In their just-released books, newly published author Bob Ryder and journalist Alan Pollock address the richness of life in Chatham from different perspectives. Ryder is a former Chatham fisherman whose life is closely linked to the town and the ocean—from growing up on boats with his father and enlisting in the Coast Guard to presently working as a shellfish warden. Pollock is a longtime Cape Cod resident as well, growing up in Hyannis, living in Brewster and reporting on community life in Chatham for the Cape Cod Chronicle for the past 20 years. Yet unlike Ryder, who is a native of the town, he chose Chatham as the home of his story because of its history, beauty and the soul of the residents within it. “It takes a certain degree of persistence and ingenuity to make it in Chatham,” says Pollock, a fact that is exemplified in both stories.
In “Voyages From Chatham,” Ryder recounts his own ways of making it as a fisherman in Chatham in the 1960s and beyond, exposing the reader to the turbulent, nomadic ways of fishing life. “It was a family type of affair when I was involved with it,” says Ryder, “and the independence and freedom to do what I wanted was my favorite part.” He wrote the memoir primarily for his children, to educate them about his life. But the personal story is relevant to any bystander who ever wondered about life on the other side of the fish market. Ryder describes the peril of the career through the loss of his fishing boat to a fire at sea, an event that ultimately made him lose faith in the fishing industry. He also lost the freedom that had made him fall in love with fishing. On the industry as a whole today, he says, “It has changed from independent life to a very governed experience.”
In “Images of Modern America: Chatham,” Pollock presents a collection of photographs of the town through the past 50 years, portraying the diversity and evolving nature of the people, economy, culture and ocean. Most of the photos in the book come from present and former Chatham residents who opened their homes and their pasts to Pollock. “It is a privilege when people invite you into their lives and share their stories with you,” Pollock says. “Snapshots that people take and keep are a window into what was.” His work is primarily a photo book with small captions accompanying each picture, a collection which tells a timeless story of community and change that is better seen than read.
“Chatham is a special place today and it was special in some ways that were different decades ago. This book is for those who were not fortunate enough to see it then,” says Pollock.
These two different books act as windows into the past, exposing both the life of a Chatham resident and the grand view of a community evolving through time. The story of Chatham is both ageless and endlessly advancing.
“Voyages from Chatham,” by Capt. Bob Ryder
Trap Dock Press, $18.95
“Images of Modern America: Chatham,” by Alan Pollock
Arcadia Publishing, $22.99