Pete Hamill tells a story about completing the manuscript of his novel “Forever” and putting it in an envelope to send to his publisher the next day, which happened to be Sept. 11, 2001. Eventually, when the smoke had cleared and he could begin thinking about life going on, he realized that he had to rewrite the novel, a New York fantasy about a man who is immortal as long as he never leaves the city. Hamill says that the book couldn’t stay the way it had been on Sept. 10 and still feel true to its subject.
As a veteran reporter, Hamill had plenty of experience as the writerly equivalent of a first responder, charged with beating competitors to the scene, nailing the who-what-where-when-and-how, and swiftly getting the story out. But as a novelist he was a last responder, whose job it is to take his time and go deep on a different question: What did it mean?