Set in the historic fishing
Decline of Fishes is a multi-layered novel about the recklessness of growth at any cost, the survival of an endangered industry, and the value of hard-won principles. The novel tells the story of a choice faced by cities and towns across
I had long wanted to write a novel about my hometown that encompassed the struggles of the often beleaguered fishing industry of
Instead of setting to work on my novel, I was forced into activism by the urgency of what was happening to the place in which I had chosen to spend the rest of my life. A series of skirmishes against luxury condominiums and upscale subdivisions soon turned into a struggle over the soul of the city itself. Would
For three decades I worked with citizen-based groups opposing what many of us felt was inappropriate development and advocating for long-term comprehensive planning that would provide for orderly growth while preserving the vital character of the city. During this time I published At the Cut, a memoir about my childhood in
As I searched for a dramatic focus for my novel, an event or issue around which I could construct a narrative, a
During the battle over the mall, in the mid-to-late-80s, the fishing industry fell deeper into crisis with the virtual collapse of the
The narrative extends over the course of a single summer, in 1993. The novel opens with a demonstration at the federal National Marine Services office building during which fishermen, organized by Nina Calogero, president of Save Our Fishermen, try to prevent government workers from going to work, just as they believe restrictive federal regulations keep them from fishing daily; and it reaches a climax with the final vote of the City Council for or against the mall. The action of the story, its plot, unfolds in a series of contrapuntal chapters narrated from the point of view of four of the principal characters (Jason Makrides, Allison Banks, Nina Calogero, and Lori Lambert), beginning and ending with Jason. This enables the story to be told and the action and meaning of events to be perceived through diverse points of view, hopefully lending greater dimension to the novel. Narration is in the third-person, selective-omniscient, except for the chapters devoted to Jason, who speaks in the first person to create a subjectivity that I hoped would enhance the tension among voices while maintaining his role as the novel’s protagonist.
The dramatic payoff comes after the build up of suspense leading to the City Council’s vote that will determine the fate of the mall for its adherents and opponents. In the course of achieving this resolution in the narrative, each of the principal characters surmounts a personal conflict or challenge that results in growth or change, even if those changes are often painfully won.
Finally, this novel is about the process of its own composition. Jason has long wanted to write a novel about the struggle of his hometown to maintain its identity in a changing world and his own conflicts as he came of age as a writer. Decline of Fishes enacts that struggle. It is the novel that Jason has dreamed of writing and ultimately writes.
Though the actual battle against the mall took place twenty-five years ago, the story I’ve fictionalized has not lost its relevance. As federal restrictions continue to plague the fishing industry, which is still fighting for its life even as stocks recoup, and Gloucester, like the rest of the nation, suffers from the collapse of the global economy, new proposals continue to challenge our community, as we attempt to balance necessary growth against the equally vital imperative to retain our fundamental character, which brings people from all over the world to our city. But the will to persevere among fishermen and their families has not wavered, nor has the love of place of the majority of the city’s residents. It is these verities I hoped to celebrate in Decline of Fishes.
In conclusion, let me offer a word about the way this book has been published. Believing that writers themselves should have ultimate control over the content, editing, design, marketing and distribution of their books, Schuyler Hoffman and I founded the Back Shore Writers Collaborative in 2005. To date we have published two books under the imprint of Back Shore Press, Peter’s Tuttle’s road poem, Looking for a Sign in the West, and my novel, No Fortunes, both of which have been well received and reviewed. We have worked with local artists and designers and regional printing facilities to produce our books, and we distribute and sell them through local distributors, independent booksellers and the Internet.
(Decline of Fishes is a available from area book stores and from our distributor Len Bolonsky, Good Harbor Books, 978-283-4769 or 978-283-9294. Also available from Amazon.com