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Richard Bach
Born Richard David Bach
June 23, 1936(1936-06-23) (age 86)
Oak Park, Illinois. U.S.
Occupation Writer
Years active 1963–2014
Spouse(s) Bette Jeanne Franks (m. 1957; div. 1970)
Leslie Parrish (m. 1977; div. 1997)
Sabryna Nelson-Alexopoulos (m. 1999)

Richard David Bach (born June 23, 1936)[1] is an American writer. Bach is widely known as the author of some of the 1970s' biggest sellers, including Jonathan Livingston Seagull (1970) and Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah (1977). Bach has written numerous works of fiction, and also non-fiction flight-related titles.

Most of Bach's books have been semi-autobiographical, using actual or fictionalized events from his life to illustrate his philosophy. Bach's books espouse his philosophy that our apparent physical limits and mortality are merely appearance. Bach is noted for his love of aviation and for his books related to flying in a metaphorical context. Bach has pursued flying as a hobby since the age of 17. In late August 2012, Bach was badly injured when on approach to landing at Friday Harbor, Washington, his aircraft clipped some power lines and crashed upside down in a field.

Early life

Bach was born in Oak Park, Illinois to Roland R. Bach, an American Red Cross chapter manager, and Ruth (née Shaw).[2] He attended Long Beach State College in 1955.

Bach's first airplane flight occurred at age 14, when his mother was campaigning for a seat on the council of Long Beach, California. Her campaign manager, Paul Marcus, mentioned that he flew airplanes, and invited Richard on a flight in his Globe Swift.[3]

Aviation career

Bach served in the United States Navy Reserve, then in the New Jersey Air National Guard's 108th Fighter Wing, 141st Fighter Squadron (USAF), as a Republic F-84F Thunderstreak fighter pilot. He then worked at a variety of jobs, including as a technical writer for Douglas Aircraft and as a contributing editor for Flying magazine. He served in the USAF reserve and was deployed in France in 1960. He later became a barnstormer.

During the summer of 1970, Bach and his friend Chris Cagle traveled to Ireland, where they participated in flying sequences for Roger Corman's film Von Richthofen and Brown. They flew a variety of World War I aircraft of the Blue Max collection owned by ex-RCAF pilot Lynn Garrison. Bach and Garrison first met when Bach wrote articles for Avian, Garrison's aviation publication.

During summer 1970 Dick Bach participated in Roger Corman's production, Richthofen & Brown in Ireland

Most of Bach's books involve flight in some way, from the early stories which are purely about flying aircraft, to Stranger to the Ground, his first book, to his later works, in which he used flight as a philosophical metaphor.

Literary career

Richard Bach's first book, the autobiographical Stranger to the Ground (1963) described the deployment to France of his Air National Guard unit, and was well reviewed, for example by Edmund Fuller in the Wall Street Journal.

In 1970, Jonathan Livingston Seagull, a story about a seagull who flew for the love of flying rather than merely to catch food, was published by Macmillan Publishers after the manuscript was turned down by several others. It had been first published, free, in Soaring, the monthly magazine of the Soaring Society of America. The book, which included photos of seagulls in flight by photographer Russell Munson, became a number-one bestseller. The book, which contained fewer than 10,000 words, sold more than 1,000,000 copies in 1972 alone.[4] The surprise success of the book was widely reported in the media in the early 1970s.[5]

Richard Bach and Lynn Garrison with Helio Courier G-ARMU used for Von Richthofen and Brown, 1970

In 1973, Jonathan Livingston Seagull was adapted into a film of the same name, produced by Paramount Pictures Corporation, with a soundtrack by Neil Diamond. In 1975, Bach was the driving force behind Nothing by Chance, a documentary film based on his book of the same name. The film centers on modern barnstorming around the United States in the 1970s. Bach recruited a group of his friends who were pilots to recreate the era of the barnstormer.[6]

A second novel, Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah, published in 1977, tells of an encounter with a modern-day messiah who has decided to quit.

On August 31, 2012, Bach was injured in an aircraft landing accident on San Juan Island in Washington. He was landing his aircraft, a 2008 Easton Gilbert G Searey (N346PE) that he nicknamed Puff, at a private airport when the landing gear clipped some power lines. He crashed upside down in a field about two miles from Friday Harbor, taking down two poles and sparking a small grass fire.[7]

The day after the accident, Bach was reported to be in serious but stable condition with a head injury and broken shoulder.[8] Bach was hospitalized for four months. He reported that his near-death experience inspired him to finish the fourth part of Jonathan Livingston Seagull, which had been originally published in three parts.[9]

In December 2012, Publishers Weekly reported that Travels with Puff, the book Bach wrote about crossing the United States in Puff, had been sent to his publisher the day before his accident.[10] Travels with Puff was released on March 19, 2013.

