Much of the information regarding Richard Brautigan's life and death is uncertain. He was born on January 30, 1935 in Tacoma, Washington. His father left home before he was born, and his childhood was apparently a troubled one marked by poverty. He did not attend college. At some point in the mid-1950s, he left home for San Francisco, where he became involved in the Beat scene. In 1957, Brautigan married Virginia Dionne Adler, the mother of his only child, Ianthe. (They would divorce in 1970.) Although Brautigan, whose work largely defies classification, is not properly considered a Beat writer, he shared the Beats' aversion to middle class values, commercialism, and conformity.
Brautigan's success as a poet was marginal. He published several slim volumes, all with small presses, but none of these received much recognition. It wasn't until the publication of Trout Fishing in America (1967), which many consider his best novel, that Brautigan caught the public's attention and was transformed into a cult hero. He received a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1969. By 1970, Trout Fishing in America had become the namesake of a commune, a free school, and an underground newspaper.
In 1972, Brautigan withdrew from the public eye and went to live on in a small home in Bolinas, California. In the eight years that followed, he only rarely accepted invitations to lecture and consistently declined to be interviewed. In 1976, he made his first trip to Japan, where he lived off-and-on until his death. There he met Akiko, whom he married in 1978; the marriage failed, and they were divorced two years later. During the year of 1982, Brautigan taught at Montana State University in Bozeman. He then withdrew again. In October of 1984, his body was discovered at his home; he had shot himself in the head some four or five weeks earlier.
Richard Brautigan's poetry collections include June 30th, June 30th (Delacorte, 1978), Loading Mercy with a Pitchfork (1975), Rommel Drives on Deep Into Egypt (1970), The San Francisco Weather Report (1969), and Please Plant This Book (eight poems printed on separate seed packet envelopes, 1968). His novels include The Tokyo-Montana Express (1980), Willard and his Bowling Trophies (1975), In Watermelon Sugar (1967), and A Confederate General from Big Sur (1964). Brautigan's last novel was recently discovered and published posthumously, under the title An Unfortunate Woman (Rebel Inc., 2000).