Bold melo­drama of life’s per­ilous seas

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Books - Peter Pierce

READ­ERS of David Vann’s most re­cent novel, Goat Moun­tain, were of­fered no respite from the gru­elling phys­i­cal and moral tri­als set in train by a deadly in­ci­dent at the start of a hunt­ing trip. Since the book’s pub­li­ca­tion in Septem­ber, Vann has said that the bur­den of fam­ily lore and leg­end has now been worked through in his fic­tion, free­ing him to turn else­where.

The most re­cent book of his to be re­leased in Aus­tralia, via Text Pub­lish­ing, is a re­vised ver­sion of a work that first ap­peared as long ago as 2005, when Vann’s ca­reer as an au­thor — let alone sail­ing ves­sels with which he was as­so­ci­ated — seemed to be in dan­ger of founder­ing. A Mile Down is a tale in which the pro­tag­o­nist cum au­thor finds no respite; a chron­i­cle of mis-

A Mile Down: The True Story of A Dis­as­trous Ca­reer at Sea

By David Vann Text Pub­lish­ing, 241pp, $24.99 ad­ven­tures and dou­ble deal­ing, comic at times (though rarely for Vann) and near tragic at oth­ers. Pop­u­lated by a cast of vil­lains and long-suf­fer­ing friends, the book is a bold melo­drama where the ac­tion takes place in seedy ports and dock­yards, lux­ury re­sorts on trop­i­cal is­lands, and in the peril of mon­strous seas.

The story opens in 1976, when the au­thor’s

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