“When I was growing up, everyone thought Queens was this intellectual wasteland,” Vetere recalled from his childhood, pointing to an artistic uprising that is now spreading throughout the borough. “But I’m really comfortable here. I drive into Manhattan a lot and I like having a distance away from all that stuff going on.”
In his latest novel, The Writer’s Afterlife, which was just published by Three Rooms Press, Vetere tells the satirical tale of the world’s deep-seeded obsession with fame through the eyes of 44-year-old writer Tom Chillo.
After Chillo abruptly dies of a stroke in the opening lines of the book, the middle-aged writer is transported to a sort of writer’s limbo, where he mingles with a group of legendary authors known as The Eternals – including Shakespeare, Wilde, Keats and Tolstoy.
He later discovers that he never reached the fame to bump elbows with the legendary writers, and is granted one week on earth to take care of some unfinished business.
“It’s really about second chances and it’s about how disappointments will always be there, no matter what you do,” Vetere explained.
After receiving a number of rave reviews following the release of his previous novel, The Third Miracle, published in 1997 by Carrol and Graff and in paperback by Simon and Schuster, Vetere said he hopes to find a similar if not greater success with the new book.
The once-poet and former literary director with the Queens Council of the Arts found success in the film world in his mid-20s, writing screenplays for blockbusters like 1983's Vigilante and co-authored the screenplay adaptation of The Third Miracle, which was produced by Frances Ford Coppola and starred Ed Harris.
“I’m thrilled because it seems like everyone’s getting it,” Vetere said. “I’d love to sell it as a movie, because I’ve already had four feature films.”
Vetere will be reading and signing copies of The Writer’s Afterlife at The Astoria Bookshop, 31-29 31st Street, on April 22 at 7 p.m. You can also catch a screening of his Vigilante at Nitehawk Cinema, located at 136 Metropolitan Avenue, on April 10 at 9:30 p.m.