A MILE DOWN by David Vann


The True Story of a Disastrous Career at Sea
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The author pursues his dream of becoming a charter-boat captain, even though Lady Luck keeps hitting him on the head as if with a baseball bat.

Debut memoirist Vann doesn’t want to follow in the footsteps of his father, who committed suicide after being forced to sell his commercial fishing boat and return to his career as a dentist. So the younger Vann sticks relentlessly to his course, even as troubles rain down. He hocks himself way up beyond his ears to buy a 90-foot vessel on Turkey’s Mediterranean coast. He hopes to pilot it on educational charters, but his hopes never get a chance as he encounters one problem after another in getting his ship seaworthy. Vann is downbeat from the start, appalled by the lies and shoddy workmanship of his Turkish boat-builder. The bitterness goes into full swing on the first cruise, as the caulking on the deck begins to come loose. A series of problems accumulates to critical mass in a life-threatening situation off Morocco. The crew’s saved by a dastardly German freighter captain who extends help but attempts to claim the vessel as salvage once Vann is brought aboard, when the boat can be considered abandoned. Entering bankruptcy, the author learns he will be prosecuted for embezzling funds from his future charter clients because he no longer has a boat to charter. The atmosphere gets thick with Vann’s splenetics, but angels keep dropping in to save his sorry financial situations. Incredibly, in an act readers might easily construe as willfully dangerous if not suicidal, he elects to try again, this time in the Caribbean. The predictable results include an unworthy boat, a bad storm and a rescue. The question remains wide open whether Vann should be lauded or have his sanity questioned.

How many mishaps can be described in bilious tones before the audience needs to come up for air?

Pub Date: July 1st, 2005
ISBN: 1-56025-710-5
Page count: 256pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 2005


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