Doug Dorst’s fascination with the dead falls short of compulsion.
“I’m not a ghost hunter — it just seemed like a great idea,” says the author of “Alive in Necropolis,” a novel in which residents of Colma’s cemeteries magically come to life.
The book is the centerpiece of the fifth “One City One Book: San Francisco Reads,” a multipronged community event this month that’s sponsored by the San Francisco Public Library.
Dorst, formerly a resident of The City and now living in Austin, Texas, is in town to appear at several gatherings in connection with his critically acclaimed debut novel, which also is a coming-of-age tale and a vivid portrait of police life.
“I liked the idea of the narrative, but that it be more than just what’s in front of us every day,” says the writer, whose concept for the book began with a short story about a kid who was left for dead overnight in a cemetery.
He put the idea aside for years, and when he returned to it he began to incorporate local flavor.
“I obsessed pretty heavily on the resources,” says Dorst, whose work had him learning about historical figures buried in Colma such as gangster Doc Barker and railroad worker Phineas Gage.
To get details about life on the job for cops, he went to the citizens police academy in Menlo Park. He also went to Molloy’s Tavern in South San Francisco.
“Research generally goes better with beer,” he says. “I’m actually kind of shy.”
Dorst will likely be putting away his inhibitions during his visit. His roster of appearances includes high school talks (“it’s important to demystify the process of writing” for kids, he says), a public conversation Tuesday with award-winning short story writer Adam Johnson (“he’s one of my favorites”) and being an author guest at “Black, White and Read: Litquake’s Book Ball” on Friday.
The visit isn’t just about work, though.
“I want to go to Alamo Square and see if my old dog park pals are there,” Dorst says. “And I need a burrito from La Cumbre.”
IF YOU GO
Black, White and Read: 8 p.m. Friday, Herbst Theatre, 401 Van Ness Ave., S.F.
Books Inc. reading: 3 p.m. Saturday, 601 Van Ness Ave., S.F.
Cemetery Walking Tour: 11 a.m. Sunday, Holy Cross Cemetery, 1500 Mission Road, Colma
“Spirits, Tarot & the Page” bar event: 8 p.m. Monday, 298 Divisadero St., S.F.
Conversation with Adam Johnson: 6 p.m. Tuesday, Main Library, 100 Larkin St., S.F.
Book Passage reading: 6 p.m. Oct. 14, 1 Ferry Building, S.F.