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 2004062729

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WISHYOUWEREHERE

*®eeseseonwnesceseeweeewseseeeeeeeeseeeeeee

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The Official Biography of

“Thisamusing,sad, and

heartfelt lookat[Adams's] life

isa truegift.”—New York Post

NIZ K W-E‘B B

6

@

LESH

YOU

Were

Here

THEOFFICIALBIOGRAPHY OF DOUGLAS ADAMS

4

& BALLANTINE Ld

BOOKS e NEW YORK

2006 DelReyBooks Trade Paperback Edition Copyright ©2003 byNick Webb Allrightsreserved. animprintofTheRandomHouse intheUnitedStatesbyDelReyBooks, Published PublishingGroup,a divisionof RandomHouse,Inc.,NewYork.

ofRandom isatrademark andtheDelReycolophon trademark DetReyisa registered

House,Inc.

a divisionofHodder BookPublishing, FirstpublishedinGreatBritainbyHeadline Headline,London,in 2003.

Books, byBallantine States intheUnited inhardcover published Subsequently of a division Group, Publishing H ouse ofTheRandom animprint RandomHouse,Inc.,in2004.

LibraryofCongress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Webb,Nick Adams/ NickWebb.-1st ofDouglas biography Wishyouwerehere: theofficial

American ed.

p. cm. in 2005. BookPublishing FirstpublishedinGreatBritainbyHeadline Includesbibliographical references andindex. ISBN0-345-4765 1-4

century—Biography. English-20th 2. Novelists, 1952-2001. Douglas, 1.Adams, 3. Ecologists—Great Britain-Biography. I. Title. PR6051.D3352Z95 2005 2004062729 823'914—dc22 Printedin the UnitedStatesof America

www.delreybooks.com S247

ok Sy

Fut

TextdesignbySusanTurner

ForSusan

SYSTEM LIBRARY ARKANSAS CENTRAL BRANCH JACKSONVILLE ARKANSAS JACKSONVILLE,

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

ix

Introduction

xi

Prologue NotfromGuildford

eCconvTrenTYTS> ste AfterAll

21

Two Finishing School THREE St.John’s,Smokers, FOUR FIVE

S1X SEVEN

NetworksandFriends 57 TheSeedyFlats 79 TheOriginoftheSpecies 101

Making It

127

Hearingthe Music

147 169

EIGHT WhooshingBy NINE

TEN

Hippodust, Filmsand theTellySaga OnLove

187 217

ELEVEN MoreBooks,Moneyand

a SenseofPlace TWELVELastChanceto See

235 261

THIRTEENTheDigital Village

279

FOURTEENTurtlesAlltheWayDown 311 APPENDIXONE Twenty-fiveYearsOn 323 APPENDIXTWO Chronology ofthe Major

Works

327

FullCreditsforthe RadioSeries APPENDIXFOUR Douglas’s Favourite

APPENDIX THREE

Beatles’ TracksinOrder ofPreference

INDEX

331

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS I wouldparticularly liketo thankJaneBelsonforherhelpandbig-hearted

agreement to letmehaveaccessto Douglas's papers. Janeandtheother members ofthefamily werepatientwithmyclumsy questions whenthey werestillshockedwithgrief.JanetThrift,Douglas's mother,wasbravetoface a biographersosoonafterherson'sdeathandalsodeservesspecialthanks. In the diaspora of the Adamsand Thriftfamilies,Sue,Heather,Jane,James,

Rosemary andKarena weregenerous withtheirtimeandinvaluable insights inwhatmusthavebeentryingcircumstances. Shirley Adams, fromanother branchofthefamily, gavemethebenefit ofherscholarly researches intothe familytree.TheThriftsandAdamses area remarkable lot. EdVictor, MaggiePhillipsandSophieHicksattheEdVictorAgencywere unfailingly helpful.PanBookswaskindenoughto letmelookthroughits

archives—my special thankstoJacqui Graham forarranging it.Manyothers contributed interviews, orhelpwithresearch, including WillAdams, Mary NickBooth,Trevor Allen,SophieAstin,NickAustin,PeterBennett-Jones, Bounford, SimonBrett,JonathanBrock,Dr.MarkBryant,MargoBuchanan, MaggieCrystal, RichardCurMichaelBywater, JonCanter, MarkCarwardine, tis,BrianDavies, Professor RichardDawkins, SallyEmerson, DonEpstein, Ken

Follett, Susan Freestone, Jacqui Graham, Yoz Grahame, Peter Guzzardi, Bruce Harris, Richard Harris, Terry Jones, Michael Leapman, JohnLloyd, JimLynn, AndrewMarshall,SimonMaster,ReverendIan Mackenzie,DebbieMcInnes, Sonny Mehta, Isabel Molina,MichaelNesmith,ChrisOgle,Rickand Heidi Paxton, GeoffreyPerkins,Christophe Reisner,David Renwick,G.R.Roche,

Kanwal Sharma, MartinSmith, Robbie Stamp andCaroline Upcher. Published sources thatwereveryusefulwereNeilGaiman’s Don't Panic

andM.J.Simpson’s Hitchhiker's Guide. Theyareessentialreadingfortheserious buff;I haveacknowledged themwherevertheyweretheprincipalsourceof

information. The Best ofDays?, acollection ofmemories fromBrentwood School andexpertly published bytheschoolitself, gaveaninsiders’ flavour oflife there.TheGreatest Sci-Fi Movies Never Made byDavidHughes isgrimly fascinating.NeilRichards’s Starship Titanic Guide isinvaluablefornavigating through

x ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

thegameandunderstanding thethoughtprocesses behindit.From Fringe to Flying Circus byRogerWilmutisa lotoffunandhelpedtoputtheCambridge Footlights phenomenonintoperspective. Mythanksto PunchCartoonLibraryforpermission toreproducetheCrumcartoonabouthippos.

Douglas himself gaveinnumerable interviews, andalargeproportion of themcanstillbefoundontheInternet. Therearemanywebsites, including theofficial one,onwhichinformation ispostedbyfansandthenmaintained andupdatedout ofsheerenthusiasm. TheWorldWideWebis a veryrich sourcefora researcher, butitissodiversethatitisonlypossibleto acknowledgeit inthebroadestterms.

Finally Iamgrateful toSusan Webbforherhelpintranscribing theinterviewsandforherexpertediting. Theerrorsthatremainareentirely mine.

ACOMMENDABLY BRIEF ney RODUuUCTIEON, BUTYOU MAY SKIPIT IFYOU LIKE

ontemporarybiographyis the Area51 of the literaryworld. There'sa lot of circumstantialevidencethat it exists,but very few

get to visit.Therestof us wonderwhatthe hellis goingon behindthe

perimeter fence. Biography setinthepastislessmysterious. Disappearing fromsight,the writertunnelsthrougha mountainofresearch—emerging, dazzledby the light,yearslaterwitha book.Ifthiscontainssomeentertaining history,sixteenpagesofattractivepictures,an argumentaboutthesubjectthatcanbe

supported—perhaps withalittlecasuistry—from thedocumentation, andit doesn'tcostmorethan$24.95 ($35.00 ifit’sawhoppen), thebookisacceptable. Boswell saidthatwritinghisbiographyofDrJohnsonwasa presumptuousexercise, Itisindeedanoddideathatyoucansqueezesomeone's lifebetweenthe coversofa book.Writingaboutsomebodyofthe momentwho

diedsuddenly, andfartooyoung, istrickier still.Therearemanypeopleover whosefeelings theauthorcanclodhop, andtheywillallhaveadifferent view ofthepersonfromtheoneoffered. Someofthoseviewswillappearnotto

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INTRODUCTON

refertothesamepersonatall.Thebiographer willhavetorelylessonhistoricalrecords andmoreonpeople's fallible memories. (“Hmm,” theysay,“it was1982—no, I tella lie,‘84—oh, theeightiesanyway...”)Thewholetruth thatthecourtroom witnesssorecklessly undertakes todeliverisa notionthat

shouldbemelted downforscrapanddeleted fromlegalprocedure forthwith. Thewholetruthisunknowable—it canonlybelivedandnotdescribed. InthecaseofDouglas Adams thedifficulty iscompounded. Firstofallhe wasimmensely cleverandgavesuchgoodinterviews thathewasinconstant demand.Everytimeyouthinkyou'vehadan insightintotheman,it turns outthathehaditfirst—and expressed itwithmorewitthananybiographer couldmuster,thoughin the processhe turnedsuchrevelations intosuspi-

ciously polished artefacts. Tocomplicate matters further, hewaswildlyexuberant abouthisinter-

ests.DespitebeingthefinestcomicauthorsinceWodehouse, thisenthusiasm didnot embracewriting(whichhe didreluctantly, andwithenormousan-

guish). Anybiography alsohastodealwiththefactthathewasanenormouslyprescientand creativethinker,and muchofwhathe thoughtwas

neverlocated onpaper. Douglas's passionswerelifelong; theyresistanyattempttotidytheminto phases.Whywouldhestoplovingmusicbecausehediscovered AppleMacs, forinstance?Besides, as Kierkegaard said,lifeis livedforwardsbut under-

stoodbackwards—thereby, inmyview, imposing asubtlebutmisleading formalism uponamessy business. Wehumanbeingsarerarelyasconsistent as characters infictionfromwhomweexpecta purposeful direction seldom achievedinreallife. With a straightchronology the word“meanwhile” wouldsoonbecome

tiresome. Douglas wasnot conventional. Thisbookabandons a strictly chronological structure infavour ofilluminating aspects ofabrilliant, engagingandcomplex man.Youwilljudgewhether thisworks. Myhopeisthatat leastthebookwillbegoodcompany—like themanhimself.

SH

YOU Werke

Heke

“Atowelisaboutthemostmassively usefulthingany interstellar hitchhiker cancarry.Foronethingit has greatpractical value—you canwrapitaround youfor

warmth onthecoldmoons ofJaglan Beta, sunbathe on itonthemarblebeachesofSantraginus Five,huddie beneath itforprotection fromtheArcturan Megagnats

PrR@O

OCG

a

asyousleepbeneath thestarsofKakrafoon, useitto saila miniraft downtheslowheavyriverMoth, wetit foruseinhandtohandcombat, wrapitaroundyour headto avoidthegazeofthe ravenous Bugbiatter BeastofTraal(which issucha mind-bogglingly stupid animalitassumesthatifyoucan’tseeit,itcan’tsee you),andevendryyourself offwithitifitstillseems cleanenough.” THe NARRATOR, FIT THE SEVENTH, TheHitchhiker's Guide totheGalaxy

ee

nthetimeoftheRevolution, sothestorygoes,whentheTerror wasat

ss itsheight,a Frenchcount,suitablydisguised byscruffiness, madea run forthecoastin orderto escapeto England. Hewasa culturedman,a flower of the Enlightenment,rational,charmingand educated.

Justa fewkilometres shortofBoulogne andsafety, hestopped toresthis horsesandhavea mealatahandyauberge. Even200yearsagotheroadside snackwastreatedwithGallic seriousness.

Aftera certainamountoflargeFrenchsmalltalk,thewaitergotdownto business. Thedialoguewentsomething likethis:

“Dis donc, citizen. Whatwouldyouliketoeat?Wecanofferbread,some amusing cheese paysanne, andfresheggs.” “Thank you,citizen.Theeggssoundgood.Perhapsanomelette?” “Ofcourse,citizen. Andhowmanyeggswouldyoulikeinyouromelette?” Now,sincebirththearistocrat’s familyhademployed a teamofpeopleto

lookafterhiseveryneed.Anticipating a hintofnasaldrip,a servant would appearwitha finelinenhandkerchief beforethewell-bred noseneeded

4

PROLOGUE

blowing. Thenumberofeggsthatnormallywentintoanomelettewasnota

factwithwhichthearistocratic mindhadeverhadtoburdenitself. “Um.Douze,thank you,”he said.

“Douze? Douze?” saidthe waiter,aquiverwithrevolutionary suspicion. “Andwhat is it you do, citizen,may I ask?”

Doubtless thecountdidtheFrench equivalent ofdropping hisaitches as helaboured tosoundlikea rough-hewn sonoftoil:“I’ma carpenter, innit, citizen,meoldmate.” Butit wastoolate.Thewaiterhadclockedthe refinedaccent,andone look at the count’ssofthands,never sulliedby manual work,gavethe lie to

the carpentry story.Nipping backintothekitchen, thewaiterreappeared shortly withthechef,anenormous manequipped witha cleaver—a small preview ofthingstocome. Transported backtoParis,thecountwasswiftlyeee Perhapsdeathisalwaysabsurd. DouglasAdamswasa comicgeniusandcreativethinker,a highlycom-

plexman.Hisdeath,attheageofforty-nine, on11May2001inPlatinum Fitness,a privategymnasium in SantaBarbara, wasalmostas daft,andreally

muchsadder, thanthatofthecomte. Heandhisfamily hadmovedfromLondon toSouthern California two

yearsbeforeandhadsettledin SantaBarbara,or,moreprecisely, Montecito, a verdantvillageofHeinleinesque gatedenclavesandhugehouseslooking

likeescapees fromthesetofDallas. Douglas needed tobe“ontheCoast”—not somuch a location asastateofmindhavingnothing todowiththeseaside but everything to dowithHollywood. Finally, afterseveraldecadesoffalse startsanduncertainflirtations, it lookedasifthefilmofTheHitchhiker's Guide totheGalaxy* wasgoingtohappen. Douglas loveditthere.Hiswife,JaneBelson, enjoyedittoothoughshedid

sufferintermittent boutsofwhatlong-term prisoners callgatefever. Theaffluent, cosmetically adjusted locals withthoseteeththatonlyAmericans and peopleintelevision seemto manage,thePotemkin supermarkets withtheir rowsofshinytechnicolor fruit(tastingofnothing),andthe endlessdaysof dappledsunshineallcontrivedto givethe placea certainunrealityin her * “Hitchhiker's” iswritten inavariety ofwaysevenbyDouglas's publishers. Scholars inmillennia tocomemayreadsignificance intotheoccasional sighting ofahyphen andthepitiable singularityofthehitchhiker. Toappeasemypublishers, | shallendeavour toremainconsistent.

PROLOGUE5

mind.“Sometimes it couldbe a bitStepford Wives,” sheobserved. ButJanewas happythatDouglaswashappy,andshehadputherowncareerasa barris-

teronholdbecause shecouldseehowmuchherhusband wanted themovie tohappen. Theywerebothdelighted thattheiradored youngdaughter, Polly Rocket Adams, tooktoCalifornia withjoyfulexuberance. In appearance,DouglasAdamswas likesomelarge,friendlymarine mammal.Inhisopinion,ElaineMorgan’s* ideathatevolutionhadtakenthe

hominids throughanaquatic phasehadmorevirtuethanconventional wisdomwasprepared tograntit.Douglas neverclaimed thathisliking forwater stemmed frommankind's deepevolutionary past,thoughhecertainly hadan

affinityforit.Exactly likethecaptainoftheB-ArkonGolgafrincham, hetook to hisbathwhenstressed,andhe regardedscubadivingas so pleasurable thatitwasboundtobeillegalsomewhere. Hewashuge,a smidgenover65”, left-handed, ratherill-coordinated, alittlectumsy. Hesometimes gavetheim-

pression offittingawkwardly intotheworld.Eyes: brown;eyelashes: enviable—as longasa giraffe’s; face:oftenlitwitha half-suppressed smile,forhe had a prodigioussenseof humourand foundthe worldfunnywhenit wasn'ttragic.Hehada habitoflookingintothemiddledistanceandsaying

“um” whenthinking. “Heroic” bestdescribes hisendowment inthenosedepartment; hisschnozzle wasamountain rangeofathing.’ Heonceobserved thatifheswamonhisbackinthesea,parallel toabeach,everyone would runscreaming outofthewater. Obviously, foodanddrinkwereputupontheEarthforhispleasure.He

wasextravagant withchampagne. Hehadaparticular weakness forJapanese restaurants, but hislifelong affairwithallrestaurants wasdisgracefully promiscuous. Hewasnotputoffevenbythepretentious oneswhereevery

mouthfulis a week’swages.Notsurprisingly, he wasproneto puttingon weightandhehadbeenhitbylate-onsetdiabetes,knownas“TypeTwo”in

theUSA whichboastssomeofthemostenormous bipedsontheplanet(and wherethisformofdiabetes hasbecome almostepidemic). Douglas himself hadbeenasheavyas19stone(266lbs)buthehadalways succeeded inlosinganyexcess. Thediabeteswasnotacuteandsoondisappeared, butin1999 * Elaine Morgan, TheAquatic ApeHypothesis (Souvenir Press,1997). T Inanarticle forEsquire magazine, reprinted inTheSalmon ofDoubt (Macmillan, 2002), Douglas notesofhisnosethatseveral speleologists hadbeenupit,butthosewhohadnotreturned becamepartoftheproblem.

