David McDannald is a writer and traveler who co-authored The Last Great Ape: A Journey through Africa and a Fight for the Heart of the Continent, published by Pegasus Books. His prose has appeared in many journals and magazines, including The American Scholar, The Oxford American, Glimmer Train, The Gettysburg Review, and Sierra. In college, David double-majored in philosophy and business administration, which his advisor told him was the strangest double major he’d ever heard of outside of politics/religion. Torn between different versions of the world, between creativity and pragmatism, he accepted a job at Goldman Sachs and there killed off the inner businessman that had been growing in him since childhood.
While at Goldman, David began to write, to tap his alienation from the earning-spending model of American life, which of course required him to pass vast swaths of time in a cubicle. Writing not only offered a tool for charting a new path but revealed itself to be the path. And one Friday after work, David decided to begin a project not so different from building an early-adulthood womb big enough for him to crawl inside of: a novel. In a letter to his great aunt, he asked if there was a spare bed on her West Texas ranch and any need for a new hand. She responded, “There’s a fifty-year-old railroad trailer without a bathroom. You can stay in that. It has an outhouse.” After two years in finance, David left Wall Street for the West Texas mountains to begin writing in earnest—while assuming the tasks of an entry-level ranch hand, like sweeping up goat dung and burning kitchen trash in metal drums. Eventually, he became trustee for his three young cousins who inherited the land.
The search for new experience drove David far beyond West Texas, and for years he split his time between caring for the ranch’s cattle herd and traveling in Africa and South America. He speaks four languages, including Swahili, and has spent years in Africa, staying in the rainforest with Baka, helping to deliver calves in Maasai cattle camps, and trekking alone in regions where hyenas are as common as goats. Aspiring to a deliberate and uncluttered life, he thrives in places where the wild is a character in the day to day and he tries to keep in mind the difference between what is essential and what is a gift. Said by a French literary agent to be the best writer she’d come across in twenty years, he is working on more projects than most anyone would want listed here, but they include multiple concepts for television, three novels in various states of polish, and a book-length work of nonfiction about the evolution of boredom.
He now lives on the Navajo Nation in Arizona with his wife, who is a psychologist, and their one-year-old daughter.