Bangs, Richard 1950–

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Bangs, Richard 1950–

PERSONAL:

Born August 24, 1950, in New Haven, CT; son of Lawrence Cutler (a psychologist) and Louise (a homemaker) Bangs; married Pamela Roberson (divorced, 2003); married Laura Hubber; children: Walker, Jasper. Education: Northwestern University, B.A., 1972; University of Southern California, M.A., 1975, graduate study, 1975.

ADDRESSES:

Home—Marina del Rey, CA. Office—Mountain Travel Sobek U.S., 1266 66th St., Ste. 3 and 4, Emeryville, CA 94608. E-mail—[email protected]

CAREER:

Sobek Expeditions (international adventure travel company), Angels Camp, CA, president, beginning 1973; Mountain Travel Sobek U.S., Montclair, CA, founding partner, 1991—; Terra Quest travel Web site, founder; Mungo Park travel webzine, founder and editor-in-chief; Expedia.com, editor-at-large; Great Escapes, founding editor and executive producer; MSN Travel First and Best, founder; Producer and creator, with Yahoo Media Group, of Richard Bangs Adventures, a Web-based video travelogue series, 2005-06; executive producer of film River of the Red Ape. Outward Bound U.S.A., president, 2001.

MEMBER:

Explorers Club, Sierra Club, Sobek's International Explorers Society.

AWARDS, HONORS:

Lowell Thomas Award for best travel book, 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, 2000, for The Lost River: A Memoir of Life, Death, and Transformation on Wild Water.

WRITINGS:

(With Christian Kallen) Rivergods: Exploring the World's Great Rivers, Sierra Club Books (San Francisco, CA), 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.

Whitewater Adventure: Running America's Great Scenic Rivers, Thunder Bay Press (San Diego, CA), 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 Pasquale Scaturro) Mystery of the Nile: The Epic Story of the First Descent of the World's Deadliest River, G.P. Putnam's Sons (New York, NY), 2005.

Adventures with Purpose: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the Earth, Menasha Ridge Press (Birmingham, AL), 2007.

WITH SOBEK'S INTERNATIONAL EXPLORERS SOCIETY

The Adventure Book, Frommer-Pasmantier (New York, NY), 1983.

One Thousand Adventures: Journeys to the Rivers, Lands, and Seas of Seven Continents, Harmony Books (New York, NY), 1983.

The Adventure Book II, Sobek's International Explorers Society (Angels Camp, CA), 1984.

Sobek's Adventure Vacations, Running Press (Philadelphia, PA), 1986.

Also author of several film scripts. Contributor to books, including South America: River Trips, by George N. Bradt, Bradt Enterprises (Cambridge, MA), 1981. Columnist for Mother Lode Weekly, a local newspaper. Contributor of articles to periodicals. Contributor of essays to Web sites, including Expedia.com. Producer of column "Well-Traveled," Msn.com. Contributing editor of Outside and River Runner magazines.

SIDELIGHTS:

In a Western's World interview with Michael Bowker, writer, adventurer, and travel company executive Richard Bangs stated: "If I had a million dollars I wouldn't be able to do any more than I'm doing now." His company's travelogues, many of which contain color photographs, detail raft trips down some of the world's most foreboding and least navigable rivers, including the Copper in Alaska, the Zaskar in India, the Omo in Ethiopia, the Indus and the Euphrates in the Middle East, and the Yangtze in China. Bangs—who named his company Sobek after the crocodile goddess of the Nile—was inspired to take his first raft ride after reading Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn. Although a park ranger ultimately foiled his debut river ride down the Potomac, Bangs was hooked. Throughout high school, he and his friends proceeded to "canoe and raft most of the wild rivers on the Eastern Seaboard," Bangs told Bowker.