6

PROLOGUE

hewentonaroundofmedical checks—for helovedhospitals anddoctors— anddiscovered thathehaddeveloped highbloodpressure. Hehadreached thatagewhenmenusedtorudehealthalltheirlivesbecomeuncomfortably awarethattheirbodiescannotdowhattheydidattwenty. Aninfamous writingblockhadpersistedalldecade,thoughhehadfound

myriadinteresting alternatives; tosayhefailedtowriteislikesayingthat Columbus failedtofindIndia.Nevertheless, themissed deadlines—not quite anindustryrecord,butimpressive—were a sourceofanxiety,andoccasionallydespair, thathadweigheduponhimwithoutremission. Douglas’s Internetand computergamebusinessventurehad alsorun

intothesand.Alloverthelandscape therehadsounded thethunderofgiant wallets beingslammed shutbymeninsuits.Historians ofthefuturewilllook backonthelasttwodecades ofthetwentieth century withfascination and bewilderment. Wasitsomething we’deaten?Enormously cannyandprudent investorsusedtheirelbowsastheyranto thefrontofthe queueclutching thickwadsoftheirownand,moreusually,otherpeople’smoneyina head-

longrushtofinance telecom anddotcom companies. Manyoftheseboasted business propositions thatdepended onmarkets andtechnologies thatwere yettobecalledintoexistence. TheFinancial Times estimates thatthisglobalfinancialbubblewasted$1trillionofrealcashinridiculous investments* Youmaythink:well,tough.Allthoseacquisitive youngmenin theCity

withstripyshirtsandspottyties(tosaynothingofthosetechies whocould havebeenspeaking Inuitforallthesensetheymade)—who caresiftheylost apacket? Afterall,theInternet revolution threwupbusiness ventures with-

outnumber—some brilliant,somefatheredbyhopeandgreed.Presumably the oneswithrealmeritsurvivedwhilethe crowdsofdodgyonesmelted

away. Butthetruthisthatmanyofthosefailed businesses werenotnonsense; someweregenuinely visionary andinventive. Douglas's venture, originally called TheDigital Village, wasyearsaheadofitstime. Butbuildingabusinessishardtodowithinthetimelimitsdemandedby

yourfree-range western venture capitalist. Suchcreatures haveanicyspreadsheet where their hearts should be, and their expectationsfor the return of

somewholenumbermultiple oftheinitialinvestment rarelyextend beyond threeyears.Aslongasthesharepriceswererising, thisshort-term myopia * “Glorious HopesonaTrillionDollar Scrapheap” byDanRoberts, Financial Times, 5 September

2001,citedinWill Hutton’s brilliant bookTheWorld We’re In(Little, Brown, 2002).

PROLOGUE 7

didnotmatter, butastechnology stocksrampedupfromoptimistic valua-_ tionstodownright sillyones,eventually theovervaluation oftechstocks becameunsustainable. Whenthe hightideof moneyretreatedandleft thousandsof enterprisesflappingabouton the beachlikedyingfish,the goodsuffocated alongwiththebad.Douglas's enterprisewasnotspared. Duringtheseyearstoo,the filmofTheHitchhiker's Guide totheGalaxy was

something thatDouglas passionately wantedtobemade.Fornearlya quarterofacentury theproject hadincheditswayfitfully througha contractual mazeandadevelopment hellsocapricious thatevenjadedHollywood insiderssmotetheirforeheadsandsighed.Manytimesit hadcometo withinan angstromortwoofgreenlighting before,triumphantly, it foundtherightdi-

rector and a workablebudget.All seemedwell at last,but then, in 2000,it

foundered again. Douglas hadmadelotsofmoney. A richauthorispaidincash;hiswealth isnottiedup intheequityofsomebusiness, thevalueofwhich,asfinancial advisorssometimes forgettopointout,canfallaswellasplummet.Awriter's assetsarebuiltinandenviablyportable:talentandfingers.ButDouglaswas

neverasrichaspeople imagined. Hewasself-indulgent andhedonistic—and extravagantly generous bothtoindividuals andhisfavourite goodcauses. TheconceptofTreatwasseldomfarfromhisthoughts,andhe appliedit to othersaswellas self.Moneywasforpleasure.Histalentformakingit was morethanmatchedbyhisgeniusforspendingit. Forallhiswarmthandhumour,Douglas wassometimes hardtolivewith,

atraitoftensharedwithverycreative people. Inmanywayshewasanemotionally fragile yetprecociously brilliant child. Children canoscillate between joyandgloomwithmercurial rapidity, andanyonewhohasspenttimelooking afterthemknowsthat nature,forsoundDarwinianreasons,has pro-

grammed thelittleso-and-sos withacertain egotism. Douglas wasromantic, warm,funny, exuberantly enthusiastic andpossessed ofa quiteexceptional brain;healsohadhisdemons, andcouldbedepressed, self-absorbed, sulky

anddifficult. But,despitealltheproblems, by2001thingswerelookingup.Admittedly, thefilmwasstillintheHorseLatitudes anddrifting, butitwasatleastafloat.

Douglas, whonowhad a personal trainer, wasbeingconscientious aboutgettinghimself fit.Physically heappeared tobeinbettershapethanhehad beenforyears.Theweightwasmeltingaway.Thediabeteshad gone.The marriage, thathadhaditsturbulentmoments, washappy.HeandJane(who

8

PROLOGUE

in theirhouseholdwasinvariablythe standardbearerforpracticalintelligence)hadrecentlyboughta beautifulhouse,redolentofruralEnglandinits charm,which wona local prize for the excellenceof its presentation.They

foundit muchmoresympathetic thantheirrentedmansion whereatany moment oneexpected asoapoperastarwithbighairandanimprobable suit toappear. Alsotheyhadmadesomegoodfriends inChrisandVeronica Ogle, a localAustralian couple. Pollywashappytheretoo.Shewastallforherage,earnest,prettyandbe-

spectacled. Theoutdoors lifesuitedher,shelovedridingandhadalsomade friendswiththeOgleboys,particularly theseven-year-old Joshua. Tom, Chris’s youngest boywhowasthenfive,wasveryfondofDouglas and missedhima lotwhenhedied.“Hehadgreatfarts,” hesaid,andindeed Douglaswas capableof theodd duvet-billowing eructation.It always amusedhim;oneofthemostmemorable definitions inTheMeaning ofLiffwas

theAffcot—the sortoffartyouhopepeople willstilltalkaboutafter. Thefamilies wereclose. Chrisisintheclothing business andsuccessful in afieldfarremoved fromDouglas's own,something thatwasprobably good forDouglasasthemediaworldoperatesinanorgyofself-regard thatcanbecomeoppressive. DouglasandChrisotherwisehadmuchin common:their lovefortheirchildren,an enthusiasmborderingon the recklessforApple

Macs, Mercedes cars,andgoodfoodandwine.Theyevensported thesame

make offinebutobscure wrist watch (anUlysse Nardin).

In2000,thefamilieshadenjoyeda blissfulholidaytogetherinFiji.Doug-

las,a keen diver,had been so overjoyedwith the experiencethat he had to

callsomeoneto shareit.(Throughout hislifeifhefoundsomethingpleasur-

ablehewouldencourage otherstotryit.)Hewasthrilled tolearnthathis state-of-the-art cellphonewouldworkthere,sohestoodclutching hishightechgizmointhigh-deep waterina coveonatiny island, andrangSophie Astin,hisassistantinTheDigitalVillage. Witha certainedgetohervoice,she remindeda contriteDouglasthattheworldwasroundevenforhim.InLondonitwasdarkestnight;shehadbeenfastasleep.LaterDouglasdiscovered

thatthecoverage wassogoodbecause theywereonlytwentyminutes away fromCastaway Island whereTomHanks hadstarred inthemovie ofthesame name.Apparently, hehadarrangedfora localsatelliterelaytobeinstalledso he couldringhis agent.“Whata pity,”Douglassaidafterwards, withhis writer’smagpieinstinctforan anecdote, “thatTomHankshadnevermadea

PROLOGUE 9

roadmovieonthePacific CoastHighway.” Mobile coverage isnotoriously patchyalongthatroute. Aboveall,by2001thelongpausebetweenbookshadtoppedup Douglass creativebatteries.Writinghad alwaysbeen difficult,but now he had a

treasurestoreofnewideasandwasbucklingdowntothelong-awaited book

withextraordinary application. Douglas likedcars,and,following a disastrous young-man’s flirtation withPorsches, hedeveloped a fondness forsolidly engineered, luxurysaloonsliketheLexusorMercedes. Itamusedhimthattheycouldlooksorespectable, but deliveran unnecessary quantityofhorsepower ifthe driver werefeelingdaftenough.ThatfinalFriday,11May,he glideddownto the gyminhisMercedes 500asusual,inordertotakesomeexercise andreturn

homeingoodtimeforthearrival fromEngland ofhismother, Janet.Shewas alreadyintheair,ona BritishAirways 747. In the gym,Peter,his personaltrainer,put him through a routinethat had

beenespecially devisedforhim—twenty minuteson an aerobicstairma-

chinetobefollowed bystomach crunches. Ifyouhavetriedastairmachine, youwillknowthatprettysoonrivulets ofsweatrunlikemoltenleaddown yourback;thethighsseemonthepointofspontaneous combustion. Butalthoughtheregimenwashardwork,it wasnotdangerously excessive fora chapofDouglas's ageandgeneralstateofhealth.Heworea heartmonitor

andPeterwastheretokeepaneyeonhim. ItwasDouglas's habittostopbyafterhisexercise sessions attheOgles’ house,handilyjustoppositePlatinumFitness.They'dhavea coffee,boast abouttheirchildrenandshootthebreeze. ChrisOglerelishedDouglas’s appearances, lookingrighteously exercised,

athishome.Withtheanguished clarity ofretrospect hesuspects thatDouglasmayhavesuffered a minorheartattackshortly before11May.Afterhis session inthegymtheweekbeforehedied,Douglas hadasusualcalled by,

butinanuncharacteristically distressed state.Hewaspaleandverytired.He hadtoliedown,andhesleptforhourswhileChrisbusiedhimselfpreparing

fora business triptoSouthAfrica. Waking muchrevived, Douglas wasstill concerned abouta slighttingling inhisarm.However, hislocalhospital did sometestsandcouldnotdetectanything serious. Soitgoes,asKurtVonnegut,anauthormuchadmiredbyDouglas, soaptlyobserved. Soitgoes... Butthehealthscarethepreviousweekhadn'tputDouglasoffhisregime.

10

PROLOGUE

Soonthisday,asusual,hehadfinishedwiththetortureofthestepmachine, andwasreadyforthestomachcrunches. Theverytermsoundsmediaeval.

Hitchhiker's Guide totheGalaxy fanswillrecallthatDouglas attributed tothe humbletowela miraculous potential forreassurance andutility. “There’s a frood who reallyknowswhere his towelis,“ the Narratorobserveswith ad-

miration.Theroleofthetoweltracesitslineagebackto thesummerof1978 whenDouglasandvariouspalswereonholidayinCorfu.Douglaswassupposedtobewriting,buta certainamountofhedonismandfrolicking onthe

beachalsofeatured. Douglas's towel—he neededonethesizeofamarquee’s groundsheet—was forever goingmissing. Perhaps ithadsomehominginstinctforthesea,likea babyturtle.Finding it becamesynonymous with beinga reallytogether, coolkindofguy. Youmaybetouchedtolearnthat,feelingfaintfromtherigoursofthema-

chine, Douglas picked uphistowelfromPeterandclutched ittohimself beforelyingdownona bench.Inthesecircumstances specialists advisethat becoming horizontal maynotbeexpedient, butthepiercing clarity ofretrospecttakesno accountoftherealityofan enormous, sweatyman,probably feelinga littlewoozy,poisedtotopplelikeanuprootedtree. Helaydown.Peterglancedawayfora second.Whenhelookedbackhe

thought thatDouglas wasmessing about.Stillholding ontohistowel, hehad rolledquietly offthebench. Hehadfainted. Petercalled anambulance, which efficiently speeded Douglas offtohospital. Heneverregained consciousness. Hehadsuffereda catastrophic cardiacarrest.Astonishingly—nearly instantaneously asitturnedout,andmercifully withoutpain—his hugeheart

hadfailedhim.Janesaidhejuststopped, likeoneofhisbeloved computers crashing andfailing toreboot. Hewasdead.

“|refuse toprove that|exist,” s2ysGod, “forproof denies faith, andwithout faith| amnothing.” “But,” saysMan, “theBabel Fish isadeadgiveaway isn’t it?Itproves you exist,andsotherefore youdon’t. QED.” “Ohdear,” saysGod,“Ihadn’t thought ofthat,” andpromptly vanishes ina puffoflogic. “Oh,thatwaseasy,” saysMan,andforanencoreheproves thatblackiswhiteandgetskilled onthenextzebracrossing. * TheNarrator, FittheEighth, TheHitchhiker's Guide totheGalaxy (Pan,1979).

PROLOGUE11 Mostleading theologians claimthisargument isa loadofdingo’s kidneys, butthat didn’t stopOolon Colluphid making asmallfortune whenheuseditasthecentral theme ofhisbestselling bookWell, ThatAbout Wraps ItUpForGod.

FitTHE First, TheHitchhiker's Guide totheGalaxy

Itmayseemoddtostartwithanaccount ofDouglas Adams's worldview, but itunderpinnedmuchofwhathedid.Itisa key—not TheKey,assuchthings donotexistoutsideself-helppaperbacks—to howhethought.

Douglas published hisfirstpieceofcommercial writingwhenhewas twelve.It wasa fanletterto theEagle;* thesmashing—and quitehighminded—boys’ comic. Itwas1965, theyearChurchill diedandtheBeatles releasedRubber Soul.WilyHaroldWilsonwas LabourPrimeMinister.The Vietnamese Warhadstartedin earnestwitha massivebuild-upofAmerican troopsandtheheavybombingofNorthVietnam. Itwouldbe sixyearsbe-

foreInteldeveloped thefirstsilicon chip.Marijuana wasstilla gesture ofdefiance, notjusta recreational option, andlonghaironmenwasconsidered

bysometobea dangerousthreattothefabricofsociety. Itwasthesixties:in theWesta wholerangeofflukishlyfavourablecircumstances conspiredto producemassivesocialchangeandthemostspoiltgenerationinthehistory oftheworld.

Little ofthisupheaval reached Essex, however, whereDouglas attended a schoolthatwasproudofhavingcherished thesamevaluessince1558. His contribution to theboys’comicearnedhimtenshillings. Inthosedays,beforethedecimaldigitshadfingeredtheeccentric Britishcurrency, tenbob(as shillingswereknown)was50pin today’smoney.It wasan amountlarge

enough tohaveitsownprettybrownnote;withityoucouldbuytwenty6d (oldpennies) chocolate bars.Douglas's letter,characteristically playful, described a stateofhighanxiety, thesourceofwhich—after somesneaky au-

thorialmisdirection—turned outtobethearrivaloftheEagle itself. DanDarewastheEagle's mostfamouscreation.Anintrepidspacepilot

withafinelineinunflappability andcocked eyebrows, hisorigins layinthe fighter acesoftheSecond World War. Week byweekDanDare, andhiswellupholstered sidekick, Digby (whatisitaboutheroes thattheysooftenneeda * TheEagle (incorporating Boy's World), 23January 1965.Buffs might liketoknow thattheEagle alsopublished Douglas’s firstshortstory, acomic taleaboutamanlosing hismemory, on27 February 1965.

12

PROLOGUE

plumpgitasa foil?), wouldfightto savetheuniversefromtheevilattentions of the Treensand theirmastermind, the Mekon,a small,greenhominid

whosevastcranium wasswollen withmalevolent intelligence. TheMekon travelled byanti-gravity saucer—which wasjustaswellasit wasbyno meansclearwhetherhis spindlylimbswouldsupportthe weightof that enormoushead.Theartwork,by FrankHampson,was superband mint

copies ofthecomic areprized onthecollectors’ market. Years latertheMekon reappeared oddlyinDouglas's life,played byRickWakeman, thelegendary rockkeyboard player, whoperformed asthemalign alieninaproduction of TheHitchhiker's GuidetotheGalaxyat the Roundhouse,one of London'slargest

venuesforalternative theatre.

TheEagle firedtheimaginations ofa generation ofBritish youngsters. It wasn’t justDanDarewhoseadventures tookthereaders off-planet. Nearly everyweekinthecentreofthecomicwasa double-page spread,in full colour,ofa machinecutawayin threedimensions to revealitsinnerworkings.Thesewere artefactswith glamour: ocean liners,locomotives,record-

breakingcars,jet fightersand so on. Also,executedwith the same

matter-of-fact verisimilitude—as ifsuch things existed already—there wereinterplanetary shuttles, spacestationsandstarships. TheEagle justtookit for grantedthatsuchmarvelswerecoming,andsodiditsreaders.Theworlddid notstopatthecornershop,orevenattheedgeoftheatmosphere. Douglaslovedthatcomic.Hewasa boywholivedveryintenselyin his

ownhead.Attwelve hewasalready sixfeettall.Asanadolescent, andlater asa man,hedidnotfitcomfortably intotheworld.

Schools inthosedays—and itlingers onstill—were firmlyinthegripof the ideathat a profounddichotomyexistsbetweenArtand Science.The Britisheducational systempivotsaroundthatgreatdivide.Veryfewchildren

understand thata decision atthirteen todrop,say,physics isanexistential moment destined toaffect theirwholelives. Theirthinking ismorealongthe linesof,“Whatsubjectsdo I likethe mostor tyrannizemethe least?”From suchfactorsasthe scarinessofthe chemistryteacherareourfuturesdetermined. C.P.SnowfamouslylabelledthisgreatdividetheTwoCultures, andithas

alongandignoble history. Somecommentators attribute Britain’s decline as a worldpowertothetradition thatitsbestbrainslearned LatinandGreek witha viewtodoingsomething mandarin intheCivilService, ratherthan studyingtrade,technology orengineering.

PROLOGUE13 A culturedgent,the sentimentran,was a bundle of sensibility,sustained

in townbya distantestate,whocouldtalkfluentlyon anysubjectwithout doingit muchdamageor,Godforbid,givingoffence.Eventodayyou can meetBritsat dinnerpartieswho can—amusingly—say nothingallevening,

butwhonevertheless arequitesurethatyou'rea betterpersonifyouappreciatequattrocento painting andhavenocluehow a televisionfunctions. John

Brockman in theintroduction to hisbook,TheThird Culture, arguesthat such scientific illiterates arepitiablydisabledwhenit comestounderstanding how theworldworks.

