Writer John Stark Bellamy grew up in Cleveland in a newspaper family. So he’s been hearing local disaster stories since he was a kid. But Bellamy’s fascination with the subject began in earnest when he worked as a history specialist at the Cuyahoga County Public Library’s Fairview branch. “You have to be really committed to the gloom and doom of Cleveland,” says Bellamy, who now lives in Vermont. “I went through a couple of hundred years’ worth of newspapers in the course of 16 years there. Eventually I started keeping an index. I still have it. It has about 15,000 entries.” When Bellamy first started writing the nonfiction books that made him a local favorite, he aimed for scale: The more bodies the better. He later went for intrigue, exploring the personalities of killers or heroism on the part of ordinary Clevelanders. But he didn’t have much of an audience until 1995, when local publisher Gray and Co. released They Died Crawling. Bellamy’s seventh and latest volume in the series — Cleveland’s Greatest Disasters — is an anthology of greatest hits, including “Streets of Hell” (about the East Ohio Gas Company explosion), “Death in the Deep Pit” (about workers who died laying Terminal Tower’s foundation) and “Smithereen Street” (about the day West 117th Street was blown to bits by another gas explosion). Bellamy returns to Cleveland this week for a series of talks around town. Here’s where you can find him: 7 p.m. Monday, April 19, at Cuyahoga County Public Library in Bay Village (502 Cahoon Rd., 440.871.6392); 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 20, at Cuyahoga County Public Library in Strongsville (18700 Westwood Dr., 440.238.5530); 7 p.m. Wednesday, April 21, at Cuyahoga County Public Library in Brecksville (9089 Brecksville Rd., 440.526.1102); 6:30 p.m. Thursday, April 22, at Willowick Public Library (263 E. 305th St., 440.943.4151); 7 p.m. Friday, April 23, at Visible Voice Books (1023 Kenilworth Ave., 216.961.0084); and 2 p.m. Saturday, April 24, at Cuyahoga County Public Library in Parma Heights (6206 Pearl Rd., 440.884.2313). All of the events are free. — Michael Gill
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