Bangs, Richard 1950-
BANGS, Richard 1950-
PERSONAL: Born August 24, 1950, in New Haven, CT; son of Lawrence Cutler (a psychologist) and Louise (a housewife; maiden name, Morton) Bangs; married Pamela Roberson; children: Walker. Education: Northwestern University, B.A., 1972; University of Southern California, M.A., 1975, graduate study, 1975.
ADDRESSES: Home—Montclair, CA. Office—Mountain Travel Sobek U.S, 1266 66th Street, Suite 3 and 4 Emeryville, CA 94608. E-mail—[email protected]
CAREER: Sobek Expeditions (international adventure travel company), Angels Camp, CA, president, beginning 1973; founding partner of Mountain Travel-Sobek U.S., Montclair, CA; president of Outward Bound U.S.A., 2001.
MEMBER: Explorers Club, Sierra Club, Sobek's International Explorers Society.
AWARDS, HONORS: Lowell Thomas Award for Best Travel Book of 1989 for Riding the Dragon's Back: The Race to Raft the Upper Yangtze; Eisner Prize for Literature; Bosner Award for Journalism; National Outdoor Book Award in the literature category for The Lost River: A Memoir of Life, Death, and Transformation on Wild Water, 2000.
(Contributor, with others) South America: River Trips, Bradt Enterprises, 1981.
(With Christian Kallen) Rivergods: Exploring the World's Great Rivers, Sierra Club Books, 1985.
(Editor, with Christian Kallen) Paths Less Travelled: Dispatches from the Front Lines of Exploration, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1988.
(With Christian Kallen) Islands of Fire, Islands of Spice: Exploring the Wild Places of Indonesia, Sierra Club Books (San Francisco, CA), 1988.
(With Christian Kallen) Riding the Dragon's Back: The Race to Raft the Upper Yangtze, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1989.
(Editor) Adventure Vacations: From Trekking in New Guinea to Swimming in Siberia, Norton (New York, NY), 1990.
Islandgods: Exploring the World's Most Exotic Islands, Taylor Publishing (Dallas, TX), 1991.
Peaks: Seeking High Ground across the Continents, Taylor Publishing (Dallas, TX), 1994.
The Last Wild River Ride, Turner Publishing (Atlanta, GA), 1997.
The Lost River: A Memoir of Life, Death, and Transformation on Wild Water, Sierra Club Books (San Francisco, CA), 1999.
Adventure without End, Mountaineers Books (Seattle, WA), 2001.
WITH SOBEK'S INTERNATIONAL EXPLORERS SOCIETY
The Adventure Book, Frommer-Pasmantier, 1983.
One Thousand Adventures: Journeys to the Rivers, Lands, and Seas of Seven Continents, Harmony Books, 1983.
The Adventure Book II, Sobek's International Explorers Society, 1984.
Sobek's Adventure Vacations, Running Press, 1986.
Also author of Whitewater Adventure. Contributing editor of Outside and River Runner magazines; contributor of articles to periodicals in the United States and abroad. Author of several film scripts; executive producer of film "River of the Red Ape." Columnist for Mother Lode Weekly, a local paper; contributor of essays to Expedia.com; producer of "Well-Traveled" column on the Microsoft Network (msn.com).
SIDELIGHTS: Richard Bangs, writer, adventurer, and travel-company executive, told Michael Bowker in Western's World: "If I had a million dollars I wouldn't be able to do any more than I'm doing now." His company's books, adventure logs with photographs and accompanying text, take the reader down some of the world's least navigable rivers, such as the Copper in Alaska, the Zaskar in India, the Omo in Ethiopia, and the Bio Bio in Chile; some of the most legendary, including the Indus, Euphrates, and Yangtze; and some of the most foreboding, like the Eater of Men. Bangs—who named his company Sobek, after the crocodile goddess of the Nile—was inspired to take his first raft ride by Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn. Although the debut river ride down the Potomac was foiled by a park ranger, Bangs and his friends were hooked. They proceeded throughout high school to "canoe and raft most of the wild rivers on the Eastern Seaboard," he told Bowker.