Douglas waswelleducated, butcaught inthetraditional system. Thefork intheroadlabelled Artinonedirection andScience intheotherlaterstruck

him as absurd.Whynot go straighton?Butat thetimethesystemobliged himto chooseand,withhis loveof languageandhisfinelyattunedearfor therhythmofa sentence, it is notsurprising thathetooktheartsroute.

Butinanothertime,orundera lessrigideducational tradition, theriver thatcarried himofftoCambridge couldhaveswepthimintothegreatseaof science. Douglas stoodonthebridgebetween artandscience, waving madly

inbothdirections. Culturedandwell-readscientists abound,butartspeople whocandefinePlanck’s Constantarerarebeasts. In his lectures,he was wont to observethat, in order to understand the

humancondition andhowtheworldworked, inthenineteenth century you hadtoreadthegreatnovels ofthetime,butinthetwentieth century thepath

tothatkindofenlightenment camefromreadingscience. Douglashimselfexpressed itwellinhisresponsetoa questionabouthow hisreadinghabitshadchanged:*

I readmuchmoresciencethannovels.I thinkthe roleofthe novelhaschanged alittle bit.Inthenineteenth century, thenovel

waswhereyouwentto getyourseriousreflectionsand questioningsaboutlife.You'dgoto Tolstoyand Dostoyevsky. Nowadays, of

course,youknowthescientists actually tellusmuchmoreabout suchissuesthanyouwouldevergetfromnovelists. SoI thinkthat fortherealsolidredmeatofwhatI readIgoto science books,and readsomenovelsaslightrelief.

* From the1997Channel Fourdocumentary called Break theScience Barrier withRichard Dawkins.

14

PROLOGUE

Humanbeingsarebornwitha senseofwonder.Occasionally oneencounters

rightfromtheoff,butby actuaries tobetomorrow's kidswhoseemdestined a newsensation. discover they as glee w ith burble andlargeit’strue.Babies with correlates a saucepan thatbanging Howtheylaughwhentheydiscover onthepathto adulthoodtheworldbeabloodyawfulnoise.Butsomewhere comesfamiliarandfadestogrey.Isitroutinethatdoesusthemischief, orthe weagethelevel as Wediminish; wecallsophistication? cynicalknowingness

bowl. leaking in a slowly ofourworldgoesdownasif weweregoldfish passionately. thisshrinkage resisted withhiswildenthusiasms, Douglas, Hecontinued:

complexity andrichness Theworldisathingofutterinordinate meantheideathat I awesome. absolutely thatis andstrangeness butprobcanarisenotonlyoutofsuchsimplicity, suchcomplexity extraordinary isthemostfabulous, outofnothing, ablyabsolutely idea.Andonceyougetsomekindofinklingofhowthatmighthave happened—it’s justwonderful.AndI feel,youknow,that the op-

portunityto spendseventyor eightyyearsofyourlifein sucha universe istimewellspentasfarasI amconcerned.

the Douglasneverceasedto perceivetheworldin allits strangeness—and involume)themoremindmorehereadscience(andheinhaleditwholesale

theUniverse in Life, TheKrikkitmen it allappeared. improbable buggeringly* theirplanetmovedthrough hadneverseenthestarsbecause andEverything thattheywerealone— cloudofdust.Theywereconvinced animpenetrable if onlybecausetheycouldnot seeanyuniverseto observeoutsidethemselves.In this respecttheyhad a lot morejustification than we who are wonderandrefuseto lookup.Thenightskyisheartbreakingly Earth-bound

ifwelooktheotherway,down morebeautyandcomplexity ful,andthere’s suffera spasmofxenophobia theKrikkitmen thesizescaleUnfortunately, is thattheuniverse thatthereislifeelsewhere—indeed whentheydiscover * Buffs might beinterested toknow thatDouglas replaced thiswitty expression ofamazement withthemoreconventional “mind-bogglingly” intheNarrator’s account oftheBabel FishinFit eyeonthe anexpedient fromtheBBC, ifthiswaspressure doesnotrecord History theFirst. American market, orjustthethought thatsuchagraphic expression might distract. + Astarismuchsimpler than aleaf.

PROLOGUE15

teemingwiththefilthystuff.Theirmission, witha sardonicbackwards glance atthemuch-parodied openingwordsofStarTrek, isto seekit outanddestroy

it”Douglas's viewoftheKrikkitmen wouldbesimilar to hisviewofpeople whoresolutely decline tolearnwhatscience cantellusabouttheuniverse we . inhabit. Of life,the universeand everything,it’slife that’ssuch an extraordinary

predicamentof matter.Asfar as we can tell,it's hugelyoutnumberedby

inanimate material. Einstein saidthatthegreatest mystery oftheuniverse is thatwecancomprehend it.Westruggle todescribe howunlikely itisthat someminuteconfiguration ofstuffona speckofrockrevolving aroundan

undistinguished G-typestar(inwhatDouglascalledtheunfashionable westem spiralarm of the galaxy)shouldhavestirredintolife.Forthat stuffto evolvefurtherto theextentthatitbecamesentientisamazing.Thefactthat

wehumanbeings havecompelling theoretical reasons tobelieve thatwecan makeobservations, anddrawconclusions, thatarerelevant tothewholecos-

mosis improbableto suchan extentthat languagecanscarcelyaccommodateit.Douglas wentthroughlifeshakinghisheadat thesheerimplausibility thatsomeorganicmoleculecouldself-organize intoa stableformofslightly

higherorder, andeventually—via a process ofgreatbeautybutentirely withoutexternal purpose—turn intocreatures as disparate asyou,thereader, the possessor ofthemostcomplex thingweyetknowofintheuniverse (the

three-poundlumpofhumanbrain),and,say,a sulphur-metabolizing worm at a submarinevolcanicvent.Whatis more,thejourneytooklessthanfour

billion' years. Theprocess bywhichthishappened iscalled evolutionary biology. Itwas oneofDouglas's intense enthusiasms andintegral to hisviewoftheworld.

Jokesaboutevolutionaboundin allDouglas’s books.TheVogonsarethe onlycreatureswhodecideto do withoutit (‘Evolution,” theythought.“Who needsit?”), becausetheyrectifytheirgrosseranatomical inconveniences sur-

gically.” Remember theHaggunenons ofVicissitus Three,whosechromo-

* Thisnotion thatalienlifeforms arenotbenign is,ofcourse, common inalotofSFandgoesback toH.G. Wells’s WaroftheWorlds. tT Thereisnowsomecontroversy aboutwhetherancientmicrofossils arereallyindicative oflife.

Lifemaybemuchyounger thantheusualc.3.8billion yearestimate. See“Proof ofLife,” New Scientist, 22February 2003. coTheHitchhiker's Guide totheGalaxy, p.43.

16

PROLOGUE

times several evolved thattheyquitefrequently somesweresoimpatient spoontheywould overlunchsothatiftheywereunableto reacha coffee fromtheearly Orthecavemen a rms?* withlonger mutateintosomething Thinkofhis by a bunchoftelephonesanitizers? Earthwhowereoutevolved contentionthatcomingdownfromthetreeswasa bigmistake,or thatour

troubles beganinearnest whenweemerged fromthesea. the Intellectually himfromhisschooldays. had fascinated Evolution

pump had long been primedfor his friendshipwith ProfessorRichard Dawkins. Itwasa truemeetingofmindswhentheygottogetherin 1990.At onepoint,Douglashadevencontemplated takinga maturestudent'sdegree

activities). displacement (itwouldhavebeenoneofhisworthier inzoology withan generalist scientific wasaninspired him:Douglas dissuaded Richard narepetitive grindingly sometimes forthe fartooeffervescent imagination

tureofscientific procedure. Hisbroadperspective wouldnotbewellserved bythetightfocusofa singlediscipline. ThenotionofGodhad appealedto Douglaswhenhe wasa schoolboy.

tousbycultureandtradition—to Godis,afterall,thesolution—transmitted in hadworked mind.Douglas thattroubleanenquiring thosebigquestions imreligious h is But thechoir. o utin hisheart andsung chapel theschool pulsewasreallya searchformeaning—and thatisbynomeansthesoleprerogativeofthoseimmersedintheorganized religions. Indeed,bythetimehe

was a student,the institutionalanswersto the questionof meaninghad be-

ofthescaleoftheuniinkling Onceyouhavethedimmest comeirrelevant. beingmadeinHisimage) verse,theideathata hugeoneofus(wehumans createditallinordertoplaceusinitbecomespreposterous. Douglaslosthis faith,he said,at the ageofeighteen,when he heard a streetevangelistand re-

alizedthatwhatwasbeingsaidmadeabsolutelyno senseat all.Thegreat to Mechanics onCelestial dedicatedhis Treatise Laplace, Frenchmathematician,

that butthenaddedthathewassurprised saidBonaparte, “Merci,” Napoleon. Laplace hadmadenomention ofGod.“Sire,” Laplace issupposed tohave replied(onlyinFrench), “IfoundIhadnoneedtoavailmyselfofthathypothesis.”

withhis heagreed Indeed, either. hadnoneedforthehypothesis Douglas

hadsuchan influence Gene, whosebook,TheSelfish friend,RichardDawkins,

sentimental whenhereadit yearslater,thatthereissomething onDouglas * TheNarrator, FittheSixth,TheHitchhiker's GuidetotheGalaxy.

PROLOGUE17

andself-deceiving aboutanynotionthatputsmancentrestage. “Space,” after all,“isbig.Really big.Youjustwon'tbelieve howvastly, hugely, mindbogglingly bigit is.1mean,youmaythinkitisa longwaydowntothechemist,

butthat’sjustpeanutsto space.” Douglaswasa radicalatheist,"and quiteunequivocalaboutusingthe

term.Ifsomeone hadsuggested thathetakePascal’s betandrecantonhis deathbed tobeonthesafeside,hewouldhaverejected suchanindignity” He reallydidmean“atheist” andnotagnostic. Themorehelearned, thestronger

hisatheismbecame—but thiswasnothingas crudeasreplacingoneparadigmwithanother.

addressed toatheists isthattheirviewof Oneoftheslanders frequently

theworldis mechanistic andreductive—a long,coldchainofmaterially de-

termined consequences witheachironlinkofcauseandeffect stretching back

isthereroomfor to theBigBang.Whereinthisaccount,arguethebelievers, spiritorfreewill?ButDouglas thoughtthatimputingsucha positiontoatheistswasabsurd’Themoreyouknowabouthowtheworldworks,themore

astonishingly wonderful itbecomes. Hiswayoflooking atthingsisinfectious. blockoflaminated Forinstance,youarereadinga book,a rectangular probablygrownina Scandinavian monowoodpulp.Somehugevegetable, culturewhereno birdssing,hasbeenharvestedsothatitsfibrecanbechem-

icallyandmechanically treatedto makepaper.Oil-based pigment hasbeen squeezed ontothepaperbymachines. Theresulting blackmarksareintendedto conveyinformation usingan invention,language,socreativethat it cangeneratesentenceslikethisonewhichhasprobablyneverbeenwritWithluckyouwillstillfindit intellitenbeforeinthe historyofthespecies. gible.Ifthewood-pulptreewerestillstanding,you'dwantto leanagainstit.

Intermsofquantum physics, youandthebookaremostlyemptyspace tinynucleisurrounded bycloudsofelectrons consisting ofinfinitesimally

* TheNarrator, FittheSecond,TheHitchhiker's GuidetotheGalaxy.

T Interview withtheAmerican Atheists collected inTheSalmon ofDoubt. coPascal's bet,thereader willrecall, wasthepusillanimous notion thatbeing wrong aboutthenonexistence ofGodcarried suchapotential downside thatonemight aswellplaysafeonthe deathbed andrecantone’satheism. Inthecircumstances, itwould bea minor concession when setagainst apossible eternity ofextreme discomfort. § Inebriated conversation inFrederick’s restaurantinIslington.

18

PROLOGUE

whizzingroundin(relative tothenucleus)hugelydistantandultimately unknowableorbitalcloudsthatnevertheless canonlypossessdiscretevalues. The nuclei contain still smallercomponents,and their numbers determine

in yourbodywere elements whatyou'remadeof.Allbuttheverylightest intotheuniverse heartsofstarsandblasted inthethermonuclear synthesized byexplosion. You're atthebottomofthegravity wellofaplanetthatismovingatnineteenmilesa secondarounditssolarcentralheatingunitthatisone starofabouta hundredbillioninthelocalsystem.Gravityis—bymillionsof ordersofmagnitude—the weakestofallthebindingforcesofthecosmos, but

itweighs heavily onyoubecause you'resotinycompared tothemassofour planet. What'smore,you'relivinginathinenvelope ofdangerously reactive gases.Youdon'tgivethisa moment'sthoughtbecause,ofcourse,youknow allthisisnormal.Douglasdidn’t* ButDouglaswasnotwide-eyedaboutscience. Hewouldnotbelieveany

oldtoshbecause itmadefora frisson-inducing yarn.Asagoodpositivist he onthebasisof a proposition tobelieve thoughtthatyouhadtobeentitled

properevidence. Inmanyinterviews hewasaskedwhathewouldhavedone if he hadn't been a writer,a job at which he excelledbut for which he was

temperamentally oneoftheleastwell-suited peopleonEarth.Hisusualan-

swerwassoftware engineer/designer, ablendofscience andtechnology that marries upextreme carewithwildcreativity. Douglas hadnotimeforsoggy science ofthe“WasGoda chair-leg?/Aliens madethepyramids” variety. RatherlikehisbelovedBach,whosemusicconveysemotionwhileadhering tostrictmusicalforms,Douglas believedthattheappealofsciencewasallthe

greater ifitweremethodologically rigorous, careful anddifficult. Inhisopinion: Revolutionary changesto acceptedmodelsquite oftencome fromoutsidethe orthodoxyof any givendiscipline,but if a new ideais to prevailit has to be bettersupportedin argument,logic and evidencethan the oldview,not worse.“Feel-good” scienceis notscienceat all.ScienceFictionisa greatterritoryinwhichto play withthekindofperspectiveshiftsthatleadto newdiscoveries and * Douglas’s riffontheselineswasquotedmovingly byProfessor Dawkins atthememorial service

atSt.Martin-in-the-Fields, 17September 2001.

PROLOGUE19

newrealizations. Butimagination temperedwithlogicandreasonis muchmorepowerfulthanimaginationalone*

Douglas Adams had agift formaking uslookagainattheworldandseehow strangeit reallyis.Youremember thosequizzes incomics andmagazines

whensomethingisdrawnfroman oddangleor photographed fromanunusualperspective? Thecirclewitha thinbarprojecting diametrically fromeithersidethatturnsouttobeabicycling Mexican wearinga bighatseenfrom

above? Douglas's writing pullsa similar trick. Thereoughttobea unitofpleasure todescribe thatmoment when ajoke

ora suddeninsightmakesyouseesomething clearlyinawayyouhadnever thoughtofbefore.In Douglas's honoursuchmomentsshouldbe calibrated in Adamses, usingtheS.I.system.Femto-adamses fortinybutamusingsur-

prises, rightuptoTera-adamses forsickening lurches inworldview.Hisabilityto standsideways onto theworld,andthink“that’s bloodypeculiar’ informs allhiswriting. Heurgedustothinkdifferently, to takeoureyesout

fora walk. Ofcourse,veryfewliveupthereinthestratosphere ofhumanthoughtall the time.Astronomers,their minds on the transcendent,live in torment in

casea rivalteampublishes in therightscholarly journalfirst.It’scomfortinglyhuman.Ourmindsmayencompass infinite space, butwestillworry about status,sexand the milkbill.

DouglasAdamsdidenjoyan intenseinnerlifeof the mind—while he wasn'tthrowingpartiesand goingto restaurants,that is.Buthis senseof

wonderneverlefthim.

* Preface toDigging Holes inPopular Culture—Archaeology andScience Fiction, edited byMike Russell (Oxbow Books, 2002).

“Themainproblem which themedical profession inthe mostadvanced sectorsofthegalaxy hadtotackleafter

Cures hadbeen found forallthemajor diseases, andinONE

stantrepairsystems hadbeeninvented forallphysical injuries anddisablements exceptsomeofthemoreadvanced formsofdeath,wasthatofemployment.

nor

ror

“Planets fullofbronzed healthy clean-limbed in-

CuUumImLpDp C0RD

dividuals merrily prancing through theirlivesmeant

efrTer

thattheonlydoctors stillinbusiness werethepsychiatrists,simply becausenoonehaddiscovered a cure

a

eB

fortheuniverse asawhole—or rathertheonethatdid

exist hadbeenabolished bythemedical doctors.” THe NARRATOR, FIT THE ELEVENTH, TheHitchhiker's Guideto theGalaxy

ea

&

t was half a centuryand a world away.In Britain,the 1950swere not

famouslycolourful. Iftheninetieswerea decadewheneverything had

inverted commas aroundit,thefifties werelikesitting throughThe Mousetrap overandoveragaininsomechurch hallwithrock-hard seats. Youwouldsay “asjoyousasthefifties” aboutasoftenasyou'dremark thatsomething was asdrollasa Bergmanseason. 7 Internationally, EvaPeron,“themotherofArgentina,” diedin 1952.Great

swathes ofAfrica werestillunderEuropean colonial rule.TheKorean War endedin1953havingcostalmostthreemillion lives.President Eisenhower wasintheWhiteHouse(twice), whileAmericans gotricherandtheircars,al-

readythe sizeof cathedrals, becamelargerand finnierwitheverypassing year.

