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Adams, Douglas

Born:
March 11, 1952
Dead:
May 11, 2001
Photo: Hans T Dahlskog / Pressens Bild

Douglas Noel Adams was a British author born in Cambridge. His father had studied theology, but worked as a probation officer and later lectured on probation theory and practice. Adams’s mother was a nurse at Addenbrooke’s hospital in Cambridge. When his parents divorced in 1957 he moved with his mother and sister to his grandparents who were running an RSPCA shelter in Brentwood, Essex. While at school, Adams preferred science to humanities and writing until he became the first pupil at Brentwood Primrose Hill Primary School to get ten credits out of ten for an essay. This experience often helped him when he suffered from writer’s block later in his career. He also contributed to a number of school magazines.

In 1971, he received a grant to read English at St. John’s College, Cambridge after he wrote a religious poetry essay about The Beatles and William Blake. He joined a number of theatrical societies and comedy clubs at university; one of the reasons he chose Cambridge was the invitation only Footlight Club, a comedy club frequented by well known British comedians such as John Cleese and Graham Chapman. While at university he also hitchhiked around Europe. Adams graduated in 1974. Adams met his future wife, Jane Belson, in the early eighties. It was a stormy relationship; they separated a number of times and there was a broken engagement. They finally married in 1991, and their daughter Polly was born in 1994. Douglas Adams died aged forty-nine of a heart attack in his local gym in California.

After graduating Adams worked as a scriptwriter for the BBC, and he began to work on a draft of A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. He sold the idea to BBC Radio, and it was a success with its crazy logic and weird digressions. Adams agreed to turn this science fiction parody about modern life into a novel entitled The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (1979) – 100,000 copies were sold within a month from the publishing date. It sold even better in the United States where it became a cult novel among college students. Some fourteen million copies have now been sold worldwide. The four sequels climbed to the top of the bestseller lists and in 2005 Adams wrote the screenplay for a film based on the first volume.

Adams also wrote two novels featuring the holistic detective Dirk Gently entitled Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency (1987) and The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul (1988). Gently is an eccentric private detective who becomes involved in everything from time travel to ghostly adventures. These books too, are based on a weird logic borrowed from the Hitchhiker’s Guide. A third volume was planned, but Adams died before it was completed. He described the third book as a Hitchhikers Guide storyline featuring Dirk Gently. It was published posthumously together with a series of essays in The Salmon of Doubt : Hitchhiking the Galaxy One Last Time (2002).

Adams also published two volumes of The Meaning of Liff (1983), "a dictionary of things that there aren’t any words for yet", together with the British comedian and author John Lloyd.

He was also a committed to the protection of endangered species and worked for the World Wildlife Fund. Last Chance to See (1991) is a book about the protection of animal species written together with Mark Carwardine.

During the 1990s, Adams co-founded a company called The Digital Village and he produced a video game together with Terry Jones, Douglas Adams’ Starship Titanic (1998), which came with a novel by Terry Jones about a spacecraft that crashes on Planet Earth during its maiden voyage.

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