De Vries was born in Assen. He was married to Alida Gerdina van Wermeskerken; the couple had five children. In 1972, de Vries got national recognition when his novel Bartje was made into a television series by Willy van Hemert. Bartje subsequently became the symbol of the Dutch province Drenthe. De Vries died, aged 60, in Zeist.
De Vries wrote regional novels, most famously the coming-of-age novel Bartje and Bartje Seeks Happiness. He also wrote Journey Through the Night, a children's book about World War II published in four volumes (first in 1951, last in 1958). The books on Bartje can be considered Bildungsromans.