British society wasoneofthosebottlesoffizzthatfeelashardasteak untilthetopisunscrewed andthepressure released. Dr.Jonathan Miller, the director, writerandpolymath, thinksthatinmanywaysthefifties werea so-

cialextensionofthethirtieswithhabitsofdeference thatdidnotchangeuntil

22

WISHYOUWEREHERE

inthesubruled,especially gentility a decadelater*Acertainstrangulated

justintime urbswhosesprawlhadbeencontainedby“greenbelt”legislation a linefromtheWashto Cardito preventthewholeofsouthernBritainbelow

ganBayfrombecoming ahousing estate. wasgrainyandblack Television forthewell-off. wasonly Carownership 625),andit wasbyno andwhite(405linestothescreenandnottoday’s

werehuge brownboxescontaining meansuniversal.Thesetsthemselves valvesthattooka minutetowarmup andstoredenergylongenoughfora strangewhitedottofadeslowlyfromthescreenwhenthepowerwasturned

off. in screens TVshadhanky-sized dimensions, theirroom-crushing Despite w eretwo There placed. be could magnifiers frontofwhichfree-standing

channels,andon theBBCcontinuitygapswerefilledwithfootageofa potter’shandsshaping a clayvase.Spiffingchapsin dinnerjacketsor county withvoices womenin eveningdresswouldannouncethenextprogramme

ofcrystal-etching upper-class Oxbridge English. uglyhaircuts, macintoshes, Thefiftieswerea timeof dampgabardine brufashionable of buildings f ood, stodgy clothes, uncomfortable hideously talityinspiredby scaled-uppacketsof cornflakes, and suffocating disapJim proval.tBeneaththe surfaceall was churning.KingsleyAmis’sLucky

andJohnOsborne withrandygleein1954,” thephoneymoralizing pierced Buton (1956). Anger in Back Look allin ofit hypocrisy thestultifying excoriated prevailed. respectability andparalysing anoppressive thesurface

In Cambridgein early1951,JanetDonovanmet Christopher Douglas Adams,whowastwenty-four atthetime.JanetwasanurseatAddenbrookes, hospital.Shewasratherpretty,thenas nowa pragthefamousCambridge

a stabeing Despite manner. no-nonsense witha sympathetic, maticwoman ifyour all, After nottobesoppy. t end nurses pleofMillsandBoonromances, publicandits withtheillandcantankerous ofdealing dailyroutineconsists

leakyorifices, soppiness couldnotsurviveforlong.Itwasanunlikelyliaison, butJanetwassweptoffherfeetbythe fascinating Christopher Adams.They 24July2002). Four, Radio On(BBC Years onFifty withSueLawley * Interview ofcouncil intheirblock withtheneighbours intotrouble hismumgetting remembers + Theauthor flatsbecausesheputoutthewashingona Sunday. coAnunreliable informant reportsthatthecondomsofthetimewereliketheRussiangaloshki

willy.” onone’s bottle ahot-water era.Hesaysitwas“likewearing oftheSoviet (gumboots)

NOTFROMGUILDFORD AFTERALL 23

quicklymarried(inWisbech), and on 11March1952Janetgavebirth to

Douglas NoélAdams, aninfanthominid whoseunusualintelligence would notbemanifest forquiteawhile.Indeed, hewasa markedly latedeveloper inallbutsize,beinga whopper evenasa baby.Douglas's firstnamehasa

certaindynasticinevitability. Lateroneofhisstockjokeswasthathe(initials DNA) arrivedinCambridge ninemonthsbeforeJ.D.WatsonandFrancisCrick workedoutthedoublehelixstructureofdeoxyribonucleic acid*

Whensomebody asextraordinary asDouglas Adams appears, there'sa temptation toregardhimassomekindofhappyfluke,ratherinthesame

waythat towniesimaginethat meatneverrunsabouta fieldbut popsinto beingin sterilepacksin hugesupermarketrefrigerators. Butin bothcases thereisa longlineofantecedents.

Doctoring wasthefamily business, andit stretched backtothelateeighteenthcentury. Infourgenerations therewereelevenmaleDr.Adamses and onewomansurgeon. It wasa Scottish dynasty oftall,clevermen,andone

that combinedconsiderable talentwitha strongsenseofobligationto the publicgood.Interestingly, quitea fewof thoseAdamsesalsowrotebooks,

somewereinspired teachers andlecturers andnearlyallofthem—perhaps all,buttherecords areincomplete—seem tohavehadanappetite and agift forpublicspeaking.* Thegreat,greatgrand-daddyofthemallwasAlexander Maxwell Adams (1792-1860), whograduatedfromEdinburgh University andthenpractisedin

thatcityinArgyle Square, nowthesiteoftheMuseum ofScience andArts. Heleftthreesonswhoalsobecame doctors. Hisgreat-grandson, alsoAlexanderMaxwell Adams, authorofafamily history published infourpartsbythe

Hamilton Advertiser in 1922,describedhim—somewhat obscurelyquoting

* Quoted inTheSalmon ofDoubt. Thereisajokethat,despite theefforts oftheeditorial staff,will notdieintheNewScientist magazine. It’sso-called “Nominal Determinism” whereby someone called Henrietta Bunn, forinstance, iscondemned tobecome acakemixchemist. Douglas, given hispassion forevolutionary biology, thought hisinitials funny, though entirely lacking anyother significance. T [amindebted toShirley Adams, thegranddaughter ofDouglas’s great-grandfather’s sister, for herresearch intothefamily tree.Thishasmanyrootsandbranches, somehugeandothers tragically truncated, andit’ssomething | willnotattempt todescribe. What withinfant mortality, marriagebetween distant cousins, andagedisparities itlooks asifsomeone quitedisturbed had triedtodrawtheTubemapfrommemory. Itscompilation isatrulyimpressive andscholarly undertaking.

24

WISHYOUWEREHERE:

Hewasa popularman, a manwho“tooktimebytheforelock.” Thales*—as whodida lotofunpaidworkforthepoorerfolkofEdinburgh. Thiswaswhatsavedhimonedayin 1828aftera mobmistookhimforDr.

Knox,the famousanatomistof Surgeons’Hall,who had been innocentlyim-

thatBurkeand Youwillremember intheBurkeandHaremurders. plicated whorobbedthegravesoftherebody-snatchers Harewerethenotorious to corpses andnoquestions, ondelivery cash supply, t o inorder centlydead

the localmedicalschool.(Youmaywonderhow muchimportantmedical knowledge washardwoninsuchiffycircumstances.) onein whichunsurpriswasa lucrativebusiness—and Body-snatching

muchsothatBurke good,freshmaterial—so favoured inglytheanatomists callthesupplyside, whattheeconomists toregulate andHareweretempted death, Theyanticipated fornaturetotakeitscourse. waiting bynotactually to theextentofmurderingsomeoftherootlesspeopleintheirownlodging house.Dr.RobertKnoxhadhissuspicions arousedwhenhesawthebodyof “DaftJamie”in the dissectingroom,and raisedthe alarm.

Themob,reofa bogeyman. something this,thedoctorbecame Despite forKnox, him mistook Adams, Dr. hishouse,spotted turningfromdespoiling

anddecidedto stringhimupfromoneofthelargebracketsusedtosuspend oillamps,thentheonlymeansofstreetlighting.Dr Adams’s expostulations wereinvain,theropewasaroundhisneck;it lookedverybleak.A century

with matters, wastodescribe (thefourth) Adams Maxwell later,Dr.Alexander Sudposition.” as“anunpromising thatmarksa manofscience, thatcaution

denlyoneofthe crowdshoutedout:“What!Wouldye hangthe lang[tall] doctoro’thesouth?”Dr.Adams'spracticewassouthoftheNor‘loch. Dr.Adamssurvivedthisflirtationwiththe grimreaperto liveon as a

intextbooks, Hewastheauthorofseveral doctor. Edinburgh well-respected novel, a and poetry, bad pretty some Complaints, onFemale ATreatise cluding Gamoshka, orMemoirs oftheGoodwin Family. However, hewasbestknownfor Sketches fromtheLifeofaPhysician basedonhisexperiences asa GeneralPractitioner.It’sengagingly written,fullofhistorically interestingdetailandsuf-

as viewed menandwomenit isrightly Formedical fusedwithdryhumour. aminorclassic. * ThalesofMiletus, pre-Socratic philosopher andcosmologist highlyratedbyAristotle. Theymust havebeena Cultured lot,thosedoctors .. .

NOTFROMGUILDFORD AFTERALL 25 Hissons,Dr.Adams,Dr.Adamsand Dr.Adams,were all highlyregarded.

WilliamDavidhada distinguished careerin Edinburgh. Alexander Maxwell

(thesecond ofthatname) became Professor atPortland Street School ofMedicineattheAndersonian University, Glasgow, andthenpractised inLanark

wherehewentonto becometheProvostofLanark, a jobpeculiartoScotland that,asheadofa municipalauthorityorburgh,carriesa lotofresponsibility. JamesMaxwellAdams(1817-1899), the middleson,alsotook the road to

Glasgow wherehebuiltupa largepractice inmedicine, withaddedtoxicologyandengineering* Heinvented theAdamsInhalerforRespiratory Diseases, notonlymoreefficient thantheprevious modelbutmuchcheaper to

manufacture. Hecomposedmanyinnovativescientific paperson suchsubjectsasheatingbygas.(British citieswereblackwithsootfromcoalfiresat

thetime.)In 1865hissubtleforensic work,whichinvolved devising from scratch a lethality experiment withrabbitsanda control group,contributed totheconviction ofDr.Edward Pritchard, whowasaccused ofpoisoning not onlyhismother-in-law butalsohiswife. Thecreepy Dr.Pritchard hastheun-

usualdistinction ofbeingthelastmantobe hangedin Glasgow inpublic. Jameswasalsoa writerwhoselivelymindwasmanifestin the eclectic

rangeofhispublications. Sanitary Aspects oftheSewage Question wasnotoneof hismostcommercial titles, buthealsowroteaboutcruelty inliontaming, arsinepoisoning, andthenutritional andchemical properties ofwine.Whatis it,he wondered— interalia—thatmakesthenosegoa mottledcerisethatbetraystheimbibernomatterhowexcruciatingly tiptoeinghisdiction?

James waslovedbyhispatients. In1879, hewasashareholder intheBank ofGlasgow whenit failed. Rather likea Lloyd’s Namehehadunlimited liability, butin contrast tomanyLloyd's Names hepaidupwithoutcavilling

eventhoughhehadtosellhishouseintheprocess. Astonishingly, agroupof hisfriendsandpatientsclubbedtogetherandboughthishousebackforhim, presentinghimwiththedeedsin a finesilvercasket.t

Totellthetalesofallthemedical Adamses wouldtaketoolong.Suffice it tosaythatwhenDouglas Kinchin Adams (1891-1967), Douglas's grandfather * Thisinformation derives from a talkgiven byJohnLenihan toa meeting oftheScottish Society oftheHistory ofMedicine.

T Onceagain|amgrateful toShirley Adams forthisinformation andthesightoftheactualsilver boxcontaining thedeedstoJames’s houseinGlasgow.

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thetradoctorofthemall,camealongin1891, themostbrilliant andpossibly ditionofmedicine andpublicdutywasalready firmlyestablished. DouglasKinchinAdams,MB,ChB,MA,BSc,MD,FRCP,was another tall

manofferociousintelligence. “Kinchin” isunusualevenin Scotland; it was hismother’smaidenname.DouglasK.Adamsplungedintomedicinewith

degrees andSurgery ofMedicine HetookhisBachelor passion. intellectual PatholSurgery, inMidwifery, FirstClassCertificates winning withhonours, ogyandMedical Jurisprudence. Thenhe swiftly gothisdoctorate. While studyingforhis medicaland surgicalqualifications, he thoughthe’dalso studyforanMAanda BSc,bothofwhichhe acquiredwithdistinction. He

hereInparticular medicine. andpractical inresearch hisability alsoproved of result a andas unassailable, was illness thatneurological fusedtoaccept hethrewagreatdealoflightupona groupof investigations hispainstaking

nervousdiseasescalledGenerically Disseminated Scleroses (whichinclude multiplesclerosis). HisMDthesisonthesubjectwonhimtherarelyawarded Bellahouston goldmedal.

backto the feltthattheyshouldgivesomething always TheAdamses beinga doctorand Despite wasno exception. Kinchin world,andDouglas thusa member ofa reserve profession able—indeed encouraged—not togo to war,he joinedthe Navy,in whichhe held a commissionas a MedicalOf-

ficerfrom1914to 1918,servingin the “X”Cruisersquadron,thenon the

he Twice coast,andfinallyona battlecruiser. theBelgian blockading flotilla Kinchin withlittleharm.BythetimeDouglas butescaped wastorpedoed, thanmost in morelivingandmorelearning he’dpacked wastwenty-eight, ofusmanageina lifetime.

Afterthewarhe returnedto Glasgow, wherehismedicalcareerwastouched

oncemoreby grace.Medicallecturesarenotoriously dull,beinglargelyof

butwithmoreLatin. variety, the hip-bone-is-connected-to-the-thigh-bone weresocoruscatingly however, ofGlasgow, attheUniversity lectures Kinchin’s brilliantthat they attractedstudentsand academicsfromotherdisciplines,pre-

figuringhisgrandson's immensetalentforpublicspeakingingeneralandthe giftofmakingcomplex ideasaccessible inparticular. Foryears,Douglas Kinchin

whereheestabinGlasgow Infirmary totheWestern Physician wasConsulting over extensively thatstretched practice anda consultancy lisheda reputation western Scotland. Family legend hasitthathelosthislifesavings inthecrash of1929andthesubsequent Depression, butwealthwasnotthatimportantto him.Findingouthowthingsworkedwaswhatmotivated him.

NOTFROMGUILDFORD AFTERALL 27

Thesamecouldnotbe saidofhisson,Christopher. Theneedformoney— notthatheeverhadanyofhisown—and thethingsit couldbuyranthrough

hislifelikemoltenlava. ThePhilipLarkin School ofDevelopmental Psychology (‘They fuckyou up,yourmumanddad/They maynotmeanto,buttheydo”)embodies a certainmelancholy truth.That'swhyeverybody knowsthoselines.Larkin goes

onto saythattheparentshadbeenfuckedup in theirturn.Youmaythink thatthisis a sad,almostbiblicalaccountof damage,likea rugbyballbeing

passeddownthescrumofgenerations. Thesinsofthefathers visitedupon thechildren, andsoonforever. Onecanonlytakecomfort fromthefactthat inmanyfamilies thechainofgriefisbroken. WecannotknownowwhatmadeChristopher turn outashe did.Partly fromloyalty, andperhapsbecauseit’sstilltoopainful,Janetwillnotspeakof him at all.“Controlling, difficult, overwhelming, sulky,clever,charming, and

complex” aretheadjectives mostcommonly applied toChristopher bythose whoknewhim.Douglas's ownrelationship withhisdadwasoneofhisinner demons thathauntedhimallhislife.

ItcannothavebeeneasyforChristopher to havehada supermanfora father,especially withthesuffocating weightoftraditionmappingoutthepath forthe menin the family.If you cannotbeartheburdenof sucha mythic

mantle, youmighttakeanego-bashing whichtransmutes overtheyearsinto selfishness andsourness. Sonsoffamous fathers areknowntohavea tough timeofit.Oftentheygrowintoperfectly pleasant andwell-balanced adults,

but someare neverableto comeout fromtheir dad’sshadow.Thinkof WilliamBurroughs’s sonstrivingto be evenmoredepravedthanPa(atall

orderanda fatalaspiration), orofEvelyn Waugh’s remarkaboutWinston Churchill's son,Randolph. Whentoldthathehadundergone anoperation fortheremoval ofa smallgrowth thatturnedouttobeharmless, Waugh re-

marked:“Howtypicalof medicalscienceto findtheonlypartof Randolph thatisnotmalignant, andremoveit.” Possibly DouglasKinchinwassobusythathe didnothaveenoughtime leftoverforhischildren,butthereis noevidenceofthisin thefolkloreofthe

family. Besides, Christopher, impressed, perhapsoppressed, bythefamily’s longline ofbrilliantand altruisticdoctors,was strong-willedand determined

to go hisownway.PossiblyDouglasKinchinmadehispaternaldisappointmentwithhissonapparent,somethingthatcouldhavea wretchedeffecton a child,butdetailsofChristopher's childhoodareobscure. Itisknownthathe

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hadan intensefallingoutwithhiseldersister,Pauline,forreasonsnowlost

had marriage Kinchin’s thatDouglas inthefogoftime.Ithasbeensuggested b etween sides hadbeenforcedto take andthatthechildren itsproblems, itwentverydeep.Even oftheschism, thesource Whatever motherandfather.

whenChristopher wasin hisfortiesandlivingcloseto Paulinein Eardiston, nearBirmingham, theyhadscarcelyanycontact.

to settleto buthefoundit difficult washighlyintelligent, Christopher a degree h ehadjustfinished hemetJanet A t thetime f orlong. anything courseat St.John’s,Cambridge (wherehe hadbeenfrom1949to 1951), and forreasonsthatremainobscurelycomplexhe hadembarkedupona course ofdivinityatRidleyCollege, theschooloftheologyinCambridge. Hehadno

withitasaninstitution, verydissatisfied andbecame forthechurch, vocation cuextreme toshare—an hissonwasdestined yethedidhave—something records totheworld.St.John’s therewasanypurpose aboutwhether riosity suggestthat he was ordained,but the JohnianOfficethere admitsthat their

documentation coveringthat periodis incomplete. Thereis no recordin

noranywhere beingordained, ofChristopher Directory Clerical Crockford’s thatChristopher says Roche, G.R. friend, Christopher's matter. elseforthat tothepossibility titleormadeanyreference neverusedanykindofclerical theymet whentheywereboth doing of beingordained,but interestingly communityworkforthe charityTocH,an organization startedin the First WorldWarthathasChristian valuesatitsheart.

thesocial fancied thatChristopher Someofthefamilyhavespeculated inthosedays.In enjoyed thata churchman tomeddle statusandthelicence asabalreligion touse p repared those been therehavealways society British

conyfromwhichtolookdownontherestofthepopulation. Theremayhave beensomething inthatnotion,butitseemsonlyrighttogiveChristopher the impulseseemsto havebeen benefitofthedoubt.Onesourceofhisreligious

Ian friend,theReverend Hislifelong restiveness. a muchdeeperspiritual and intense anextraordinarily describes ofsomecelebrity, a cleric Mackenzie, distinguished andthe C hristopher thathe, experience religious hallucinatory physicist, ClaudeDouglasCurling* underwentin the mid-fifties. Theywere on a retreatto thefamousreligiouscommunityonthe Hebrideanislandof

TheexperiLondon. College, inKing’s areavailable diedin1993,buthisarchives Curling * (Claude of nature bytheontological fascinated andhebecame himdeeply enceseemstohaveaffected quantumreality.