In 2014, Bach published his sequel to Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah, which he called Illusions II: The Adventures of a Reluctant Student. The story incorporates Bach's real-life aircraft crash, with the author imagining he is being visited by the "messiah" Don Shimoda, who helps him through his difficult medical recovery. Other fictional characters and references also appear.

Personal life

Bach had six children with his first wife, Bette Jeanne Franks. Also a pilot, she is the author of Patterns: Tales of Flying and of Life, a book about her life as a pilot and single mother.[11] She typed and edited most of Richard's aviation writing. They divorced in 1970, and Bach spent years without seeing his children.

Richard and Bette's son Jonathan, named after the titular character in Bach's bestseller, Jonathan Livingston Seagull, is a software engineer and journalist. He wrote the 1993 book Above the Clouds, about growing up without knowing his father and then later meeting him as a college student. Richard gave his approval, although he noted that it included some personal history he would "rather not see in print."[12]

Their other children are Robert, a commercial airline pilot; Kristel; James Marcus Bach, a computer expert and writer; Erika; and their youngest daughter, Bethany, who was killed in an accident at the age of 15 in 1985.

In 1977, Bach married actress Leslie Parrish, whom he met during the making of the film Jonathan Livingston Seagull. She featured significantly in two of his subsequent books: The Bridge Across Forever and One, which primarily focused on their relationship and Bach's concept of soulmates. They divorced in 1997.[13]

Bach married his third wife, Sabryna Nelson-Alexopoulos, in April 1999.


The book Curious Lives is in fact the above five Ferret Chronicles books collected in one volume, the only changes being changes to the titles of each of the five.
  • Flying: The Aviation Trilogy. Scribner 2003, ISBN 0-7432-4747-7, Collected edition containing
    • Stranger to the Ground
    • Biplane
    • Nothing by Chance
  • Messiah's Handbook: Reminders for the Advanced Soul. 2004. ISBN 1-57174-421-5.
  • Hypnotizing Maria. Hampton Roads Publishing Company 2009, ISBN 1-57174-623-4.
  • Thank Your Wicked Parents: Blessings from a Difficult Childhood. Rainbow Ridge 2012, ISBN 978-193790-702-0.
  • Travels with Puff: A Gentle Game of Life and Death. NiceTiger 2013. ISBN 978-193777-703-6.
  • Illusions II: The Adventures of a Reluctant Student. Diamond Inspiration(Kindle single e-book) 2014.



  1. "Richard Bach (Biographical sketch)." Retrieved: December 11, 2015.
  2. Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature, vol. 2, R. Reginald, 1979, pg 803
  3. Scott, Phil. "My First Time." Air & Space/Smithsonian, Vol. 17, No. 2, June/July 2002, p. 47.
  4. "Jonathan Livingston Seagull." Archived 2006-04-26 at the Wayback Machine. 20th-Century American Bestsellers. Retrieved: December 11. 2015.
  5. Walters, Raymond, Jr. "Book Review:'Jonathan Livingston Seagull'." The New York Times, July 23, 1972, p. 43.
  6. Pendo 1985, p. 58.
  7. "Author Richard Bach injured in Washington plane crash." Fox News, September 1, 2012. Retrieved: December 11, 2015.
  8. Valdes, Manuel. "'Jonathan Livingston Seagull' author crashes plane." MSNBC (Associated Press), September 1, 2012. Retrieved: December 11, 2015.
  9. Sullivan, Jennifer. "Author Richard Bach, recovering from plane crash, returns to inspirational tale." Seattle Times, January 17, 2013. Retrieved: December 11, 2015.
  10. Werris, Wendy. "Despite crash, new Bach book set for March." Publishers Weekly, December 14, 2012. Retrieved: December 11, 2015.
  11. Bach Fineman, Betty. Patterns: Tales of Flying and of Life Editorial and Aviation Service, 2007. ISBN 978-0979629808.
  12. Bach, Jonathan. Above the Clouds: A Reunion of Father and Son. New York: William Morrow & Co., 1993. ISBN 978-0-6881-1760-3.
  13. Varughese, Suma, "A Long Way Ahead to Fly.", Richard Bach interview, Life Positive, March 2006. Retrieved: March 13, 2017.


  • Pendo, Stephen. Aviation in the Cinema. Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, 1985. ISBN 0-8-1081-746-2.

External links

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