Rivergods, written with Christian Kallen, includes photographs in "wild color" of twelve major rivers and provides illustrative text as well, according to David Graber in the Los Angeles Times Book Review. He termed the prose "adventure writing" and explained that it tells the story not of the river, its people, or its wildlife, but replays each step of the expedition itself, telling a story of drama and danger in which the lives of the actual explorers and tourists are threatened by rapids and crocodiles. Graber described the book as "big, bold, brash; adrenaline leaking from between the pages." The critic concluded that Rivergods "raises the word vicarious to new heights."
Bangs hit upon a unique book project in 1988. He recruited a dozen top writers and sent them on allexpenses-paid trips asking only that they write about their adventures. The writers' recollections became the basis for Paths Less Travelled: Dispatches from the Front Lines of Exploration. Such literary figures as Edward Hoagland, Roy Blount, Bobbie Ann Mason and William Broyles served as the commentators. "Upshot?" asked a Kirkus Reviews critic. "About the same as picking twelve strangers off the street—a few prove to be first-rate travellers . . . while the rest enjoy themselves and send some pretty postcards." The reviewer singled out Hoagland's "Arabia Felix" and Barry Lopez's "The Resplendent Oryx" as worthy travel essays; Jay McInerney's "Deadly Hazards, Minor Hassles," about a rafting trip in Victoria Falls was deemed "funny [and] sharp-eyed."
Bangs provided reminiscences of his own, most notably The Lost River: A Memoir of Life, Death, and Transformation on Wild Water and Adventure without End. In The Lost River, Bangs "recounts a nearly thirty-year obsession with rafting some of the swiftest, most dangerous waters on earth," according to a Publishers Weekly contributor. During one expedition, to the Nile in 1975, Bangs's closest friend, Lee Greenwald, drowned in a freak accident. The final third of the book describes a 1998 expedition in honor of Greenwald to the Tekeze River, one of Africa's deepest. Adventure without End collects Bangs's online contributions to Expedia.com, the travel web site. Expeditions to Patagonia, Indonesia, Kalimantan (Borneo) and Morocco are described, leading George Cohen of Booklist to say that the author's "madcap experiences are a pleasure to read about."
Bangs once told CA: "I write for fellow adventurers—for those who venture beyond the mainstream, who turn the unturned stone and seek the unclimbed summit. My writings are an attempt to share my adventures, knowledge, and love of the outdoors with those who are aware enough to appreciate them.
"I've always enjoyed a good story and have found writing my own to be an extremely rewarding experience."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, December 15, 1991, review of Islandgods: Exploring the World's Most Exotic Islands, p. 746; October 1, 1994, Alice Joyce, review of Peaks:Seeking High Ground across the Continents, p. 232; February 15, 2002, George Cohen, review of Adventure without End, p. 165.
Chicago Tribune, December 1, 1985.
Kirkus Reviews, June 15, 1988, review of Paths Less Travelled: Dispatches from the Front Lines of Exploration, p. 867; June 1, 1999, review of The Lost River: A Memoir of Life, Death, and Transformation on Wild Water, p. 844.
Library Journal, August, 1989, Roland Person, review of Riding the Dragon's Back: The Race to Raft the Upper Yangtze, p. 153; November 1, 1991, Joseph Buelna, review of Islandgods, p. 121; July, 1999, Will Hepfer, review of The Lost River, p. 100; March 1, 2002, Lonnie Weatherby, review of Adventure without End, p. 128.
Los Angeles Times Book Review, December 1, 1985, David Graber, review of Rivergods; September 18, 1988, Alex Raksin, review of Paths Less Travelled.
National Geographic Traveler, July-August, 1992, Allan Fallow, review of Islandgods, p. 130.
Publishers Weekly, August 25, 1989, Genevieve Stuttaford, review of Riding the Dragon's Back, p. 54; October 5, 1990, p. 86; July 26, 1999, review of The Lost River p. 77.
School Library Journal, June, 1990, Jenni Elliott, review of Riding the Dragon's Back, p. 146; December, 1999, Pam Spencer, review of The Lost River p. 165.
Sports Afield, October, 1999, review of The Lost River p. 58.
Tribune Books (Chicago, IL), December 4, 1994, review of Peaks, p. 10.
Western's World, August, 1983.
Whole Earth Review, spring, 1991, J. Baldwin, review of Adventure Vacations: From Trekking in New Guinea to Swimming in Siberia, p. 105.
Mountain Travel Sobek,http://mtsobek.com/ (July 20, 2003).