NOTFROMGUILDFORD AFTERALL 29

Ionathatwasfounded bySt.Columba andrevived inthetwentieth century byGeorgeMacLeod, thecharismatic preacher. ClaudeCurlingwastherelecturingaboutphysicsandtheperilsofnuclearenergy.Ianwasin hissecond yeartherevisitingtheAbbey,andChristopher hadbeensecondedasa part-

timehelper(wearing hisprobation officer hat)tokeepa pastoral eyeonthe manyyoungvolunteers whowereontheislandhelping withtherebuilding work. Theexperience theyunderwentonIonawastoocomplextobeencapsulatedin a fewparagraphshere—even if I understoodit fully.It deservesa

booktoitself, andI amgrateful toIanMackenzie fortakingsuchtroubleto recallit,placeitincontext anddescribe socarefully whataspects ofitcanbe described. Itseemstohaveinvolved whata materialist wouldcalla shared hallucination and othersa mysticalvision.Ian Mackenzie saysthat what ClaudeCurlingandChristopher Adamsenduredwassointenseandstrange

thatafterwards Christopher founditimpossible totalkorwriteaboutit in prose,andinsteadwroteanepicpoemintheheroicmodeinhiseffortto convey something ofwhatitwasabout.Ianhimself saysthathisrolewasthat oftherationalman,thebearerofthecoolintellectoftheChurchofScotland, whokeptthemallgroundedandsane.He'salwayswondered—unnecessarily,surely—if he mighthavesomehowheldbacktheothertwofromsome greatermystery.

Unfortunately, Christopher Adams's poemislost.Although theReverend saysitwastheologically unsound,thegistseemstohaveconcerneda fusion betweenmysticism andscienceandtheeternalbattlebetweengoodandevil. Theconflictbetweenreasonand mysteryis age-old;somecommentators

havefoundroomfortheineffable inthehorribly counter-intuitive ambiguitiesofquantum physics andthepredominant roleoftheobserver insystems ontheatomic scale. (Thelatteriswidely misunderstood tojustify allkindsof

wide-eyednonsense.It is subtleenoughto deservebetter.In the everyday

worldofclassical physics, theoneweinhabit, observation isstillthecornerstoneofscience.) Ofcourse, Douglas wasjustaninfantwhenhisfatherunderwent this shattering experience, butReverend Mackenzie recalls thatChristopher was

justburstingwithit,andcouldtalkaboutlittleelse:

Hetalkedaboutit forbreakfast,lunchandtea.Christopherhad

a personality almosttoobigforhisbody(andthatwasenormous).

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Hewasnot a manto keepquietaboutinterestingthingsthathap-

penedtohim. Itisnotdifficult toimagine Christopher booming awayabouthisrelationship withGodwhileDouglaswasstilla sprat,andit ispossiblethatChristopher and DouglasdiscussedJonawhenDouglaswasmoreof an ageto understand.Initsveryabstraction itwouldhavebeena safertopicthananyemo-

tionally closertohome,butwecanneverknowforsure.Douglas hadlittle timeformysticism, buthewasfascinated bytheproblem ofhowthecomplexity oftheworldcouldhaveemerged without theneedforanIntelligent Designer. Thelinkwithhisfather’smysticalexperience maynotbe asdirect astheirhavinga conversation, ofcourse.It’shardto seethattherecouldbe a Mysticism Gene(whereisthereproductive orsurvivaladvantage?), butitis

lesstrickytoseethatdeepcuriosity mayhaveahereditary component. Ofcourse,ecstasyis farremovedfromacademictheology.Nonetheless thisaspecttoomayhaveappealedto anotherfacetofChristopher's character,a kindofphilosophical jokiness—something latermanifested ina hugely stylishformin Douglas. Divinitymustbe theonlysubjectinwhichyoucan

notonlyfail,butcommit heresy. (‘I'msorry,Simkins, following yourviva we'vedecided to burnyouat thestake...”) Thereisalmosta crosswordpuzzlinglinguistic playfulness to thesubject.ThinkofAnselmdefiningGod intobeingby startingoffwitha definition(thegreatestpossibleobjectof thought)and showinghow the existenceof the deitymust follow.Ifit didn't,

youwouldfacealogical contradiction; foryoucouldimagine abeingwithall thesupreme attributes, butifitlacked thatofexistence itwouldnotbethe greatestpossibleobjectof thought—andthus be inconsistentwith the “agreed” definition* Christopher, cleverandcomplex, enjoyedthenicenessof suchargument;healsocaredaboutpreciseusage.Witha pedanticfriend,he

formed theAmateur Syntax Clubintowhichhismanychildren andstepchildrenwerepress-ganged. Hewasneverslowtocorrect anyone's grammar— including Douglas’s. Christopher wasa restivespirit.Tothe extentthat theologyentailsa searchnotjustforGodbut formeaning,thistraitwasoneofthe manyhe

passedontoDouglas. Certainly at6’4”hewastheoriginofhisson’sprodi* Thisisacrudesimplification ofAnselm’s Ontological Argument, adodgy trickforsmuggling God intoexistencebylinguistic sleightofhand.

NOT FROM GUILDFORDAFTER ALL 31

gioussize.Greatheightwasmoreunusual then*Christopher hadalongface, amplenose,highforeheadandthick,black-rimmed specs.Hewasbeardedin

a waythatgavehima wicked, piratical look.Hewasn'tparticularly handsome,andhe hada shorttemperandcouldbe appallingly rude,yethisaggressionand vitalitymade him nonethelessattractive.His friend,the Reverend,describeshim as lookinglikethe actorJamesRobertsonJustice,es-

pecially astheirascible medical consultant intheseriesofBritish films, based onbooksbyRichard Gordon, thatstarted withDoctor intheHouse. Christopher couldalsobe charmingand sociable,and his evidentwillingness to take chargemusthavebeenappealingto a womanifshewerefeelingvulnerable orinsecure.

Healsohada hugeappetite forluxury—whatever hisfinancial circumstances—and regarded thegoodthingsinlifeashisbyright.Hewasanexcellent cook,though a firmbeliever inthemaxim thatwhoever cooksdoes

notdotheclearingup afterwards. Helikedsmartrestaurants, richfoodand finewine—andthishighlivingmayhavebeena factorin hisearlydeath

fromlivercancerattheageoffifty-seven. Oftenamusing incompany, but moremorose inprivate, hewascapable ofintense andtenaciously sustained sulking ifhedidnotgethisownway.Sue,hisfirstdaughter, reports that“Dad couldsulkforEngland.” YearslaterDouglas's sister,Jane,usedthesameexpressionaboutDouglas. SusanAdams,Douglas'ssister,wasborn threeyearsafterDouglas,in

March1955, ata timewhenherparents’ marriage wasalready undergreat strain.Sueisapleasant, intuitive woman whohashadhershareofsadness; sheisfiercely protective ofhermother. BythetimeDouglaswasfive,hisparents’marriagehadfallenapart.The familywasquitehardup.Janet,asthepracticalone,routinelyfacedchoices thatmostofus,thankGod,donothavetoconsidertoday.Foodorshoes?Our

generation isseldomputtothistest,andwecanscarcely imagine theunremitting preoccupation withmaking endsmeet.It’sthedrip,drip,dripofthe Chinesewatertorturewitheachlittleincrementofanxiety—not hugein itself—adding to the agony.Christopherwasindifferentto suchtrivia.He

wouldorderhisexpensive pipetobacco mixture fromDunhill because he * Demographically we'veallgotten bigger—especially theJapanese. Even intheWestyouneed onlylookattheseating inoldtheatres orbuses.Shops forlargepeople nowsellsneakers like snowshoes andunderpants onwhichyoucouldshowiMaxmovies.

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likedit—anditwasthekindofstylisheccentricity thatmarkeda gentleman. Damnit,itwashisdue.Janetmusthavebeenintorment.Eventually theirrelationshipdeteriorated tosuchanextentthatshewasunableto enduremat-

tersanylonger. Feeling thatsomething neededtobedonetobringhometo Christopher theseverity ofthecrisis, shewalked out,takingthetwochildren. SoJanet,withDouglas(five)andSue(two),movedinwithJanet’smotherand fatherin their house in Brentwood,Essex,the dark interiorof whichhad not

beenchangedsinceitsEdwardian construction. Hermother,GrandmamaDonovan,wasborn in 1900and livedto be

nearlyninety-two. Shewasa womanwitha goodheart,butshewasnot overly interested inthechildren anditmusthavebeen a strainhaving them inthathouse. SheandJanetsometimes argued aboutwhether Janetindulged

themtoomuch.GrannyDonovanlovedmankindintheabstractwhilenurturinga healthyanimustowardspeopleinparticular. Inmanywaysshepreferredanimalstohumanbeings,andherhouseinBrentwood wasanofficial

RSPCA refugeforhurtanimals andthedistressed petsofgentlefolk. Rather likePoe'sRaven, foryearsthehousehold hada pigeon thatlivedabovethe kitchendresser—‘Pidge,” theycalledit—whosatwithbroody,bird-brained patienceforevertryingto hatcha chinaegg.Allthescruffyanimalsexacer-

batedyoungDouglas’s hayfever andasthma. Hisnosedripped foryears.It wasn'tuntilhewasinhisthirties thathediscovered howfascinating animals couldbeandevenstarted tolikethem. GrandpaDonovanwasbed-boundandill,an invisiblepresencepervadingthehousehold. DouglasandSuescarcely sawhim.SueAdamsrecallsthat,

untilhedied,hisbedroom doorwasalways closed attheendofadarkcorridor.Itwasforbidden territory. Janethadtoearnmoney, andshecontinued asanurseinthelocalhospital,mainlyworkingthenightshiftinordertoseemoreofthechildrenduringthe day.Sheisstrong,but shemusthavebeenfightingofftirednessfor

years. Douglas recalled veryfewmemories oflivingwithhisgranny, butashe said: It’samazingthedegreetowhichchildrentreattheirownlivesas normal. But of course,it was difficult.My parents divorcedwhen it

wasn'tremotelyas commonas it is now,and to be honestI have

NOTFROMGUILDFORD AFTERALL 33

scantmemoryof anythingbeforeI wasfive.I don’tthinkit wasa greattime,onewayor another™ It’strue,ofcourse,thatchildrenhaveno wayofknowingwhatis“normal”

and,besides, it'sawordthatismoreusefulforstatistics thanfordescribing

humanrelations.Onlywhenkidsvisittheirfriends’homesor,withverysequesteredupbringings, at college,do theyfindoutthatwhatis familiarto

themmaybeunusual intheworldatlarge. It'shardtojudgetheeffectontheyoungDouglas's imagination ofthis gloomy housefullofdamaged animals andaslowly dyinggrandfather. He wasalready alittle withdrawn.Thefamilylegendisthathe didnot speak at alluntilhe wasfour.Sincethiswaswhenhis motherand fatherwere stilltogether,perhapsin somewayhefeltthetensionbetweenthem.Janet

scoffs atthisstoryofhissilence, sayingthatheexaggerated ittomakean amusing anecdote, butshewasconcerned enoughtotakehimtoFarnboroughHospital foran examination. Unsurprisingly, in viewofDouglas's later brilliance,the doctor was reassuring.

Janetdoesrecallhisfirstwordswhichwereutteredin the presenceof

someaugustCanonona visitto the theological college. “Da...da... da...ma...”WasitgoingtobeDadorMa,blesshim?Thensuddenly itcame out:“Damn, damn,damn”Laterhisinfantburbling wasevenracierashewas givento saying“Bugger, bugger,bugger.” JamesThrift,hearingthisstory,remarkedthattherewasnodoubtwhoDouglas’s motherwasthen. Inductively speaking, thenumberofpolymathsistoosmalltogeneralize

about,thoughthereissomeresearch thatsuggests aconnection between late blooming andcreativity. Einstein, forexample, wassaidnottohavespoken untilunusuallylate,and somecommentators thinkthat hisslowprogress contributed to hisgeniusforhewasstillaskingthosefundamental childlike questionsabouthowthingsworkat anagewhenmostofushaveceasedto

wonder. ThegreatVictorian sage,LordMacaulay, wasalsoreported tobea slowdeveloper, remaining obstinately silentuntilanaristocratic friend, enquiring aftertheinfant's recentcold,wassurprised tohear alittle voicepipe up:“Thankyou,madam,theagonyisabated.” Suchcorrelations areprobabilistic atbest.Forinstance, beingleft-handed, * Quoted inthePrologue byNicholas Wroe inTheSalmon ofDoubt.

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likeDouglas, isalsoafactorthatisassociated withagreater numberofwriters,musicians, mathematicians andsporting prodigies thanpopulation distribution wouldpredict* Sinistrality alsotouches upontheissueoftheextent towhichwehumansarebio-robots, withgrosscharacteristics determined by geneticinheritance, orfreeagentscapableofrationalchoice.Thisimmensely

complicated question fascinated Douglas inlaterlife. Backintheearly1950s inRidley College, itbecame obvious bothtothe teachingstaffandto Christopher thathe wasnotsuitedforthe clericallife. Theypartedcompanywithoutrancour,andChristopher tookupteachinglocally.Butthiswasa callingforwhichhisenergy,sarcasmandimpatience dis-

qualified himtemperamentally, andeventually hefounda betterroleasa probation officer. Someofhisfamily havespeculated thatitgaveadegree of authority overhiserrantclients thatappealed tohisappetite forcontrol, but whateverthemotivation ofthiscomplexmanheseemstohavedonethejob effectively. BothHeather, Christopher’s daughterbyhissecondmarriage, and Suerecallthathe communicated wellwithBorstalkids.Thoughhefailedto

applythesameskilltohisownlife,hebroughttotheirproblems a professionalclarity. Towards theendofhislife—for likealltheAdams menhecould speakwellin public—he alsogavelectureson probationwork,andonthat basisdescribedhimselfasa management consultant. AsDouglashimselfremarked,“Dadandmanagement [were] conceptsthatdonotbelongtogether.”

InJuly1960, Christopher Adamsremarried. MaryJudithStewart, born JudithRobertson, wasa widow.Herfirsthusband,WilliamAlistairMcLean

Beardmore Stewart, knownas“B,” wasunusually alsoherstepbrother. In 1944,as a RoyalAirForceOfficer,he had been killedon a disastrousmission

toNorway. OneofJudith’s brotherswaskilledshortlyafterwards. Hermother haddiedwhenshewasseven;herfatherhadremarried, buthadthendiedin

tragiccircumstances whenJudithwaseighteen. Incontrast to a society in whichmanyofusreachourfifties without anyexperience ofmortality, Judith hadbeenstalkedbydeathsincechildhood. Christopher’s newwifewasalsowealthy. Throughfamilyconnections her moneycamefromshipbuilding ontheClydefromthedayswhenBritainwas * Leonardo daVinci, Napoleon andJimiHendrix wereallsinistral. Left-handedness isontheincrease(now13%ofmales, 11%offemales). Professor McManus ofUCL believes thatthegenes thatcodeforleft-handedness alsohavea roleinthedevelopment ofthelanguagecentresofthe brain.

NOT FROM GUILDFORDAFTER ALL 35

oncea majorshipbuilding power, andtheClydewaslinedformileswith cranesandgantries, shipyards andslipways. UnderChristopher's influence, Judithcametohavelessandlesstodowithherownsideofthefamily. Itwas asifshehadto startherlifeoveragainwitha newsetoffamilyrelationships put in placefor her.Fromthe photographsJudithwas a good-looking

womanoftheScottish variety—slim, pale,handsome ratherthanpretty— withalookinhereyessuggesting vulnerability. Shelivedtobeeighty, dying in2000onlysixmonths beforeDouglas. Byher firsthusbandJudithhad twodaughters,Rosemary and Karena. Rosemary, the older,isnowa trainedtherapistpractisingin Edinburgh. (By

chance shealsomarried aStewart—Quentin, alawyer specializing inintellectualproperty.) Rosemary wasinherteenswhenhermotherremarried, and sherecalls beingquitetakenbysurprise. Thewayit happenedwasthatmymotherarrivedat myboard-

ingschoolaweekbeforeIwasduetoleave,whichwasunheardof becausedaysoutwerestrictlyrationed. Shewassuddenly there, andshetookmeandmysisterdownto thecottage...Wemust havebeenin the car—andthischapwasthere,and the bootwas open and there weresuitcasesin it. [Hewas]a big chap,dark, bearded.Anyway, hello,hello,who’sthis?Wewentdowntothecot-

tage,andshesatonmybedandshesaid,guesswhatwe'vedone. AndIjustknew,andsaid,you'vegotmarried. Andthatwasit.We hadn't knownaboutit. Sothat was quitedevastatingreally,absolutelydevastating.It’srelativelyrecently—Isupposein the last fifteenyearsor so—thatI'veactuallylookedat it anddealtwithit.

