NEW BOOK ABOUT PYTHON COLLABORATOR DOUGLAS ADAMS
by Hans ten Cate
Saturday, 8 March 2003, rev. 1

Hitchhiker: A Biography of Douglas Adams, by M.J. Simpson, published by Hodder & Stoughton (3 March 2003). Available from amazon.co.uk.

See also:
www.mjsimpson.co.uk
www.zz9.org

Hitchhiker: A Biography of Douglas Adams was just released in the U.K. this month. The book was penned by Mike "M.J." Simpson, who has been a chronicler and biographer of Douglas Adams for years. Douglas Adams died May 11, 2001, but his contributions to humorous fiction are unforgettable.

This book is the culmination of more than 20 years of research into the life and career of Douglas Adams. It is based on original interviews and correspondence with more than 90 of Adams’ friends, family and colleagues; on nearly 200 archive interviews with Adams himself, from 1976 until 2001.

Among those interviewed for the book were Terry Jones, frequent Graham Chapman collaborator Bernard McKenna and former Python agent Jill Foster. Pythonic collaborations discussed in detail - apart from Douglas' contributions to the final final season of the Flying Circus and the Holy Grail soundtrack album - include Out of the Trees, A Liar's Autobiography, Our Show for Ringo Starr, A Christmas Fairly Story, Starship Titanic (the computer game and the novel), Black Cinderella II Goes East and the Dr. Who episode 'City of Death' which featured a cameo by John Cleese.

Mike told us that the book also includes "more esoteric stuff" like Douglas and Terry nearly writing Rupert and the Frog Chorus, Douglas nearly being cast in Rutland Weekend Television, and Douglas and Graham nearly writing an animated musical feature film with Tim Rice.

There is also an extract from Douglas' 1972 interview with John Cleese for an undergraduate newspaper.

Hitchhiker is currently only available in the U.K. "An American edition is under negotiation and it is possible that there may be some foreign language editions too," said Simpson.

Other publications by MJ Simpson:

  • The Pocket Essential Hitchhiker's Guide
  • Don't Panic: Douglas Adams and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (third edition, co-author)
  • ZZ9 Plural Z Alpha, the Official Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Appreciation Society (former president and now research archivist)

The Salmon of Doubt: Hitchhiking the Galaxy One Last Time, by Douglas Adams, published by Macmillan (May 2002). Paperback version by Pan Publishing (3 January 2003).

Available from amazon.co.uk and amazon.com.

While we're on the subject, some of Douglas Adams' unpublished works were posthumously released in a new volume last year. The book, The Salmon of Doubt: Hitchhiking the Galaxy One Last Time was published last May 2002 by Macmillan publishing. The book has also just come out in paperback.

The Salmon of Doubt is actually the title of an unfinished sequel in Douglas's Dirk Gently series. The first two-thirds of the book was assembled by Douglas Adams' editor and consists of essays, lectures, magazine articles, and other short pieces written by Adams. The last third or so of the book contains eleven chapters of what was meant to be Adams' new Dirk Gently novel.

One published piece included in earlier pressings of the book, “The Private Life of Genghis Khan” had a strong Python connection. The short story was based on an original sketch devised by Graham Chapman and written by Chapman and Adams for Chapman's television show Out of the Trees in 1975. An illustrated version of the short story also appeared in the Utterly Utterly Merry Comic Relief Christmas Book, 1986. The sketch hasn't seen much circulation since, and due to legal reasons, the Genghis story was removed from later pressings of Salmon of Doubt, so the sketch has gone back into hiding for now.

An audio version of the book was released by New Millennium Audio on audio cassette and CD as well. The pieces are performed by Adams' close friends Simon Jones, Christopher Cerf, Richard Dawkins, and Stephen Fry. Interestingly, Terry Gilliam's name was once associated with the audio recording as well.