David Vann was born in Alaska and comes from a family of sinkers. His father sank a new cabin cruiser in Alaska, right in the marina, by forgetting to put in the drain plug when he launched. Vann's grandfather sank an old converted Navy cruiser on a lake in California. His uncle sank the same boat twice in Idaho. Vann himself sank in the Caribbean on his honeymoon, as chronicled in his best-selling memoir, A Mile Down: The True Story of a Disastrous Career at Sea. Every family has to be good at something, and Vann is hard at work continuing the tradition. Last year, he built a 52-foot aluminum trimaran for a nonstop solo circumnavigation for Esquire magazine and had to turn back because the boat was about to fold in half. He's also had run-ins with pirates in Mexico, which he wrote about for Outside magazine, and he's sailed by land from Florida to California for Men's Journal on a 'Blokart,' a tricycle with a sail (made in New Zealand, where Vann has residency). He also loves to sail the Mediterranean, and once lost a rudder off Morocco.
In Legend of a Suicide, though, Vann turns to fiction to write about the defining disaster of his life, the suicide of his father when Vann was 13. The book is the winner of the Grace Paley Prize and was named a Notable Book of 2008 by the New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Kansas City Star, and the Story Prize.
Vann has worked on documentaries in 2009 with the BBC, NOVA, and CNN, and he's been a National Endowment for the Arts Fellow and a Wallace Stegner Fellow, taught at Stanford and Cornell, where he received his degrees, and is currently a professor at the University of San Francisco.