Certainly Rosemary Stewart believes thathermotherwasdominated by Christopher: “Mum wasChristopher’s doormat.” Viatheirmother’s second marriagethe girlsfoundthemselvesinheritedby this huge,complicated, overpowering man.Aswithmanystepfather/stepdaughter relationships, it haditsdifficulties. Karena,ontheotherhand,whowasbornafterthedeathofherownfa-

ther,wasnotquitesoshocked athermother’s remarriage. Sherecalls thather headwasin the cloudsformostofherteens.Shehadsufferedbadlyfrom anorexia,a conditionthat predatedthe appearanceof Christopher in her mother’slife.Hermemoryofherstepfather isthatwhenshewasverylowhe

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wouldsitandtalkto herforhourson end.Ofcourse,therecanbe an ambivalenceaboutaltruism(ameansofcontrol?fuelforyourownself-esteem?),

butitwouldbeungenerous nottorecognize thatChristopher helpedKarena through herillness* Itwasanother example ofhistalentforsorting outother people’s liveswhilebeingunableto sortouthisown.However, Judith’s daughtersfoundtherelationship withtheirstepfather tricky,anditisperhaps nocoincidence thattheybothmarriedyoungandlefthome. Aftertheirmarriage, JudithandChristopher movedto“Derry,” abeautiful

houseinStondon Massey. ThisprettyEssex village—more ofa hamlet—is onlytenmilesuptheroadfromBrentwood, whereSueandDouglas still livedwithMumandGranny. Theirnearest railway station wasinBrentwood itselfand a carwasessential.Christopher wanteda sportscar,so Judith bought him a SunbeamAlpine.Thiswas not excitingenough,however,since

whathereallyyearned forwasanAstonMartin. AlsoatJudith’s expense, he wastohaveseveral inturn.’ J.G.Ballard saidthatweallinhabitanimmense novel.InChristopher's version,whichheinhabitedalmostcertainlyastheonlyprobationofficerin thecountrywithanAstonMartin,ownershipofa fastcarwasundoubtedly partofa characterhethoughtofasroguishlycharismatic.

Christopher Adams wasproudofhisdriving andintolerant ofotherdrivers.Followed ononeoccasion alonganarrowroadbyamotorist heconsideredtooclose, hestopped andopenedthebootandsuggested totheman

behindthathemightliketogetinit.Apparently hewasquiteunambiguous aboutit.Christopher hadpasseda high-performance drivingcoursewhich

allowed himtodisplay anHPCbadgeonthewindscreen, andhewaskeento pointthisoutto lessermotorists. Hiscousin,Shirley, remembers howhiscar

wasoncescraped inanirritating butminorpranginasupermarket carpark.

Christopherwas besidehimselfwith a disproportionate and frightening anger.Once,asa child,SueAdamsrecallsfallingasleepintheAstonwhenher

fatherwasdriving, andwaking uptofindthelandscape waswhizzing byat * Douglas wasfascinated bythiscomplex question ofaltruism, andwould recommend MattRidley’s excellent book,7heOrigins ofVirtue (Viking, 1996), tohisfriends. Hebought meacopy afteranargumentative lunch oneday. t Fortruebuffshere’s someinfootherwise ofnointerest. Butit’ssohardwon,you’re going tobe toldanyway thatthelicence number ofChristopher’s lastAston Martin, asilver DB5, wasBLU 119B.

NOTFROMGUILDFORD AFTERALL 37

a feverishlick.A glanceat thespeedometer revealedthetruth:145mph.(It waspartlyfordriverslikeChristopher thatBarbaraCastle,whenMinisterof Transportin HaroldWilson'sLabourgovernment, introducedthe 70mph

limitonmotorways—thus interfering withtheindividual's inalienable right tobehosedawaybynauseated firemen.) SueAdams's memory ofthe145 mphmoment isthatshewilledherself tofallasleepagain. AllChristopher's childrenandstepchildren foundthemselves somewhat displacedwhen,in 1962,JudithandChristopher producedtheirownchild,

Heather Adams. Christopher dotedonher.Shewastheappleofhiseye. Meanwhile, intheotherpartofDouglas’s familylife,heandhissister continued tolivewiththeirmum,theirgranny, theslowly dyinggranddad, anda floatingpopulationofsickanimals.Everyweekend,however, Douglas andSuewentto seetheirfatherandhisnewwife.

Stondon Massey isruralEssex atitsposhest. “Derry” wasa hugemockTudoraffair withasweeping drive,acresoflawnanditsowntenniscourt.At onepointJudithalsohada flatinKensington andsomedomestic stafftohelp out,a couplecalledJoséandMaria.Itisodd,givenhowmoneyexpandsone’s options,thatJudithandChristopher shouldchooseto stayin a houseonly tenmilesfromBrentwood, andChristopher’s firstfamily. It musthavebeenstrangeforthekids,commuting betweenBrentwood

andStondon Massey, soclosegeographically yetparsecs apartfinancially and socially. Whatdoyoumakeofbreakfast withdevilled kidneys served inasilverchafingdishwhenyouareusedto cornflakes? Perhapschildrendo not drawclearconclusions at the time.Thereis filmof Douglas,a tall,gawky schoolboyin dreadfulshortsand a tie,with SueAdamsand littleHeather,all

playing together inthehugegardenofthehouseinStondon Massey. Douglasrunsaround, armsandlegsallovertheplace, throwing a ballfortheinfant Heather,who wasround and blondeand smiling,and he showsa touchingprotectiveness towardsthegirlsfrombothhouseholds. Sometimes, when Judith’stwo older girlswere home from school,all the childrenwere

together. Youhavetowonder ifthechildren quiteunderstood wheretheyall camefrom.Rosemary recalls herconfusion whenshefirstmetChristopher's otherkids: It probablywasn’tuntilafterChristmas[1960]that my mother

wouldhavesaidtous,oh,bytheway,Chrishassomechildren and theyaregoingtocomeonSaturday. Itwasquitebizarre—and I'd

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said,“Oh,right,” youknow—in thosedaysitwasreallysortofAndy Pandy. “Shall I makesomesandwiches?” AndI remember thefirst daywesawthem,justlookingat them.I remember wherethey werestanding—very solemn,both ofthem.I don’tknow,maybe| wasverysolemntoo.Anditwasquitedifficulttoknow—you know, whatistherelationship? Christopherand Janet could not, or would not, bear to see each other so

GrandmamaDonovanhelpedin the mechanicsof movingthe children aroundforthe weekends.Sometimes sheand Judithwouldmeetup at a bankin Ongarfora handoverreminiscent ofthe ColdWarspyexchanges,

andindeedsheandJudithstruckupagoodrelationship. Karena remembers thatGranny Donovan wasquiteoftentobeseenin“Derry.” Christopher refusedto speaktoJanet;theirsilenceenduredfordecades.(WhenSueAdams gotmarried,ittooka lotofnegotiation togetChristopher to attend.) Douglas'sattitude to money,when he later madealot of it, must have

beeninfluenced by hisearlyknowledge ofjusthowit boughtcomfortand

goodies. Karena remembers hermotheronceremarked thatChristopher and Douglas werefartooaliketogeton.Certainly Douglas sharedwithhisfather anutterlackofpragmatism, alongwithanawesome appetitefortreats.Athis memorialservicehewasretrospectively teasedforoncebeingfoundto have eighthorrifically expensive camerasin thebackofhiscar.Butunlikehisfa-

ther,Douglas didnotlethislifepivotaroundmoneyforitsownsake;tohim itwasjustameanstoanend.Funandaccess tointeresting experiences were themaingoals—and, beingbynaturedelightfully generous, hewasalsokeen thatfriendsandlovedonesshouldsharesuchpleasures. Judith’sownconsiderable wealthwasdeployedunstintingly onbehalfof

herhusband and,interestingly, allthechildren, including Christopher's childrenbyhisfirstmarriage. Shesetupatrustfundforallofthem,withChristopher’sfriendfromTocH,G.R.Roche,asoneofthe trustees. OnenationalslanderagainsttheBritishisthatwearenotverygoodwith children. Asgeneralizations go,thisistosh,butfora certaincasteofBritishsocietytherewasatimewhensomeoftheemotional complexities ofraisingkids

werethoughttobebestresolved bysending themtoboarding school. Both Douglas andSuewenttofee-paying schools paidforbyJudith. Douglas attendedBrentwood, starting withitsprepschool, Middleton Hall.Suewentto Felixstowe College,as subsequentlydid HeatherAdams.Givenhoweye-

NOTFROMGUILDFORD AFTERALL 39

wateringly expensive itistoseethreekidsthroughthethirteenyearsorsoof educationat privateschools, it isespecially beneficent whentwoofthemare not your own.

WhydidJudithdoit?Rosemary sayshermother hadanacutesenseoffair playandduty,andbyallaccounts shewasa verydecentperson.Perhaps Christopher mightalsohaveputpressure onher.Youcanimagine conversationsalongthelinesof,“They’re mychildren, butit’syouwho'sgotthemoney, soofcourseit’suptoyou...”Theevidencesuggests, however, thatJudithpaid

simply because shefeltitwastherightthingtodoonbehalfofalltheirchildren.WhatJanetfeltaboutherkidsbeingeducated ontheticketofChristopher'srichsecondwifeisaninteresting question. Butsheisnothingifnot practical, andobviously shewantedthebestforherchildren. In 1964,Janetalsoremarried,a localvet calledRonThrift,a man forwhom

thereseemstohavebeennothingbutaffection andrespect. Onhisdeathfrom

cancer in1991, agedonlyfifty-nine, theentirecommunity attended amemorialservice. Whenhemoved toShaftesbury inDorset tosetupanewpractice, Janetwentwithhim,whileDouglas andSusan continued atBrentwood School andFelixstowe Collegeasboarders.Ron,however, tookan interestin Janet's kidsbyherfirstmarriageanddidhisbesttolookaftertheirwelfare. Soonaftertheirmarriage, RonandJanetproduceda sonanda daughterof

theirown.Theelder, JaneThrift, whomDouglas lovedwitha fiercefraternal protectiveness, isknown inthefamily asLittle Jane,todistinguish herfromBig Jane,i.e.Douglas's wifeJaneBelson, who'sstrikingforherelegance butalso,at sixfoot,forherheight.(Confusingly, whileDouglasandBigJaneweretacking, yacht-like, throughstorm-force seastowardstheireventualmarriage,there

wasalsoaWrong Janeasopposed toRight Jane.) Years later,Little Janewasto livewiththeminLondon where aflat wascreated forherinthebasement of theirlargeandbeautiful houseinoneofIslington’s finestGeorgian terraces. LittleJane,likehermother,eventually trainedasa nurse,beforedeciding, very muchunderDouglas’s influence, thatlifehadmoretoofferher.* LittleJane’sfullbrother,JamesThrift,nowrunsa businesswithhiswife, * There isastorythatDouglas, BigJane,andasmallbutelitegroup ofmedia-fashionables includingJonCanter, thefilmwriter, thecomedian Lenny Henry, Mary Allen whorantheOpera House at Covent Garden, andseveral senior tellypeople, weresitting inthekitchen, trembling intotheircoffee,afteroneoftheAdamses’ awesome parties. Little Janecameinwearing hernurse’s uniform. “Oh, Jane,Jane,” JonCanter saidwithself-deprecating irony, “when willyougetarealjob?”

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Bronwen, intheWestCountrybringingthevirtuesofgooddesignto a local

market. Hisdrysenseofhumour isveryreminiscent ofDouglas—which, even allowing foritasafamily trait,isnotsurprising, sinceDouglas's sizeandpersonality musthavehadastrikingeffect onayounglad.Douglas saw a lotof histwonewhalf-siblings, dividingtheholidaysequallybetweenhisparents’ families. Christopher andJanetatthattimewerestillnotexchanging a syllablewitheachother.Geographically, too,therewasnowquitea distancebe-

tweenthemtobecovered. Eventhesedays,Essex toDorsetisnotaneasy journey—and sometimes itwasonethatDouglas madeasahitchhiker. (Once ortwicehealsorodea muchtoosmallmotorbike withhiskneesstickingout likeparachute brakes.) Thesenseofcommuting betweendifferent worldsmust havecontinuedasacuteasever.

Torecap: Douglas hadonefullsister, SueAdams; twostepsisters, Rosemary andKarena;onepaternalhalf-sister, HeatherAdams;andtwomaternalhalfsiblings, JaneandJames.Inlaterlifehemadestrenuouseffortstogetthemall togetherasadults—perhaps torecreatea familythathehadmissedasa child. Asforhisrelationswithhisdad,wecanonlyspeculate. HeatherAdams, whonowlivesintheCanaryIslandswithherhusbandandtheirtwochildren, issophisticated andarticulate, likealltheAdamschildrenofthatgeneration,

butacertain caution comes intohervoicewhentalking aboutherfather. She recallsthat Douglas'srelationship withChristopher wasalwaysimmensely fraught,butthatthetwomenwereneverabletotalkaboutit. Nonetheless, whenDouglas wasinhisteenshisfatherdidsometimes take

himintheAstonMartinonextravagant holidays abroad. Thisinitselfmust havebeen abit galling forRosemary andKarena, sincetheirmotherhadalwaysbeencarefulwithmoney,notoutofmeanness butfromanxiety. Christopher’sloveofspending, ontheotherhand,mayhavehelpedtobringhimand Douglastogether,but it appearsthatin theiranguished, perhapscuriously

British way,theirconversation alwaysavoided anysubjectoftheslightest emotional importance. NomatterhowwellChristopher communicated with thedelinquents inhisprofessional charge, between himandhisonlysonthe tensionofthingsleftunsaidlastedalltheirlives. Frustration doggedDouglas’s relationship withhisfatherevenasdeathfinallycreptup onChristopher in co-respondent’s shoesin 1985,regardless of

thefactthat,likehisson,Christopher wasconcerned abouthisbloodpressure andstarted goingtoagyminthelastdecade ofhislife.Whenitwasclearthat Christopherwas dying,Judithsummonedthe familyto his bedsidein

NOTFROMGUILDFORD AFTERALL 41

Droitwich Hospital. Douglas hadflownbackfromtheStates theprevious day. Thevigilmusthavebeenharrowing, andthefamily members tookitinturns toleavetheroomandliedownforawhile.WhenChristopher chosethemomenttodepart,itwasduringhisson’sbriefabsence. Douglas wasdevastated. “Bloody typical,” hesaid,“bloodytypicalDad—waited tillIwasout.”

Christopher Adams andDouglas weresosimilar insizeandappearance thatDouglas saidthatseeing hisfatherlaidoutindeathwaslikelooking at hisowndeadbody.Christopher, returning tohisroots, leftinstructions thathis ashesweretobethrowninLochFyne. Fiveyearslater,TheDeeper Meaning ofLiffwaspublished.Co-written with

JohnLloyd, it’sabrilliant attempt tosaveallthoseunemployed concepts from hanging aboutandgetting intomischief whentheyreallyneeda respectable wordtosettledownwith.Characteristically, Douglas turnstheanguish thathe musthaveassociated withDroitwich intoa jokeaboutmisconstruing intentions:

Droitwich (n) Astreet dance. Thetwopartners approach fromopposite directions andtrypolitely togetoutofeachother's way.They steptotheleft,steptotheright,apologize, step totheleftagain,bumpintoeachother, andrepeat asoftenasunnecessary.

Nobody knowsforsurehowmuchhisfathermeanttoDouglas. JaneBelson confirms thathealways foundthatrelationship verydifficult, addingwhata pityitisthattherewasnobodywhoevertoldtheyoungDouglasthathewas clever,andthatitwasallrighttobeso.InsomeEnglishhouseholds therewas

anotion—now mercifully extinct—that praising children toofulsomely, or,indeed,atall,mightinducepersonality disorders. Itissucha pitythatChristopher,acomplex manfullofangerandunresolved conflicts, whospread havoc throughtwogenerations, wasneverableto say:welldone,son,you'vedone brilliantly, I’msopleased.Douglaswentthroughhislifewithouteverhearing the wordshe neededto hearfromhisfatherSomefamilymembersthink

Christopher wouldhavebeenjealous ofDouglas's fame, yethewaswithout a doubtimmensely proudofhisson.Thetroubleis:heneverleton. Therehas been researchthat suggeststhat fathersare importantto a child'sdevelopment ofself-esteem. According tothesetheories,evenifthere-

lationship between motherandfatherislikesomething outofStrindberg on a bleakday,justhavinga dadaroundisgoodnews.Thisiscontentious work,

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however, andparticularly irritatingto thoseforwhomtheideathatchildren

areresilient isakeycomponent inanideology thatgrantsa licence toadults to lookforhappiness wheretheyfancy.InDouglas's case,hisfatherwas around,andavailable—albeit tenmilesuptheroadwitha newfamily ina different universe.

InDouglas’s archivesthereisa completerunofAstonMartinmagazines thatDouglaseithercollected atthetimeorinheritedfromhisfather.There's alsoa blackandwhitephotographofChristopher Adamsputtingpetrolinto

theunmistakeably elegant flankofa DB5. Douglas musthavebeenplaying withan enlarger andsomephotographic paper,forthisimagehasbeen printed—sometimes croppedinaslightlydifferent way—again andagain andagain. DouglasAdamsdidnotgothroughlifescarredbyhischildhood. Hewas fondof his extended,albeitunusualfamily,and he adoredhis mum.Yet,

sometimes, inlaterlife,hewasassailed byprofound boutsofinsecurity, and hecouldsinkintoakindofdark,inneremptiness fordays.Hecouldbequite childlike andmawkishly self-absorbed, butthenthatisnotuncommonwith writerswhosesolitaryartcanbe lonely,especially iftheyare,likeDouglas,

peoplewhoneedcompany. TosomeextentthepublicDouglas, thewildlycreative jollygreengiant, wasa mask.Butina senseweallplaytheroleofourselves intheworld,so anywordthatsuggestssomethingtobeputon andtakenoffatwillisquite thewrongone.Manandmaskareinextricably meldedtogether.Asa child, Douglasliveda greatdealin his head.Fortunately forthe restof us,that

turnedoutawonderful placetobe. Emotionally, Douglas wasaslargeashisgiantframe, andhemadecorrespondingly hugedemandsonthosecloseto him.Sometimes hewept,a gift lostto manymen,andsometimes hedisplayed theemotionalintelligence of a refractory brickona notparticularly sensitiveday.Butmostofthetimehe

wastheinventive, funny,extravagant lunkwhoinspired suchaffection in thosearoundhim.Andifthereweresomepsychological itchthathecould neverquitescratch, theworldshouldbegrateful, because itmadeuppartof hisgenius. Publishers knowthatwriterswitha lotofcraftcanbe countedonto delivera competentbook,but thebestbooks,the onesthatshimmeron the

page,growlikepearlsfromsomeinternal irritant. Douglas Adams wouldalwayshavebeenclever andfunny, butit’sdoubtful thathewouldhavegiven

NOTFROMGUILDFORD AFTERALL 43

theworldso muchif Mumand Dadhadbeena happilymarriednurseand teacherlivinglivesofstodgycontentment in deepestEssex.

