DOUGLAS ADAMS
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeDouglas Adams - Credit: Michael Hughes

Douglas Noel Adams was born in Cambridge in 1952. Adams' parents divorced when he was five years old and he moved to Essex with his mother. At school he took a keen interest in science, but the awarding of ten out of ten for a short piece of fiction turned his keen mind from science to literature. While still at school, Adams sold a short story to The Eagle comic, receiving for it the princely sum of ten shillings.

Adams won a scholarship to study English at Cambridge, where he was eager to join the  Cambridge Footlights revue group, which had produced such luminaries as Peter Cook and, most importantly to Adams, the Monty Python team. Adams was not a success as a performer, and his writing ideas were spurned by Footlights, so he formed his own revue group and hired a theatre for a week to put on a show, with some success.

After leaving Cambridge, Adams was determined to make a career as a writer.  He formed a writing partnership with Python member Graham Chapman, but what little of their work was actually produced (Out of the Trees) was not received with any enthusiasm.

Adams continued pitching comedy sketches to BBC radio, but was forced to take a series of menial jobs to support himself.  In later years, he gleefully listed these jobs on the dust-jackets of his bestselling books: chicken shed cleaner, hospital porter and bodyguard to a family of rich Arabs.

In the late seventies, Adams was commissioned to write a pilot episode of a radio comedy series called 'The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy'. It was inspired by a hitchhiking holiday in continental Europe, where a drunken Adams had lain in a field in Innsbruck clasping a copy of The Hitchhiker's Guide To Europe, stared up at the stars and thought "someone should really write the hitchhiker's guide to the galaxy"... An internationally-acclaimed radio series, best-selling novels, theatre adaptations, an award-winning TV adaptation and blockbuster Hollywood movie followed.

After years out of work, Adams was an 'overnight success'.  The first Hitchhiker's radio series was a hit and led to Adams being given the job of script editor on the BBC sci-fi TV series Dr Who, then starring Tom Baker. Adams was courted by NEL and Pan Books to write a novel adaptation of the cult radio series, and the book went on to become a surprise international bestseller.  The first novel spawned four more books: The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, Life, the Universe and Everything, So Long and Thanks for All the Fish and Mostly Harmless.

Adams was notoriously reluctant to do any actual writing and famously boasted "I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by".

Other than the five books in the increasingly absurdly-titled Hitchhiker's 'trilogy', Adams also wrote two successful novels featuring Dirk Gently, a "holistic detective": Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency and The Long Dark Teatime of the Soul.  He co-wrote  The Meaning of Liff  with John Lloyd, "a dictionary of things that there aren't any words for yet" and, more significantly, Last Chance To See with Mark Cawardine, a book about endangered species that led Adams to become a life-long campaigner on environmental issues.

Adams was a computer enthusiast who claimed to have been the first man in Britain to buy an Apple Mac computer.  He was also a self-proclaimed 'radical atheist', profoundly influenced by the works of Richard Dawkins.

For twenty years, Douglas Adams had been trying to get a movie version of Hitchhiker's off the ground, and had even moved to LA with his family to pursue it. He died of a heart attack during a training session in his gym at the tragically young age of 49. Adams didn't live to see the long wished for movie adaptation of Hitchhiker's, or to complete the latest book in the 'trilogy', The Salmon of Doubt.

Douglas Adams' Wikipedia entry

Douglas Adams official website

Douglas Adams quotations

Hitchhikers Guide Fanclub

Douglas Adams' obituary in The Guardian