I recently discovered that Douglas Adams had written another series of books, not just The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and consequently spent a couple of years trying to find them in charity shops. The other week, I was successful, and found Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency in an Oxfam bookshop. Despite having promised myself not to buy any books until I’d finished the ones I had, I had to get it.
While I was back home with my family, I watched all three of the Dirk Gently TV adaptations that the BBC have done, with Stephen Mangan (aka Guy from Green Wing) playing Dirk. I thought they were pretty good, and were quite like a lighter and sillier version of Sherlock, but I was curious how similar they were to the original books.
Well, the TV series seems completely different to this first book in terms of the plot but also the characters. Adams’s Hitchhiker books have been adapted so many different times for different mediums, and mostly worked (apart from that film recently…). They seem to suit being adapted rather than sticking faithfully to the original. I’m glad that the TV series was very much an adaptation rather than trying to recreate the original, because it left those original stories unspoilt, waiting to be discovered.
I loved this book. It was like discovering a secret drawer in a treasure chest that you hadn’t know existed before. Adams is such a great author because he recognises that humour is inherent in life and essential to any successful story. Without Adams, we would not have Terry Pratchett today. I sometimes think that their humour is what made the Harry Potter books so successful. People tend to think of literature as a serious business, and anything that is funny gets sidelined and undermined. Adams is one of the few authors who has managed to transcend that boundary and be taken seriously, despite having a sense of humour.
I did a bit of research and it seems Adams agreed with me: “People have this idea that humo[u]r is in some way a sort of lesser emotion, which I don’t accept at all. I think that good, funny writing is amongst the finest writing of any type, which is why I think that Wodehouse is one of the finest writers who ever lived.”
There is a brilliant bit in the book, involving poetry, where suddenly something clicks into place, and I really loved that. It was worth doing a degree in English just so I can have that brilliant shining moment of recognition.