to you first: the one about the ghosts and their world in Colma, or the story of your protagonist's maturation into an adult, amid the allure of San Francisco and the grittiness of cop life. Or did you see them as one piece from the beginning?

The original idea came from a newspaper story that I read while living in Iowa about a kid who'd been duct-taped to a tree in a cemetery on a cold night. He'd been found by a guy who was out walking his dog, and he'd survived. I knew I wanted to work with this somehow, with the rescuer as the main character, and I assumed it would be a short story. It didn't go anywhere, though, and I put it away for a year or two. When I was back living in San Francisco, I picked up the idea again and realized that the rescuer ought to be a cop--in part because I had a friend who'd become a cop, and I was really curious about how that had changed his life. It was only a day or two later that the Chronicle ran a feature piece on Colma (which I hadn't known much about). I knew immediately that I had my setting. Once I decided that, I figured it'd be a shame not to invite some of these dead folks into the narrative. The two storylines evolved in parallel from there.

(For a recent, great story about Colma, check out this article on SFgate about the late famous of Bay Area.)

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

KQED's The Writer's Block

Doug Dorst spent some quality time in an Austin recording studio recording a passage from Alive in Necropolis for KQED's The Writers' Block. Enjoy!

The Writers' Block is a weekly reading series featuring stories, essays and poetry by all kinds of writers -- from accomplished beginners to established authors.

Monday, August 24, 2009


Colma, the primary location of Doug Dorst’s Alive in Necropolis, is home to many of San Francisco’s 19th and early 20th century dead – moved from the city starting in 1921 when SF’s powers that be decided land within city limits was too valuable to be wasted as forever-tenancies for the deceased.

The bodies themselves were moved to the San Mateo city – now the area where living San Franciscans flock to Target and Home Depot on weekends. But the rubble? Much of that went to the Marina. First loaded with what remained after the devastation of the 1906 Earthquake, what is now one of San Francisco’s priciest neighborhoods was also the dumping grounds for the remains of the city’s cemeteries. Unclaimed tombstones, mausoleums, cemetery walls, benches, and more, ended up as the breakwater for the pleasure boats of today. Next time you take a trip to the Wave Organ, remember to make your remembrances to our city’s citizens of the past!

Coming soon!
19th century Odd Fellows’ Cemetery Tombstones Display
These Odd Fellows’ Cemetery tombstone fragments were unearthed in San Francisco backyards. The Odd Fellows’ Cemetery was dedicated in 1865. In 1933, the bodies were removed to the Greenlawn Cemetery in Colma. Most of the stonework was used to construct the seawall at Aquatic Park, although some odds and ends were left behind.
September – November 2009
San Francisco Main Library – San Francisco History Center
100 Larkin St., 6th Floor

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Announcing....20+ One City One Book Events!

Here are just a few of the many programs planned for Fall 2009....for the full schedule, including events for teens, a film series, a tombstone display in the History Center and more, visit the Events Page.

“City of Souls” - Colma Cemetery Bike Ride
Co-sponsored by the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition.
See the cemeteries and gravesites of historic figures that inspired Doug Dorst’s Alive in Necropolis. After the tour, there will be an option to ride back to San Francisco with the group. Tour leader Chris Carlsson is the Director of FoundSF.org, a living archive of San Francisco history, and the author of books on San Francisco. Rain cancels (atmospheric heavy fog does not!). Bring weather appropriate gear, lots of water and a bag lunch for this hilly ride! Please RSVP to sfplprogram@gmail.com or (415) 557-4295.
Sunday, September 27 – 12-3 p.m.
Meet at Colma BART Station

Documentary Films - Trina Lopez's A Second and Final Rest: The History of San Francisco's Lost Cemeteries and Justin Schein's Gravediggers
A Second Final Rest exhumes the hidden history of how this modern metropolis managed to systematically relocate nearly all of its burial grounds to make room for the living. In Schein’s Gravediggers we meet the men who have devoted their lives to tending the graves of Holy Cross Cemetery in Colma.
Filmmaker Trina Lopez will appear in person for a Q & A.
Tuesday, September 29 - 6 p.m.
San Francisco Main Library, Koret Auditorium