Zaphod couldn't sleep.Healsowishedheknewwhatitwasthat

hewouldn'tlet himselfthinkabout.Foraslongas hecouldremember,he’dsufferedfrom a vaguenaggingfeelingof not beingall there.Mostofthe timehe wasableto put this thoughtasideand

notworryaboutit [...]Somehow itseemed toconform toa pattern thathecouldn'tsee... | TheHitchhiker's Guide totheGalaxy, Chapter 14 Allwritersputthemselves intotheirwork—how couldtheynot?

“|wasat Brentwood School fortwelvewholeyears.

And theywere, byandlarge, inanupanddowny kind of way,prettygoodyears:fairlyhappy,reasonably leafy,a bitsportier than| wasinthemoodforatthe

TWO

time,butfullofgood(andsometimes highly eccentric) teaching. Infact,itwasonlylaterthat| gradually came

ea a m a Ss Hedie m CS

e&@ a oO oOEz.

torealize howwell|hadbeentaught atBrentwood:

(Odd inPhysics. andparticularly inEnglish, particularly that.)” Doucias Apams, TheBestofDays? Memories ofBrentwood School*

ca

Il boys’schoolsseemto havetheir own dire song.Somehave versesthathaveto be destroyedbycontrolled explosion. Decades

afterleaving, thealumnicanonlybringthemselves tosingthewordsafter muchforehead-smiting andsixpintsofbeer.Brentwood School hasa fine

exampleofthegenrecalled“TheOldRedWall,” a reference to thehandsome brickwallthatcontainsthegrounds;it’sa trulygruesome mixofcrueltyand sentiment.

According tothesong,theinstitution wasfounded inthemid-sixteenth century following a spasmofguiltoverthepublicburning todeathofanin-

nocentlad.Despitetheseinauspicious beginnings, the lyricsassureus that thereisnoquestionsovexedthatit cannotbe settledwitha goodchatbythe stovefor“whyweconqueredand howwestrove/Theytellofit stillbythe

oldschoolstove.” Brentwood wasendowed in1558bySirAnthony Browne, * Thisbookwaspublished bytheschool in1999. Acopywaskindly lenttomebyoldBrentwoodian,PeterStothard. :

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WISHYOUWEREHERE

careerlawyer,part-timeland speculatorandan early a clevertime-serving prototypeofEssexMan*Itwasa grammarschoolin whichaboycouldlearn Hecouldalsobe exLatinalldayandbe beatenformistakinga declension. in counselling pelledfor syphilisor lunacy.Therewasno namby-pamby

thosedays. The pupils. its1,500 girlsamong includes Brentwood days,however, These anappealing with grounds own o fits acres schoolstandsin seventy-two of buildings,fromeighteenthcenturyto modern.Thefacilities miscellany thosethatprevailin theStatesector— especially areby any standard—and who Tasker, ghosts.Countless Itevenboaststhatessentialaccessory, excellent.

leftthat century, Halluntiltheturnofthenineteenth livedin Middleton thePreparaanditnowhouses toBrentwood asa legacy building handsome avisit, andin herposthumous makes torySchool.Itissaidsheoccasionally incarnation sheisknownastheBlueLady. Schoolwasperhapsthe onlyclichéofDouglas'slife.He atBrentwood

Hismotherrecalls startedattheprepschool. having years, tendedfortwelve fromDough erdivorce a fter years f ive toldhim, she thathelovedit.When hethought heburstintotearsbecause thatshewasremarrying, las’sfather, cheeredup whentoldhe would hemighthaveto leaveschool.Hemagically be staying.

in allthe anda grounding education a fine formal gavehim Brentwood PraeItboasted publicschool. ofanEnglish oddsocialandmoralapparatus House), School wasin (Douglas system house a prefects), (up-market posters mud,coldshowers,rugby, Manners”), motto(Virtue,Learning, animproving ofchangeatbayand kepttheforces all, it Above societies. andinnumerable it in mattersof encouraging frownedupontawdrycompetitiveness—while

personal meritandteamspirit—by endless regulations. Eventodayschooluniforms theschooluniform. Ahostofrulesdefined tiesand theroadkill Perhaps illiterate. arethe lastrefugeof thevisually blazersarethoughtto discourage yellowandbruise-purple staphylococcus areas nothingto theprickly designs of contemporary worst b utthe vanity,

tohavebeenwovenoutofcardTheyseemed weworeinthefifties. horrors astheuniwereluckyinasmuch andhisfellows Douglas boardandgravel. the byoneoftheirfamousoldboys,SirHardyAmies, formwasdesigned * Michael Willis, theschool’s archivist anda teacherofHistory andPolitics, describes“good”Sir

Anthony inthesetermsinhisofficial history inTheBestofDays?

FINISHINGSCHOOL 47

couturierto the Queen,who devisedan elegantgreycheck—albeit surmountedby an absurdstrawboaterforespecially embarrassing occasions. Nevertheless the blazerwaswoven,or perhapsconstructed, fromintensely

scratchy material. Canworsted reallybederived fromsheep?Orarethere herdsofwildworsteds withhidesofsteelwoolthatevolved to repelthe predators oftheplains?

Oneoftheseregulations obligedDouglastowearshortsat prepschool.To his horror,whenhe graduatedto the mainschool,the shophad no long

trousers witha sufficient lengthoflegtofithim.Forawholemonthattheage oftwelvehehadtowearshorts,despite towering overhiscontemporaries andmostofthemasters. Itisa factcleartoallschoolboys thattocarryon

wearingshortsafterthe age of twelveindicatessomeprofoundpsychosexualconfusionor,worse,a tragicyearningto becomea scout-master.

Douglas describes it assomortifying thatforfourweeksheplayedonthe edgeofstation platforms andforgottheHighway Codewhencrossing roads* Allhislifehewasratherclumsy, andatschoolhisuncontainable armsand legs,pumping gallantly buttolittleeffect, madetheroleofsporting heroimpossible. (Mostlargemenknow—pace Americanfootballers—that well-knit, compactblokestendto be muchbettersportsmenthanill-coordinated gi-

ants.Alas,theyareusually tougher too,aslargemales, offending merely by anaccident ofsize,sometimes discover inroughpubs.) InDouglas's dayBrentwood was—and probably stillis—averygood

schoolin a fee-paying, curriculum-heavy, sport,values,andnicknames sort ofway.Is thereanywhereoutsidean Englishpublicschoolor a P.G.Wode-

housenovelwheresomanysoppynicknames arestilltobefound? Where elsecanyoumeet“Squiffy” and“Bunny” and“Spud”? Brentwood teachers included—inter alia—Tusky” and“Funf.” Suchschools, especially forboarders,

createan entireworld,safelyequippedwithrules,regulations andthesocietyofpeersin thesameboat.Iftheregimeisbasically fair-minded—as it was

inthe1960s undertheheadmastership ofRichard Sale—such worldscan havehugeappealtotheirinmates. Douglas wasa boarderfromtheageof eleven. Beyond thatOldRedWalllayuncertainty. Foritssize,Brentwood hasproduced a goodcropofoldboyhigh-

achievers: severalbishops,a Home-then-Foreign Secretary (JackStraw), Robin

Day, whobrokethemouldofabject deference wheninterviewing shifty politi* Seehiswitty essayonthesubject reprinted inTheSalmon ofDoubt.

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WISHYOUWEREHERE

cians on TV,Noel Edmonds,GriffRhysJones,some superiorjournos (Peter

ofsenior anda fairsprinkling forinstance) andBrianMacArthur Stothard itselfwasverycompetent. men.Theteaching andmilitary scientists lawyers,

whentheDepression Theolderteachersweredrawnlargelyfromageneration and the drovea lot of peoplewith first-classmindsinto the profession, youngerstaffwereoftenmenwithgooddegreesanda senseofvocation.

yearsinall.Itwasn'thisveryfirst fortwelve Brentwood attended Douglas inBrentwood HillPrimary Primrose ThathonourgoestoMrs.Potter's school.

prep town.Atsixhetookthe examsandhadtheinterviewforBrentwood’s forstuffHallwasnotjusta machine,likeafoiegrasfactory, school.Middleton learningto copewithpromotionto the inglittleboyswithenoughacademic

bygenerations maintained ofitsown,lovingly Ithadtraditions seniorschool. headwhosephiloswasthelegendary JackHiggs headmasters. offormidable thatit wasa Hemaintained livedonthere. development ophyofcharacter briefedwith dutyto turnoutpupilswhowerenotonlyadequately school’s butwhowere“honest,kindanduseful.” knowledge

wasstillin the prepschoolthatFrankHalford It waswhileDouglas bythen FrankHalford, tenoutoftenforastory. himthelegendary awarded

DeputyHead,retiredfromBrentwoodin 1991,and he is stillremembered herecordshispleasurethat In hispiecein TheBestofDays? withgreataffection. to Douglaswhenthe morale-booster sucha m arklaterbecame thisperfect met Douglas M r.Halford 1992, later,in Years musewas beingcapricious.

oftheprep ofthefounding thecentenary againata speechdaycelebrating of version touching nevertheless but secular the andhealsoattended school, forlittlePollyAdams." achristening

wasMicky WhenDouglasmovedup to MiddleSchool,hishousemaster Hall,referredto, naturally,by all studentsas Henry.Assiduousdigging revealsthat forsomeyears schoolmagazine® throughthe well-produced inTheBestofDays? ofthePrepSchool, headmaster retired byJohnMarchant, * Quoted + Inspired andinspiring English teachersaretheunsungheroesofmodernliterature. Forinstance, times— Raymond Chandler andP.G.Wodehouse—both at Dulwich College thoughat different

weretaughtbythesameperson. tocoalunder turning slowly runofthemagazine keptthecomplete Douglas coTheBrentwoodian. publicaforschool whenhewrote storedingiantcrates.Later, kipple ofa lifetime’s theweight tions,heusually missed thedeadlines bytwoweeks—a modest starttoalifelonghabit.

FINISHINGSCHOOL 49

Douglas excelled atbeingtall,buttooklittlepart(orat leastnotprominent enough tobementioned) inthemanyextracurricular activities. In1964, how-

ever,he participated in the SirWilliamWynne-Finch Awardin “A”camp.It was somekind of privatelysponsoredversionof the Dukeof Edinburgh

Awards, forit featured orienteering, pitching a belltent,coastguard training, mapreading andvarious otherchunky, practical skills. Itconjures upa vision offreezing wetboys,soggycanvassnapping in thewind,andburt food

floatingincoldwater.

Whenhe wasten,Douglasheard HankMarvinand the Shadows,and was

entranced.Hismotherrecallsthathe wantedHankto comedownto Essex

andplayonDouglas's birthday, andwasbemused whenshesaidit wasn’t possible. “But, Mum,itispossible,” hesaid.Heknewhisgeography andcould

seeno physicalimpediment. “There's evena plug.”It wasthestartofhisintenseloveofmusic.Hisenthusiasm fortheBeatles wentalmostbeyondpassion;hewastotallybesotted.In 1964,Douglaswasgivenhisfirstleft-handed

guitar, andhetaughthimself toplayitbystudying thefinger-picking styles ofguitarheroesandbypractising relentlessly. Forthepianohehadmorefor-

maltraining,andhe shareda teacherwithPaulWickens—aka “Wix”—who wassupremely talentedandwenton tobecomethekeyboardplayerin Paul McCartney's band.LaterWixwasto playanimportantrolein Douglas’s pas-

sionformusicasanadult.“Wix andI werebothtaughtmusic,” hesaid,“but inhiscaseitworked.” Douglas wasactually a proficient left-handed guitarplayer, buthisstan-

dardsin musicwereasdemandingas hisstandardsinwritingandhe knew thathisplayingwouldnevercatchfirein thewayhesoadmiredingreatmusicians.Allhislifea streakof perfectionism ranthroughDouglaslikequick-

silver, bothaboonandatorment. Hewasalsoin thechoir, singing likeanangeluntilhisvoicebroke,and he remained an assistant inthechapel, towering overtheotherchoristers.

Ratherincongruously foronedestinedto becomea militantatheist,hewon a ServiceinChapelPrizein 1966.

TheBeatles, however, werehisfirstlove.Douglas usedtotella storyof bunkingoffschoolonFriday 20March1964, to sneakintotownto buy “Can'tBuyMeLove” fromRadiogram intheHighStreet, Hefelloverand

badlycuthis kneesonthewayback,thoughhe pointedout thatkneesare self-repairing whereasself-repairing textilesarestilldecadesoff.Lacking his

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WISHYOUWEREHERE

ownrecordplayer,he snuckintoMatron’sofficeand managedto playthe

and bandaged beforebeingcaught, profusely, recordthreetimes,bleeding slippered. canrethattheonlytimeanybody fortheBeatles Suchwashispassion

waswhenhe learned callDouglasusinghis awesomebulkforintimidation thatanotherboyhadheardthelatestBeatlessingle,andinsistedthathe hum Douglasis quotedas sayingthe songwas“Penny ofDoubt, it. In TheSalmon

Headded: soit musthavebeen1967. Tour, Mystery fromtheMagical Lane” asgood they're think Idon’t isasgoodastheBeatles. nowaskifOasis “People judgements, whowouldliketo compare fanatics ForBeatles astheRutles.” o fpreference in order tracks Beatles’ h is favourite listing thereisanappendix in theformofan elaboratedocumentdevisedbyRichardCurtisandothers on25May1999°

likedif a gentleboy,andwellenough tohavebeen seems InfactDouglas called friend good thathehada Hismotherrecalls alittle lonely. sometimes forthejobsworthcharacter whosesurnamehe appropriated StevenProsser, fromthelocalauthoritywhoseplanstoknockdownArthurDent'shousefor a bypasswerefrustratedbytheendoftheworld.

We'reall greatheightis easilyover-egged. Thequestionof Douglas's orgrotty attractive ofhowconspicuous, awareofourbodiesandconscious been have he must school likea order closed weappearto others.Ina

awareof it allthetime.Whenyouareoversixfoottallat twelvewithlegs likea wadingbird,and you blusheasily,it is hard to hidein assembly.

orbeds,ordesks,or notfittingeasilyintouniform, overmasters, Looming humour(“Meet o f schoolboy trickle theincontinent tolerating teamgames, thatmust ofdifference a feeling wouldcontrive meundertheAdams”)—all have contributedto his senseof lookingat the worldfroman unusual angle. Thefirstdocumentary evidenceofDouglas's timeat Brentwood wasin a

Houseshouldshaveitshead.” Themotionwasthat“This debate. sixth-form so thiswasmoreofa didnot gracethestreetsuntiltheseventies, Skinheads

threattothesomoralpanic(druggy tothelong-hair allusion contemporary

cialfabrid)thanthelatershort-hairmoralpanic(brutal, druggythreatto the socialfabric). Usinga remarkably sophisticated ideafora schoolboy, Douglas andthosestupid You canforgetProust mehavea copy. forletting Curtis toRichard * Mythanks cakes.Beatles’ songsaremorepotent.

FINISHINGSCHOOL 51

proposed themotion. Theargument wentlikethis:let’sinventa character,

Johnnythe HappySkin,whoseboncelooksexactlylikeeverybodyelse's. How can he expresshis individuality? Not throughfollicularfashion, clearly—only byhis lifeandwork.Axiomatically thisis a GoodThing.Mo-

tioncarried. InthecourseofthatdebateDouglas didalsocommit inpublica terrible

punthatwouldhavehadallthosesmartpublicschoolboys groaning. Johnny the HappySkin,he observed,is partofthe“aggrocultural revolution.” Hold myachingsides.Butevenasa schoolboy, he couldwritewithconsiderable

wit. SueAdams,a county awayin her boarding schoolin Felixstowe,recalls

thatDouglas wouldwritetoherregularly, andthathisletters weresofunny thatshewouldreadthemtoherschoolmates. Aftera whilethearrivalofa

letterbecamea sourceofsomejoytothe girls,Douglas's veryfirstfans.Unfortunately, thelettersarelost. Laterthatsameyear,1968,Douglasappearsagainasan authorof spoof

reviews inBroadsheet, theboys’cyclostyled andstapled artsmagazine. (There wasanother, moreliterary, magazine called Green Wood, asuperior miscellany,

forwhichDouglasalsocontributedtheodd piece.)Douglas's parodieswere in a chirpytabloidstyle,notbadfora schoolboy.

Hamlet: Feeling depressed? Readthisaccount oflifebefore Yeastvite andthinkhowluckyyouare. Oliver Twist: Taleunsuitable forthosewitha socialconscience ina starvingworld:gluttonmakesgood.

Andso on...Themagazinewaseditedby a sixth-former calledPaulJohn-

stone.It contains muchgoodmaterial, but possibly themostremarkable thingaboutit,something sharedwithmanyoftheextracurricular activities ofBrentwood, wasthesheerconfidence it displayed. Thesensethattheboys

couldturntheirhandstoanything,andexpecttosucceed, wasthemostvaluableofalltheschool’s giftsto itsstudents.

