Richard Bach

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Richard Bach
Born Richard David Bach
(1936-06-23) June 23, 1936 (age 79)
Oak Park, Illinois. U.S.
Occupation Writer
Genre Aviation, fantasy, philosophy
Spouse Bette Jeanne Franks (1957-1970) (divorced) six children
Leslie Parrish (1977–1997) (divorced)
Sabryna Nelson-Alexopoulos (1999-present)

Richard David Bach (born June 23, 1936)[1] is an American writer. He is widely known as the author of the hugely popular 1970s best-sellers Jonathan Livingston Seagull and Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah, among others. Bach's books espouse his philosophy that our apparent physical limits and mortality are merely appearance. Bach is noted for his love of flying and for his books related to air flight and flying in a metaphorical context. He 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.


Bach was born in Oak Park, Illinois. He attended Long Beach State College in 1955. He has authored numerous works of fiction and non-fiction, including Jonathan Livingston Seagull (1970), Illusions (1977), One (1989), and Out of My Mind (1999). Most of his books have been semi-autobiographical, using actual or fictionalized events from his life to illustrate his philosophy.

Bach's first airplane flight occurred at age 15, 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.[2]

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 F-84F 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, deployed in France in 1960. He later became a barnstormer. Most of his books involve flight in some way, from the early stories which are straightforwardly about flying aircraft, to Stranger to the Ground, his first book, to his later works, in which he used flight as a philosophical metaphor.

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 other publishers. The book, which included unique photos of seagulls in flight by photographer Russell Munson, became a number-one bestseller. The book contained fewer than 10,000 words, yet it broke all hardcover sales records since Gone with the Wind. It sold more than 1,000,000 copies in 1972 alone.[3] The surprise success of the book was widely reported in the media in the early 1970s.[4]

During the summer of 1970, Bach and his friend Chris Cagle traveled to Ireland, where they participated in flying sequences supporting 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.

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

In 1973, the book was turned into a movie, Jonathan Livingston Seagull, produced by Paramount Pictures Corporation. The movie included a soundtrack by Neil Diamond.

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

Bach has retained a dedicated fan base through the years. During the 1990s, he appeared online at Compuserve, where he answered e-mails personally. Bach was interviewed on April 1, 2005 on Conscious Talk Radio, and this interview was replayed a few times in 2006.[5]

Bach had six children with his first wife, Bette. Bette typed and edited most of Richard's aviation writings. They divorced in 1970. Bette Bach Fineman, who remarried, is also a pilot, and the author of Patterns, about her life as a pilot and single mother. Their son Jonathan is a software engineer and journalist, who wrote Above the Clouds about growing up without knowing his father, Richard, and then later meeting him as a college student. (Richard gave his approval, although he noted that it included some personal history he'd "rather not see in print").[6] Other children are Robert, a commercial airline pilot; Kristel; James Marcus Bach, a computer expert and writer; and Erika. His youngest daughter, Bethany, was killed in an accident at age fifteen in 1985.

In 1977 Bach married actress Leslie Parrish, whom he met during the making of the Jonathan Livingston Seagull movie.[7] She was a major element 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.[8] Bach married his third wife, Sabryna Nelson-Alexopoulos in April 1999.

On August 31, 2012, Bach was injured in an aircraft landing accident on San Juan Island in Washington.[9] He was landing his aircraft, N346PE, a 2008 Easton Gilbert G SEAREY that he nicknamed "Puff", at a private airport when the landing gear clipped some power lines and crashed upside down in a field about two miles from Friday Harbor, taking down two poles and sparking a small grass fire. The day after the accident, he was reported to be in serious but stable condition with a head injury and broken shoulder.[10] 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.[11] In December 2012, Publishers Weekly reported that Travels with Puff, the book Bach wrote about crossing the United States in "Puff", was sent to his publisher the day before his accident.[12] Travels with Puff was released on March 19, 2013.

In 2014 Bach published his long-awaited 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 plane crash, and the author imagines being visited by the "messiah" Don Shimoda, who helps him through his difficult medical recovery. Other fictional characters and references also appear.


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.


  1. ^ [1] Richard Bach (biographical sketch)
  2. ^ Scott, Phil, My First Time, Air & Space/Smithsonian, Vol. 17 No. 2 (June/July 2002), p. 47
  3. ^ "20th-Century American Bestsellers". Retrieved 2006-09-09. 
  4. ^ Walters, Raymond, Jr., New York Times Book Review, July 23, 1972, p. 43
  5. ^ Richard Bach interview, Conscious Talk Radio 
  6. ^ Bach, Jonathan, "Above the Clouds: A Reunion of Father and Son," (1993), ISBN 0-688-11760-0
  7. ^ "Leslie Parrish (I) Biography". Retrieved 2007-03-13. 
  8. ^ Richard Bach interview - New Age - A Long Way Ahead to Fly, Life Positive 
  9. ^ Author Richard Bach injured in Washington plane crash, Fox News, September 1, 2012
  10. ^ Valdes, Manuel (September 1, 2012). "'Jonathan Livingston Seagull' author crashes plane". MSNBC. Associated Press. Retrieved September 1, 2012. 
  11. ^ Sullivan, Jennifer (17 January 2013). "Author Richard Bach, recovering from plane crash, returns to inspirational tale". Seattle Times. Retrieved 14 February 2013. 
  12. ^ Werris, Wendy (14 December 2012). "Despite Crash, New Bach Book Set for March". Publishers Weekly. Retrieved 19 March 2013. 

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