100 Larkin St.

Notable Figures of San Francisco: Free Cemetery Walking Tour in Colma - Co-sponsored by the San Francisco History Association
Joining the tour, led by Monica Williams of Holy Cross Cemetery, will be Doug Dorst, author of San Francisco’s One City One Book 2009 selection Alive in Necropolis, a remarkable and original novel set primarily in Colma’s cemeteries. For more information visit SF History Association.
Sunday, October 11 – 11 a.m.
Holy Cross Cemetery - 1500 Mission Road, Colma

Spirits, Tarot & the Page …One City One Book One Bar
Help the San Francisco Public Library fête this year’s One City One Book pick. It’s only fitting that we’ll be celebrating this can’t-put-down supernatural thriller with custom “Necropolis” cocktails, free Tarot card readings, and a live reading from Dorst himself. The Page Bar inspired a bar on the pages of Alive in Necropolis – have you spotted it yet? Book sales by Green Apple Books.
Monday, October 12 – 6–8 p.m.
The Page, 298 Divisadero St. at Page Street, San Francisco; 21 and over

One City One Book and Litquake present: Doug Dorst in conversation with Adam Johnson, with special guests foolsFURY
Join us for an insightful discussion between our One City One Book author and local author and Stanford University lecturer Adam Johnson. foolsFURY Theater Company, under the direction of Ben Yalom, will open the evening with a staged reading of an excerpt from Alive in Necropolis. After the conversation, there will be lots of time for audience questions and Doug Dorst will sign books. Book sales by Book Bay.
Tuesday, October 13 – 6 p.m.
San Francisco Main Library, Koret Auditorium – 100 Larkin St.

Complete schedule available at the One City One Book Events Page.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Colma's Molloy's Bar: For Wakes of the Irish

When I was attending UC Berkeley in the late 1980s, a friend introduced me to the splendors of Colma. She and I were both interested in photography, and as righteous members of the artistically-minded-Bauhaus-listening set, we fell prey to the lure of the iconography of the cemetery.

We took semi-regular trips across the bay, down the 280, and past the looming Toys R Us giraffe sign to wander around taking pictures of Colma’s elaborately sculpted crypts and memorial stones and imagining the lives of those there entombed.

But none of the photographs that I took during those trips to Colma are as evocative as this image of “Molloy’s Bar” from the SFPL’s San Francisco Historical Photograph Collection. Although the photograph is ostensibly an image of the wall in a bar, the mirror that centers the composition reveals the forlorn-looking backs of bar patrons hunched over their drinks. The back of the photo is marked, “For Wakes of the Irish” and one can only imagine these bleak backs are connected to hands holding glasses raised in the honor of the dead.

Especially significant is the fact that the image is caught in a mirror, something that shows us the world in reverse and that, for many, has a touch of the “other” world, whether the world of the future, the dead, or Alice’s upside-down through the looking glass world. This image, of backs and mirrors, certainly sums up at least part of the living’s experience of Colma.

-Elise Proulx, Litquake

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

What do you want to know??

We are seeking your questions for Doug Dorst! Curious about his historical ghost research, writing process, recent favorite reads? Or...?

We'll be publishing his answers in our October library newsletter and here too.

Here are a few ways to ask:

-Leave a question in the comments section
-Tweet questions @onecityonebook or with #necropolis
-Post on the One City One Book Facebook discussion board

And you could even just send it by plain ole email to sfplprogram@gmail.com

So many options! What do you want to know?

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

What's Creepier than Schoolyard Rhymes Sung by Little Girls?

Nothing, that's what! You must listen to this, which KALW re-aired in June.

Doug Dorst guided radio producer and all-around cool guy Roman Mars around the sprawling, perfectly manicured cemetery that provides the backdrop to the opening scene in Alive in Necropolis.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Casting Necropolis

I'm always tickled when Google Alerts gives me a new blog to read and explore. My "Doug Dorst" alert signaled a potentially cool post at Romancing the Tome: All for the Love of the Literary Adaptation. One of my dream jobs as a kid was casting director -the power!- and it's still a fun game to play.

