Richard Bach

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Richard Bach
BornRichard David Bach
(1936-06-23) June 23, 1936 (age 88)
Oak Park, Illinois. U.S.
Alma materLong Beach State College
GenreAviation, fantasy, philosophy
Years active1963–present
Bette Jeanne Franks
(m. 1957; div. 1970)
(m. 1981; div. 1999)
Sabryna Nelson-Alexopoulos
(m. 1999; div. 2011)
Melinda Jane Kellogg
(m. 2020)
Children6, including James Marcus Bach
Website Edit this at Wikidata

Richard David Bach (born June 23, 1936)[1] is an American writer. He has written numerous flight-related works of fiction and non-fiction. His works include Jonathan Livingston Seagull (1970) and Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah (1977), both of which were among the 1970s' biggest sellers.

Most of Bach's books have been semi-autobiographical, using actual or fictionalized events from his life to illustrate his philosophy. His books espouse his philosophy that our apparent physical limits and mortality are merely appearance. Bach is noted for his love of aviation and his books related to flying in a metaphorical context. He has flown as a hobby since the age of 17. In late August 2012, Bach was severely 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[edit]

Bach was born in Oak Park, Illinois, to Roland R. and Ruth Shaw Bach. His father was an American Red Cross chapter manager.[2] Bach 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[edit]

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.

In 1970, Bach participated in Roger Corman's production Von Richthofen and 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[edit]

Bach's first book, the autobiographical Stranger to the Ground (1963) described his Air National Guard unit's deployment to France. It was received favorably by Edmund Fuller in The Wall Street Journal.

1970's Jonathan Livingston Seagull, a story about a seagull who flew for the love of flying rather than merely to catch food, was released by Macmillan Publishers after the manuscript was turned down by several others. It had first been published in Soaring, the 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. Containing fewer than 10,000 words, the book sold more than one million copies in 1972 alone.[4] The surprising success of the book was widely reported in the media in the early 1970s.[5]

Bach (in leather coat) in front of 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. Bach then filed a lawsuit against producer/director Hall Bartlett, alleging that Bartlett had destroyed Bach's screenplay for the film and that Bartlett had violated a clause in Bach's contract which stated that the film could not be released in theaters without Bach's approval.[6] Associate producer Leslie Parrish was appointed to be a mediator between Bach and Bartlett, but the mediation failed. The lawsuit ended with the film being released in theaters with some changes made to the final cut, while Bach had his name removed from the film's screenwriting credits.[7]

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.[8]

The 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 a 2008 Easton Gilbert G Searey (N346PE) that he had 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.[9]

The day after the accident, Bach 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 had been sent to his publisher the day before his accident.[12] 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 book incorporates the story of 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.

Personal life[edit]

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.[13] She typed and edited most of Richard's aviation writing. They divorced in 1970, and Bach spent years without seeing his children.

His 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."[14]

Their other children are Robert, Kristel, James Marcus Bach, Erika, and their youngest daughter, Bethany, who died in an accident at the age of 15 in 1985.

In 1981, Bach married the 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 1999.[15]

Bach married his third wife, Sabryna Nelson-Alexopoulos, in April 1999. They divorced on April 1, 2011.[16]

Bach has been married to his fourth wife, Melinda Kellogg, since November, 2020.[17][non-primary source needed]


  • Stranger to the Ground. Dell reprint 1990, First edition 1963. ISBN 0-440-20658-8.
  • Biplane. Dell Reprint 1990, First edition 1966. ISBN 0-440-20657-X.
  • Nothing by Chance. Dell Reprint 1990, First edition 1969. ISBN 0-440-20656-1.
  • Jonathan Livingston Seagull (1970) Macmillan, ISBN 0-380-01286-3.
  • A Gift of Wings. Dell Reissue 1989, First edition 1974. ISBN 0-440-20432-1.
  • Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah. 1977. ISBN 0-385-28501-9.
  • There's No Such Place As Far Away. Delta 1998, First edition 1979. ISBN 0-385-31927-4.
  • The Bridge Across Forever: A Love Story. Dell Reissue 1989. First edition 1984. ISBN 0-440-10826-8.
  • One. Dell Reissue 1989, First edition 1988. ISBN 0-440-20562-X.
  • Running from Safety. Delta 1995. ISBN 0-385-31528-7.
  • Out of My Mind. Delta 2000. ISBN 0-385-33490-7.
  • The Ferret Chronicles (Five novellas):
  • Curious Lives: Adventures from the Ferret Chronicles. Hampton Roads Publishing Company 2005. ISBN 1-57174-457-6.
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. ^ "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. ^ "'Seagull' Author Sues". The Evening News. Vol. 12, no. 210. Newburgh, NY. Associated Press. 12 October 1973.
  7. ^ "Jonathan Livingston Seagull (1973) | Via Vision Entertainment - info relayed by Leslie Parrish for the Blu-ray commentary track".
  8. ^ Pendo 1985, p. 58.
  9. ^ "Author Richard Bach injured in Washington plane crash". Fox News, September 1, 2012. Retrieved: December 11, 2015.
  10. ^ Valdes, Manuel. "'Jonathan Livingston Seagull' author crashes plane". MSNBC (Associated Press), September 1, 2012. Retrieved: December 11, 2015.
  11. ^ Sullivan, Jennifer. "Author Richard Bach, recovering from plane crash, returns to inspirational tale". Seattle Times, January 17, 2013. Retrieved: December 11, 2015.
  12. ^ Werris, Wendy. "Despite crash, new Bach book set for March". Publishers Weekly, December 14, 2012. Retrieved: December 11, 2015.
  13. ^ Bach Fineman, Betty. Patterns: Tales of Flying and of Life Editorial and Aviation Service, 2007. ISBN 978-0979629808.
  14. ^ Bach, Jonathan. Above the Clouds: A Reunion of Father and Son. New York: William Morrow & Co., 1993. ISBN 978-0-6881-1760-3.
  15. ^, Bach vs Parrish "Bach vs Parrish" Retrieved: `January 17, 2021.
  16. ^ King County Superior Court, Seattle, Washington; case number 10-3-05920-6, decree of dissolution issued April, 1, 2011.
  17. ^ "Richard Bach » Who is Melinda Jane Kellogg". 20 July 2018. Retrieved 22 October 2023.

General and cited references[edit]

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

External links[edit]