After living for five years in Ecuador in the 1960s, Weehawken-based author James Dette came back with his family to Weehawken. “I went down with one and came back with three,” said Dette about his children, of which he now has four.
Dette describes the life he once had in Ecuador as “wonderful, the greatest experience of our life.” In 1962, Dette and his wife Evelyn moved to Quito, where he worked as an officer for the American Institute for Free Labor Development, helping Ecuadorian trade unions with loans and other projects. He also worked in Quito as a Catholic missionary.
“It’s a love story.” – James Dette, about his new novel.
Dette retains his love for Latin America, as reflected in a new work of fiction he has just published.
‘The struggle for justice’
Forty-four years after returning from Ecuador, Dette has published a novel called “The Tree in Calle Sulaco.” The title refers to a tree in the middle of the street on the border between Ecuador and Peru.
“[It is] some sort of meeting place where people would come to chat,” said Dette about the inspiration for the name of his novel. His wife Evelyn contributed to the artwork for the cover.
“It is a love story,” said Dette.
His novel begins in Costaguana, a fictional country in Latin America that Joseph Conrad invented for his 1904 novel “Nostromo.”
The main topic in “The Tree in Calle Sulaco” is the labor unions during the 1960s in Latin America. Dette dedicates his novel to “the unsung Latin American union and cooperative leaders and North American missioners and workers in the various aid organizations who have been murdered in their struggle for justice.”
About the author
James Dette studied civil engineering and worked as a consultant until 1991. After he retired, he picked up creative writing. He joined a writing center in Englewood Cliffs.
He has written op-eds, essays, and travel articles for the New York Times, Irish America, the Record, Street News, and others. Some of his essays have particular subjects, like one containing reflections on being a newspaper boy.
Dette’s first novel, “Rollmops: a Novel of Local Politics” was published by the publishing arm of the writing center in Englewood Cliffs, which is called Full Court Press, on Oct. 1, 2009. It is the story of Johnny Kavanaugh, a politician in Hoboken who “has made a comfortable life for himself but must finally admit that he no longer recognizes the world around him.”
Books and advice for writers
“I’m very selective,” said Dette about the fiction he reads. He enjoyed “The Name of the Rose” by Umberto Eco. He also likes Amy Tan’s books. “I love her writing,” he said.
To young writers, his advice is to take advantage of writing groups and centers and “just write.” He tries to write every day. For his next project, he would like to write a sequel to his novel and longer essays.
“Be prepared for rejection; lots of it,” he said. He recalled sending out his first novel to more than 100 agents. He said he got “a couple of bites for some chapters and one for the whole novel.”
James Dette will be having a public reading of his novel “The Tree in Calle Sulaco” at the Weehawken library. The date will be announced soon. You can purchase his novels at www.amazon.com.