What do you think of Romancing's suggestions for Alive in Necropolis? I'm on board!:

"Officer Mike Mercer is a confused young cop with a Colma beat (pop. living: 1,200 pop. dead: 2 million) whose life is spiraling out of control. Then he starts seeing ghosts. Author Doug Dorst keeps the plot zipping along without sacrificing character and there's something here that feels coming of age, in a good way. It's the sort of coming of age familiar to us Gen X and Yers who are forever hovering over the line between childhood and adulthood--just like Colma's ghosts hover between this world and the next.

Alive In Necropolis
certainly has what it takes to cross over into film: cops, ghosts, drug overdoses, car crashes, romance, and for a backdrop, the haunting streets of San Francisco. My casting picks: Casey Affleck, James McAvoy, or Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Michael Mercer, Giovanni Ribisi as "Doc" Barker, Ryan Gosling as optimistic aviator Lincoln Beachey, Peter Sarsgaard as Toronto, Jesse Eisenberg as Jude, and Lili Taylor as Fiona. Read it and let us know what you think. --Kim"

Remember you can find a copy to read right now at San Francisco Public Libraries and bookstores! We'll be announcing the fall event schedule later this month.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Colma Photos from San Francisco Historical Photograph Collection

In preparing for One City One Book, staff at San Francisco Public Library and in the Historical Photo Collection have found a variety of terrific photos of San Francisco and Colma cemeteries in the photo archives. We'll be featuring them in a variety of OCOB09 materials.

Here are a few peeks:

Odd Fellows Cemetery
, SF

Holy Cross Cemetery, Colma

Sunset View, Potter's Field, Colma

Pet's Rest Cemetery, Colma

More SF cemetery photos available here!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009


Largehearted Boy, a music, literature and popular culture blog posted a playlist written by Doug Dorst that relates to Alive in Necropolis. Though I've read it once, might be time to queue up this list and re-read. Also could be of help to inspire writing:

"6. "Misunderstood" - Wilco
(studio version, from Being There)*

For me, this was the mother of all Necropolis infinite-repeat tunes. Particularly useful when words weren't coming very easily; there's something about the blasting, punchy defiance and dissonance at the end that helped me attack the blank page."

Says Doug, "I generally listen to music when I write--sometimes just one song at a time, on infinite-repeat, which somehow helps me to ignore my Inner Critic and write more freely. These are some of those songs, the ones that both helped me write and resonated with themes and moods in the book."

Friday, July 24, 2009

Monday, July 20, 2009

Praise for Alive In Necropolis

“A daring and big-hearted first novel.... The left brain of this novel, the plotty, structured part, is a fine, familiar branch of California noir. Like Dashiell Hammett, Dorst conveys a hard-bitten love of the physical San Francisco, the fog-swallowed town, the sun after rain.... Mercer is like Marlowe in Raymond Chandler's The Big Sleep... or like Jake Gittes of Chinatown... Above this panorama of duty blocked and love rejected sit the ghosts of Colma. The ghosts are a prime pleasure here... [and] the gulf between the perished and the living is another fault line in the state of California, just beneath the surface, and unstable.”
- New York Times Book Review

“Doug Dorst's smart and accessibly unconventional first novel, Alive in Necropolis... is not quite a horror story, nor exactly a mystery, nor just a hard-boiled police procedural, but an adult coming-of-age saga that pulls with energy and imagination from these various genres.... [Dorst] uses a limited third-person narrative shot through with streaks of black humor to vivid, insightful effect.”

- San Francisco Chronicle (Lit Pick)

“This charming first novel maps the landscape and lives of a small town where ghosts and the living are sometimes indistinguishable from one another… Dorst strikes a perfect balance between humor and pathos. His ability to show the magic potential of everyday lives marks him as an author to watch.”

- Publishers Weekly

“Imaginative and accomplished... In the same way Buffy the Vampire Slayer mixed high school and bloodsuckers, Doug Dorst combines cops and ghosts in his Alive in Necropolis. The result is a haunted varation on Ed McBain's 87th Precinct Series.... Pitch-perfect.”