Rivergods: Exploring the World's Great Rivers, written with Christian Kallen, includes photographs in "wild color" of twelve major rivers, according to David Graber in the Los Angeles Times Book Review. Calling Bangs's prose "adventure writing," Graber explained that the book tells the story not of the river, its people, or its wildlife, but of the expedition itself, a story of drama and danger in which rapids and crocodiles threaten the explorers' and tourists' lives. Describing the book as "big, bold, [and] brash" with "adrenaline leaking from between the pages," the critic concluded that Rivergods "raises the word vicarious to new heights."

In 1988 Bangs devised a unique book project. He recruited a dozen top writers and sent them on all-expense-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 narrators. The result of Bangs's concept, according to a Kirkus Reviews critic, was "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."

With his 1990 Whitewater Adventure: Running America's Great Scenic Rivers, Bangs "serves up wonderful slices of life," according to Publishers Weekly contributor Genevieve Stuttaford. With the aid of numerous color photographs, Bangs introduces readers to the thrill of rafting down America's whitewater rivers, from South Carolina's Chattooga to Oregon's Rogue. Similarly, in Peaks: Seeking High Ground across the Continents, Bangs takes readers inside the world of mountain trekking atop peaks from the Swiss Alps to South America's Patagonia.

Bangs reminisces about his adventures in other books, 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," reported a Publishers Weekly contributor. During an 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 Greenwald's honor to the Tekeze, one of Africa's deepest rivers. Adventure without End collects Bangs's online contributions to travel Web site Expedia.com. Booklist reviewer George Cohen found the author's "madcap experiences" in such destinations as Patagonia, Indonesia, and Morocco "a pleasure to read about."

Written with Pasquale Scaturro and published in 2004, Mystery of the Nile: The Epic Story of the First Descent of the World's Deadliest River, details the first expedition down the 3,200 miles of the Blue Nile, from its source in the highlands of Ethiopia to where it enters the Mediterranean. The raft and kayak trip took over one hundred days, and the navigators faced not only perilous rapids, but also disease, crocodiles, extreme heat, and armed rebels. Bangs relied on the diaries that geologist Scaturro kept during the trip to produce what Cohen called a "moving account of an incredible journey." Similarly, Lynn Nutwell, writing in School Library Journal, commented: "With telling detail, this book captures many levels of drama." A reviewer for Publishers Weekly, however, thought Mystery of the Nile, did not focus enough on the journey itself, flashing back too often to other incidents in Scaturro's life. "The material for a raw and thrilling adventure is definitely here," the contributor opined, "but alas, the narrative never sustains much momentum." A Library Bookwatch contributor found more to like in the memoir and travel book, calling it an "unusual saga."

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:

PERIODICALS

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; February 1, 2005, George Cohen, review of Mystery of the Nile: The Epic Story of the First Descent of the World's Deadliest River, p. 93.

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 Bookwatch, June, 2005, review of Mystery of the Nile.

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: Exploring the World's Great Rivers, p. 4; 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, Genevieve Stuttaford, review of Whitewater Adventure: Running America's Great Scenic Rivers, p. 86; July 26, 1999, review of The Lost River, p. 77; January 24, 2005, review of The Mystery of the Nile, p. 235.

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; August, 2005, Lynn Nutwell, review of Mystery of the Nile, p. 154.

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, Michael Bowker, interview with Bangs.

Whole Earth Review, spring, 1991, J. Baldwin, review of Adventure Vacations: From Trekking in New Guinea to Swimming in Siberia, p. 105.

ONLINE

Itravelishop.com,http://itravelishop.com/ (June 13, 2006), Christina Valhouli, interview with author.

Media Post Publications,http://publications.mediapost.com/ (August 25, 2006), Mark Walsh, "Yahoo Ends Bangs ‘Adventures.’"

Mountain Travel Sobek,http://mtsobek.com/ (July 20, 2003), "Richard Bangs."

Richard Bangs Adventures Web site,http://adventures.yahoo.com/ (March 21, 2007).

Richard Bangs Home Page,http://www.richardbangs.com (March 21, 2007).