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University of Iowa News Release


Oct. 16, 2008

UI alumnus Doug Dorst reads from acclaimed debut novel Oct. 29

University of Iowa Writers' Workshop alumnus Doug Dorst will read from "Alive in Necropolis," his debut novel, at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 29, in the Prairie Lights bookstore at 15 S. Dubuque St. in downtown Iowa City. Listen live via the UI Writing University Web site,

The event will be recorded for broadcast on Iowa Public Radio's "Live from Prairie Lights" series. Hour-long "Live from Prairie Lights" productions, hosted by WSUI's Julie Englander, air at 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. Saturdays, and 7 p.m. Sundays on WSUI-AM 910 in Iowa City and WOI-AM 640 in Ames.

"Alive in Necropolis" is the story of a police officer working in Colma, Calif., a town where headstones outnumber citizens, and where ghosts and the living are sometimes indistinguishable from one another.

A review in USA Today commented, ""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 variation on Ed McBain's 87th Precinct series ... . Imaginative and accomplished ... . Pitch-perfect."

A piece in the New York Times Book Review call the book "a daring and bighearted first novel ... . Few can see or hear the ghosts around them (those who can are known as 'crossers'). But almost everyone alive in this necropolis is haunted by a figurative ghost -- a loss, a secret fear, some regretted act or the sense of fleeing a key responsibility.

"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, the mineshaft drops in temperature. Scenes are rooted in surroundings and the weather. The fiction seems to possess, and be possessed by, its beloved Bay... . Awareness is the high prize of the novel."

Stephen Elliott, author of  "Happy Baby," wrote: "It would be a shame if Doug Dorst is written off 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."

Dorst now teaches creative writing at St. Edward's University in Austin, Tex. His work has appeared in McSweeney's, Ploughshares, Epoch and other journals, as well as in the anthology "Politically Inspired."

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STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Arts Center Relations, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 351, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500

CONTACT: Jan Weissmiller, Prairie Lights,, 319-337-2681; Winston Barclay, Arts Center Relations, 319-384-0073,