- USA Today

“Mix one part gritty police procedural with one part ghost story, add a splash of teen angst and a hefty dose of black humor, and you have Doug Dorst's brilliant debut novel--a delicious blend of Paul Auster, Kevin Brockmeier, and Joss Whedon. In Colma, California, where the dead outnumber the living, a rookie cop who saves the life of a troubled teenager is either the savior of the city, or a man on the brink of losing his mind. Alive in Necropolis is brimming with fascinating characters (both the living and the dead), none more so than the young cop trying to get a handle on his place in the world. Dorst defies conventional storytelling--at once grim and playful, he weaves the supernatural seamlessly into this "straight" story and the result is effortlessly imaginative, funny, and poignant. Fans of Auster, Jonathan Carroll, and Haruki Murakami will want to make room on their nightstand for their next new favorite.”

- Amazon.com

“If Colma, California, didn't exist, novelists would have to invent it. But it does exist, and a novelist--Doug Dorst, to be exact--has cannily taken advantage of that.... It's an intriguing mix of coming-of-age story, police procedural, and magical realism.”

- Seattle Times

“When people consume fictions, they experience an urge, so strong that it feels almost reptilian in origin, to categorize the story into a genre, even something as basic as drama. Doug Dorst's debut novel, Alive in Necropolis, toys with this urge and manipulates the reader's expectations to great effect... [H]e hints at tropes that all adults understand unconsciously and tells a story that refuses to embrace any of them. Nobody would describe his or her own life as a comedy, or a tragedy, or a kidnapping drama. Dorst understands this, and Necropolis is so vivid because, like life, it refuses those easy labels.”

- The Stranger
“A memorable and singular achievement. Moving seamlessly between straightforward realism and supernatural fantasy, between the daily life of a policeman and a cemetery full of vivid ghosts, this novel has an amazing sweep—both wisely compassionate and slyly hilarious at the same time. Doug Dorst is a true original.”
- Dan Chaon, author of Await Your Reply and You Remind Me of Me

"It would be a shame if Doug Dorst is written of as one of the best debut novelists we’ve seen in years. He’s better than that. He’s one of the best novelists we’ve seen in years, writing well beyond the level we’ve learned to expect of ‘first novelists’ or ‘new voices.’ He has the control and daring possessed by only the greats of each generation. He writes with humor and wisdom that is rare, and an empathy for his characters that is warm and complex and unique.”

- Stephen Elliott, author of Happy Baby

“You will never read a more exciting debut novel than Doug Dorst’s funny and fiercely imagined Alive in Necropolis. Here, peace officers patrol a city of cemeteries, and the living and dead walk the same streets and lawns, haunting each other’s worlds. Prophetlike, Dorst can place his hand on the marble of a tomb and conjure the human story within. Alive in Necropolis contains the mystery, grace and glow of the human soul. So open this book, step into its light.”

- Adam Johnson, author of Parasites Like Us and Emporium

“You know Doug Dorst is a real writer when he so convincingly shows you the view of the world through a young cop’s eyes and he gets both the gritty, authentic detail and, more impressive, the whole shrewd-cop philosophy. But that cop is just a kid in a uniform dealing with a world he doesn’t quite understand, figuring out who he wants to be and what it means to be a man. And Dorst absolutely nails it, taking risks that let him get places other writers can’t go, and always delivering with sensitivity and grace.”

-Thom Jones, author of The Pugilist at Rest and Cold Snap

“If Colma didn’t exist, Dorst would have invented it. this is a terrific novel, hilarious and bursting with life—and death. And after you read it, you will feel a lot different about both.”

- Peter Orner, author of Esther Stories and The Second Coming of Mavala Shikongo

“In this virtuosic, wildly original, and frequently hilarious first novel, Dorst takes a thousand death-defying risks and succeeds. He creates a shadow world as real as in the one we live in and portrays our real world an acuity of vision that makes us know its beauty and strangeness; he writes with penetrating intelligence about love, loneliness, and death. This is an unforgettable contemporary epic, one that will earn Dorst a place among America’s best young novelists.”

- Julie Orringer, author of How to Breathe Underwater