Wells Tower was born in 1973 in Vancouver, Canada, and grew up in North Carolina. He studied anthropology and sociology at Wesleyan University, and creative writing at Columbia University. He then traveled extensively around the US, taking odd jobs and living paycheck to paycheck – a time in his life he credits with giving him the material to his write his short stories and works of reportage.
According to Tower, his career as an author began when he persuaded an editor for the »Washington Post« to let him write a piece on life on the carnival circuit, for which he worked a long stint operating a fairground ride. In his features on long-haul truckers, Pentecostal preachers, professional mini-golf players and Wal-Mart employees, he has immersed himself completely in the lives of his subjects to better understand the realities of their day-to-day existence – creating a sense of immediacy that has brought him much praise. Tower’s short fiction and reportage have appeared in renowned periodicals such as »Paris Review«, »McSweeney’s« and »The New Yorker«. In 2009 Tower published his first collection of short stories, titled »Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned«, which enjoyed critical success in the literary world. His work has frequently been compared to that of legendary American authors like Ernest Hemingway, John Cheever, Raymond Carver and Richard Yates, while never suggesting it was an inferior imitation. His stories are peppered with people who have been cast out of their lives, heading inexorably toward catastrophe, and – a common American theme – forced to grapple with nature, and wilderness. Tower’s work is known for its minutely detailed gaze, its biting wit and the author’s casual portrayals that unfold with all the more force. Tower also exhibits great empathy for his characters; he finds tender and loving words to describe the spiritual wounds and indignities suffered by his protagonists. The subjects chosen by the author range from the artful depiction of ostensible normality to the utmost scurrilous of conditions. The title story features Vikings ransacking an island that has been repeatedly ravaged and burned, all in the hope of quelling their winter depression with battles and bloodshed. »Let loose on nature, his characters come across as if the Simpsons were hired to make a Marlboro ad«, wrote the »Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung«, while »Vanity Fair« found the collection to be »witty, surprising; a work of raw beauty«.
Tower received numerous prizes for his work. He was a finalist for the 2009 Story Prize, and in 2010 the »The New Yorker« listed him among the twenty best authors under the age of 40. Wells Tower lives in Brooklyn, New York, and Chapel Hill, North Carolina.