Brownstone Brooklyn has the title for the borough’s most literary land around, but a Brooklynite who sells his books on the streets of South Brooklyn says you don’t need a fancy bookstore to be a respected writer — but you can’t stay home, either.
“If you don’t go out and sell it yourself, I believe it’s going to get lost,” said Vic Fortezza, a Bensonhurst native who peddles his three novels on the streets of Sheepshead Bay and Bensonhurst four days a week, in addition to selling them online. “Of course I hope for a tipping point where people will be buying online all the time, but I enjoy talking to people on the street, and I’ve made a lot of friends, it’s nice.”
Fortezza, a former high school football coach at Lafayette High School and data entry supervisor on the New York Mercantile Exchange trading floor, has been writing since 1975 but only started selling his novels and short stories on the street after he was laid off in 2007 as electronic trading took over, he said.
His narratives, many of them set in the Italian American community in Bensonhurst, cover much ground, and deal with plots that revolve around families stretched thin by wartime service, and touch on topics of infidelity and lust.
Fortezza, who has published numerous stories in addition to his novels, says that those seeking stereotypical mob stories should look elsewhere.
His third and latest novel, “Killing,” — includes no murders or killings except in a dream sequence; instead, it is about a family of three generations of war veterans dealing with internecine tensions around their troubled relationships.
Fortezza has also included his experiences on the notoriously hellish trading floors of the Mercantile Exchange in his writing — like a short story of his inspired by what his co-workers called the “dead pool,” a weekly betting game on what famous person would be the next to die.
The storied author says he’s tried selling his books around literary neighborhoods like Park Slope and Brooklyn Heights, but he prefers to stick around Sheepshead Bay and Bensonhurst — plus it saves him gas money.
“I’m not comfortable going into literary circles.” said Fortezza, who also sells used books in addition to his own. “Maybe it’s a fear of being criticized.”
Though doubt is something all authors regularly deal with, the writer turned book seller becomes upbeat when reflecting on his neighborhood and the people who he has befriended over the years.
“Some days I go out and absolutely nobody comes by and I ask myself if I’m the stupidest person in the world! But in general I have so many regular customers and I get a sale here and there. Brooklyn is a vast beautiful place with a fantastic array of people, and I just love it.”
Vic Fortezza and his books [East 13th Street and Avenue Z in Sheepshead Bay] Tues. and Thurs., and [Bay Parkway and 85th Street in Bensonhurst] Sat., or visit members.tripod.com/vic_fortezza/Literature/