Bach, Richard (1936– )
Writer on aviation who became famous with his book Jonathan
Livingston Seagull (Macmillan, 1970; Avon, 1973), written
as a result of psychic experience over a period of several years.
He was a U.S. Air Force pilot from 1956 to 1959 and a technical
writer for Douglas Aircraft and associate editor of Flying magazine
from 1961 to 1964. Bach was also a director of the Antique
Airplane Association and editor of its magazine Antiquer, and
did some airplane barnstorming in the Midwest. His early
books include Stranger to the Ground (1963), Biplane (1966), and
Nothing by Chance A Gypsy Pilot’s Adventures in Modern America
In 1959, while living at Belmont Shore, California, Bach was
walking by the waterfront when he heard a disembodied voice
say ‘‘Jonathan Livingston Seagull.’’ This was followed by a kind
of daydream of a seagull flying alone at sunrise, and a realization
of its significance. Bach felt impelled to write this down,
using a green ballpoint pen and some old scratch paper (the
only writing materials handy), and completed the first part of
the story of Jonathan Livingston Seagull up to the point of Jonathan’s
expulsion from the flock. Not until eight years later in
Iowa, 1,500 miles away, did the next section of the book come
to Bach in a dream. He immediately typed it out and sent it to
a magazine, but it was instantly rejected. Next he sent it to Private
Pilot, which published it reluctantly at below regular rate,
but the reader response was so great that the publisher demanded
more seagull stories. Bach sat down at his typewriter
and, with virtually no rewriting, knocked out the second and
third parts of the J. L. Seagull saga, duly published as magazine
The stories were published in book form through the judgment
of Eleanor Friede, then an editor at Macmillan (now president
of Eleanor Friede Books), who had an intuition about the
book. Within two years the book sold over one million copies,
was on best-seller lists for nearly a year, became a Book of the
Month Club choice, was condensed by Reader’s Digest books,
and was translated into a dozen languages. It was banned only
by the People’s Republic of China for no very clear reason, but
as composers Beethoven and Mozart also shared this prohibition
at that time, Bach thought J. L. Seagull was in very good
The widespread success of Jonathan Livingston Seagull lies in
its simple but inspiring allegory, with spiritual and psychic
overtones. It embodies Bach’s own philosophy, ‘‘Find what it is
you want in the world to do, and then do it.’’ Bach does not ascribe
his inspired story to any psychic entity, in spite of the
strange way it was manifested, but believes that part of his personality
on an unconscious level was communicating with his
everyday self. However, he has also had several psychic experiences,
including out-of-the-body travel and healing.
His later books include A Gift of Wings (1974); Illusions The
Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah (1977); There’s No Such Place as
Far Away (1979); One (1988); Running From Safety An Adventure
of the Spirit (1995); and Out of My Mind The Discovery of Saunders-Vixen
Bach, Richard. Illusions The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah.
New York Delacorte Press, 1977.
———. Jonathan Livingston Seagull. New York Macmillan,
———. One A Novel. New York William Morrow, 1988.

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