Therefollows a briefdiversion forserious Hitchhiker's fans. Doyouremember whenArthurandFordstowawayontheVogon starship,getcaptured andaretakenintothebowel-churning presence ofProstet-

nicVogonJeltz?Ofcourseyoudo.TheVogonsubjectsthemto ordealby poetrybefore,withcharacteristic meanness, throwingthemoutoftheairlock intotheicyvacuumofspace.ThebookcommentsthatVogonpoetryisonly

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thethirdworstintheuniverse. ThesecondworstisbyPoetMasterGrunthos “Odeto a the recitalofGrunthos’s n otesthatduring Douglas the Flatulent.

four Morning,” OneMidsummer inMyArmpit LumpofPuttyI Found Small

andthat thePresidentofthe of his audiencediedof internalhaemorrhage, ArtsNobblingCouncilsurvivedonlybygnawingoffhisown Mid-Galactic leg.Theveryworstpoetryofall,accordingto thefirsteditionofHitchhiker's waswrittenby onePaulNeilMilneJohnandthe originalradiobroadcast, stoneofRedbridge, Essex. worstpoetwaschangedto Paula thenameoftheuniverse's Subsequently Jennings(notetheinitials)andthat nowappearsin allbut NancyMillstone PaulJohnwaspublished, AfterHitchhiker's theveryfirsteditionofHitchhiker's.

insulttohislithurtful tothegratuitously objecting stonewrotetoPanBooks erarytalents" Douglasdidhavea tenTothealarmofhisfriends,familyandpublishers,

It amusedhim,sparedhimthe dencyto putprivatejokesintohiswork.’ and—inallinnoexnihilo, hisbrainstoinventsomething agonyofcudgelling

orthatthey (unlikely) wouldnotnotice thateitherpeople thought cence—he pubHitchhiker's, in forinstance, drive, Theimprobability wouldbe amused. way itssickening phonenumberasit lurched realIslington lisheda friend's Inthecaseofthe Thatnumberrangandrang.” normality. so-called towards

direpoetry,I amsurehe didnotintendany unkindnessto PaulJohnstone. stealDanielGoleemotionalintelligence—to Douglas’s Justoccasionally, man’susefulterm—was notassparklingashishighintellect.

somePanic’—was intheentirecanon—“Don’t advice Themostfamous Yet often. sayquite t o wont was Janet(anurse,don’tforget), thinghismother, altothecensorious ofhismumareattributed utterances morecharacteristic ternativepersonalityof Eddie,the shipboardcomputer.“Right!Whosaid

thatthepoetdidnotregard surprise thisatthetime,andweexpressed and| discussed * Douglas who|hopedidnothavea budding toPaulJohnstone, Infairness tribute. itasa kindofoff-beat nowsmileaboutthis.If thathewould | suspect reference, byDouglas’s careerasapoetblighted dragged forhaving | apologize thisbiography, reading bychance not,andyouarePaulJohnstone thisupagain. + Ratheras lanFleming foundthenameofJamesBondonthecoverofBirdsfromtheWestIndies

andOther Caribbean Islands, Douglas issaidbysomescholars ofAdamsiana tohavenamed Doug(1601). toHeaven Guide Man's whowroteThePlain puritan Dentafteranobscure Arthur lasalways denied this,butwhoknows whatlodges inwriters’ brains? coPLEASE donotcallit.Thenumber nowbelongs tosomebody quiteunconnected.

FINISHINGSCHOOL 53

that?” and“It'llallendintears” areexpressions whichtothisdaytheAdamses cannothearwithoutaninnerchortle* Meanwhileat Brentwoodin 1968,the nextAdamssightingis in the

school’s WinterTheatricals. Douglas playedJuliusCaesar in Shakespeare's tragedy. Brentwood stageproductions werenothingifnotambitious. Griff RhysJonesappeared inthesameplayasa mereservant toOctavius.

Caesar,youwillrecall,getsmurderedabouthalfwaythroughtheplay. Thatmayhavebeen a blessing,forDouglaswasnotoneoftheworld’snaturalthesps,eventhoughhelovedto perform.Hewassobigandclumsythat

therewasalways thefearthathewouldfallofftheedgeofthestagebymistake.(Even hismumsaidofDouglas running thatitwasbesttobecharitable andnottalkofit atall.)HespokeShakespeare’s versewithunderstanding

andintelligence, buthisstagetimingwasoff. Historydoesnot recorda reviewofDouglas's acting,but onecan’thelp

imagining himbeingstabbed bylotsofschoolboys intogas,andthenfalling withtheslowgraceofa combine harvester toppling fromabridge. Inthefollowing year’s Winter Theatricals hisimposing stagepresence wasexploited in

a roleforwhich acertain disjointedother-worldly qualitywasanadvantage. Heplayedthe ghostofHamlet'sfatherin a productionfeaturingAnthony JacquesasHamletandGriffRhysJonesas Rosencrantz.

The Christmas HouseDinnerswere anotheropportunity for the stagestruck. Lesley Hall,the daughterofMicky“Henry” Hall,remembers

Christmas vividlyinherpieceinTheBestofDays?:

Housesupperswere alwaysa highlightof the year.A huge

Christmas treewaserectedinOldBigSchoolandhouseresidents andinvitedguestswereentertained withmusical interludes, comic sketches andtheoddplay...Iremember theHareKrishna move-

ment infiltratingone such performance,courtesyof Douglas Adams.I had not comeacrossanythinglikeit beforeand thought

boththeconcept andtheindividual ratherweird.Iacceptnowthat itisOKtobeweird.t Despite notdoingallthatwellinhisALevels, in1970 Douglas wonanExhi-

bitionto St.John’sCollege,Cambridge.Thesetbackwith hisAlevelshe attrib* TheHitchhiker's Guide totheGalaxy, pp.105-6. T Mythanks toLesley HallandJohnKelsall forpermission toquotethisfromTheBestofDays?

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WISHYOUWEREHERE

withwhomhe wasdeeplyin utedto havingmetHelen?hisfirstgirlfriend,

hiswayinto blagged Douglas class.However, History love,inanEconomic inreligious onthebasisofanessayontheriseofinterest largely Cambridge desperbut clever ofthe trick that toperform h im enabled h ad This poetry. it intoa atestudentof takingwhatlittlehe couldrememberandwrenching of body great a that therebypretending wholenew criticalperspective,

hadbeen inthefirstplace) orneverlearned forgotten (inreality knowledge somereliInthiscaseherecalled policy. asamatterofintellectual discarded Smart's Christopher from muchofit giouspoetryhehadsunginthechoir, poetinmoredetail). hewentontostudythisstrange (incollege Agno Jubilate Headdeda pinchof GerardManleyHopkinsto a goodportionofWilliam (asTS.Eliotcalledhim),whoserevBlake,thewildpetofthesupercultivated

virtueofbeingmemoitsmanyqualities—the versehas—among olutionary lyrics,allofwhichwere toworkinsomeBeatles rable.Thenhemanaged engravedonhisheart. Decadeslater,whenhewasawardedthatveryBritishaccoladeofan apthathis he toldSueLawley Discs, Island pearanceon BBCRadioFour’sDesert at St.John’sitwas bullshit.Infairnessto the academics essaywasegregious

of withmorethana sediment bullshit cleveregregious dazzlingly probably fromwhichhisfaalsotobethecollege happened St.John’s insight. genuine

butit isunlikelythatthiswasmuchofafactorfortheadtherhadgraduated, mind. thoughit mayhaveloomedlargerin Douglas’s missionscommittee essay, brilliant of his a place at St.John’son the strength Whenhe won

docScottish offormidable awareofhislongancestry wascertainly Douglas Fortumedicine. of studying tors,andsaidthathehadtoyedwiththeidea andthe natelyhisfatherhadbrokenthe line.Douglaswasratherfastidious thoughtof peeringup thediseasedsphinctersofthepublicallhislifefilled him with dismay;emotionallyhe certainlywouldnot have been tough

Onthepage knewthathistalentwasforwriting. healways Besides, enough. to hadnowhere good.Itwasasifhisfierceintelligence hewasstaggeringly no demanded h eknew that a topic on hidewhenhewasfacedwithanexam whenhe tookatest paperforthe justasremarkably Heperformed invention. Indeed,the of Warwick. courseat the University and Literature Philosophy

everything squirreled Douglas nosybastard. isthatoflicensed theroleofbiographer * Readers, | thinknot. Aretheyourbusiness? loveletters. touching Helen’s awayingreatcrates,including DotheycastlightonDouglas? No.

FINISHINGSCHOOL 55

admissions tutorthere,M.M. Warner, wrotetohim—clearly inresponse toa letterfromDouglas—to saythathispaperwasoneoftwooutstanding ones

inthe year,andthathe certainlywouldhavebeenoffereda place. Hisschooldayshad givenhima soundeducationandthe beginnings of

a useful network (Griffand Wix,for example,stayed in touch).Cambridge,

withitsbeauty,the societyofthe brightestandthebest,anditsready-made

matrixof contacts thatwouldmakea Freemason sickwithenvy,wasto change hislifeutterly.

“Likeallthereallycrucialthingsinlife,thischainof eventswascompletely invisible to FordPrefectand Arthur Dent.. .”

THREE

TheRestaurant attheEndoftheUniverse

sv. SOMN°S, smoners, nerTrworREms anp Crm@nps

ea the full,pantingtabloidsenseofthe term,the 1960sdid notreally we startin 1960,nordidtheywaftto a closein 1970. Historyisnot asneat asourdecimalnotation.TheVietnam Warwasstillgoing,andinMay1970US

forces invaded neutralCambodia inanattempt todenytheVietcong access through thatcountry. “Interdict” wasjustoneoftheera’smanybullshit words thatattempted tolenda spurious senseofprecision toabloodyandchaotic

conflict. Thatsamemonth,theNationalGuardshotdeadfourAmerican studentprotestersin Ohio'sKentStateUniversity. NixonandKissinger, aftera

bombing campaign inNorthVietnam thedevastating scaleofwhichisstill notwidely understood, agreed a ceasefire in1972. Itwassigned inearly1973 andtheFallofSaigon, watched inpalsied fascination on tellyalloverthe

world,followedin 1975.

Thehippymovement—if anythingasuncoordinated andwoollycouldbe

saidtobea movement—was already inretreat, Roland Barthes, theFrench intellectual, waskeentoinform usaboutthesemiotics ofclothes. In1968 flared jeans,bandannas (Godhelpus),andthoseappallingly whiffy Afghan coats,

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about sentawholerangeofsignals laughing, weworewithout thatsomehow it by1970 to softdrugsandsoon.However, attitudes socialchange, politics, toRoyal i t wear white—and hippysuit—all tobuya designer waspossible momentsuchgearhad ceasedto be a sandwich Atsomeindefinable Ascot* aboutsocietalchange,andhadbecomefancydress. boardbearinga message

Intelhadonlyjustmadethe in1971, wentuptoCambridge WhenDouglas computers onasiliconchip,sotherewerenopersonal circuit firstintegrated forDouglastobuyevenifhecouldhaveaffordedone.Hehadtakenona selaterservedhim Panic, riesoftwitjobswhich,asNeilGaimanobservesinDon't important Buttherewassomething ondustjackets.’ wellinpottedbiographies

urgentthateveryrestsomething goinguptoCambridge, hehadtodobefore

hehadto knew a bitwicked, and tofeelgrown-up man,yearning lessyoung

asifthey'dlivedthe youngblokesfeeling Itwasa deedthatleaves achieve.

songsthrough blues,tunnelledoutfroma Kerouacnovel,sungrambling-on abit. It s theirnoses,enduredthe romanceofthebleak,andgenerallyuffered

partofthegreatcanon tobeanessential andonedestined wasariteofpassage, border: h erbaceous ornate an like Douglas thatsurrounded ofanecdotage Hitchhiking No,not sex.It waslessfunandmuchmoreunhygienic. to itsveryedgesinIstanbul. aroundEurope—even than it is in the sixtiesand seventies farmorecommon was Hitchhiking fully p sychopath a potential as regarded i s now.Thesedaysa hitchhiker

intheoutside Sabatier anda twelve-inch system witha delusional equipped amateur isan m otorist Every r ucksack. orange pocketofhissquillion-litre f Theseearsare forrandommalice. theopportunity rapistornutterseizing routimes.Theonlyhitchhikers butweliveinun-innocent largelynonsense, tinelyspottedon the roadsofBritainare sternmenin tweedyjacketswho

newJaguarandhavethered,trade somebody's havejustbeendelivering undertheirarmstoproveit.Butthirtyyearsagohitchhiking number-plates andtheless forstudents about,especially meansofgetting wasanaccepted andhalfpoisoned being day Thefactthatyoucouldspenda well-off. of somerain-lashedAutobahnwas part of the drownedon the Einfahrt mythology andtheappealofhitchhiking.

(BatsHerald byJacqueline 1970s ofa Decade—the inFashions photograph * Seethedelicious ford,1992). Books, (Titan ’tPanic Don wittybook, . . . NeilGaiman’s porter hospital shedcleaner, + Chicken 1987),isanexcellent companion toDouglas's work.

ST. JOHN’S,SMOKERS,NETWORKS ANDFRIENDS 59

Douglaslaterconfessed thathe had toldthestoryofgettingtheideafor Hitchhiker's sooftenthathecouldnolongerrecallwhetherit happenedtheway

he saidit did,orwhether hewasjustremembering hismany retellings—in whichcasehewouldhavetotrusthimself andaccept thatatsomepointhis original Ur-account had a basisinfact.Mostofyouwillhavehad a similar ex-

periencewitha favourite yarn,andyouhaveto bequitetough-minded to be surethatyouknowwhetheritreallyhappenedorwhetherrepetition, andthe desirethatitjollywelloughtto havehappened,haveinducedconviction. We

liveinlineartime(unlike a dog,happycreature, thatseems toinhabit aneternalpresent). Memory ontheotherhandisnotsequential; youcan’tcount

backwards to findthe momentwhenyoulearnedthe nameofthe capitalof Chad.Memories seemto bestoredusingavarietyofmysterious principles, so thatyouhaveto circlearoundandaround,throughmistycloudsofassociation,beforeyoucanrelocatesomemissingpiece.It is easyto persuadeyour-

selfofthetruthofsomething forwhichtheonlyevidence isa strongurgeto believe.

Douglashada repertoireofanecdotes thatheusedto greateffecton the promocircuitandat conventions andconferences. Healwaystoldthesesto-

riesinexactly thesameway,rightdowntothecomichesitations asheappearedtorummage aroundhiscortexforexactly therightword.Before you scoff, thisisnotsomething toelicitcynicism, butadmiration. Douglas wasa

frustratedperformerwitha perfectionist streak.Theappearanceofeffortless witis not effortless at all.Helikedto entertain,andifhehad polisheda yarn

tothepointwhereit couldnotbeimproved hefeltheowedittohislistenerstotreatthemtothebestversion. Thedanger ofthisapproach isthata kind ofunreality abouttheoriginal experience creeps upontheteller.

Thebarebonesof the anecdotearethese:hitchingroundEuropein the summerof1971, betweenschoolanduniversity, withguitar,fullofyearning,

sapandwhatnot rising, looking foradventure, Douglas arrives inInnsbruck* consumes a bittoomuchofthatsneakyAustrian beer,andliesina field looking atthestars." Inhisbagis a copyofTheHitchhiker's Guide toEurope by * HestayedintheYouth Hostel inReichenauer Strasse sohewasn’t living thebluesallthatdesperately. T Somedocumentary film-makers haveidentified theactual field, but| can’thelpthinking, even withmytenacious graspofthetrivial, thatthefieldisaboutasrelevant asthenumber ofthe tramyoung Einstein thought inashemadehisdaily journey tothePatent Office.

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Someoneoughtto writethatbookon a KenWelsh*Hmm,thinksDouglas.

Iknow! Thewholegalaxy. Wow. largerscale. thathewouldbetheonetodoit. heneverimagined claimed Healways

Douglassurvivedthe rigoursofthe road,and the apocalyptic Happily, ferrieswhenthe scenesyou canwitnessin thegentsofthe cross-Channel goodtimefor in England gotbackto and blowing, are earlyautumngales

forthe Court) (D1inCripps RonandJanettodrivehimtohisroomincollege of underthedirection term.HewastoreadEnglish startoftheMichaelmas

thelatterremaininga friendafter HughSykesDaviesandDr.GeorgeWatson, Douglasgraduated. Janetrecallsthatthefirstpersonhe metwasNickBurton,a scionofthe tailors,whowastosharesomerathersplenhouseofBurton,the high-street

andhe inhisthirdyear.Nickwas6’4”tall.Douglas didroomswithDouglas

withthatheadymixof justgrinnedateachother,nearasdamnit eye-to-eye, emotionsthatmarksleavinghomeproperlyforthefirsttime. beautiful,a paradiseof exquisite was—andis—beguilingly Cambridge

St. themeparkofeducation. a veritable traditions, andcivilized buildings byLadyMarin1511 inthetown.Itwasfounded isthelargest College John’s of generations t o known themotherofHenryVII,a monarch garetBeaufort,

Welsh,greedyandhavinga Chancellor, forbeingmiserable, schoolchildren

Morton,who inventedafiscal ratherthan physicalFork.St.John’sremindsall

butyoumightbeexthatitisa placeofwork,andnota museum, visitors FromitsTudorgateisa delight. Thecollege otherwise. cusedforthinking faced handsomely courtyards whatseemlikeendless houseyoupassthrough in greystone,allonanintimatehumanscale,withwindowslookinginwards andnot believethattheyarevegetable ontolawnssoperfectyoucanscarcely the reaches college Wherethe extrudedfroma machinein AlliedCarpets.

of Bridge soppyreplicaofVenice's river,it hopsoverwitha romantically tutoand accommodation withmorecourtyards, andthencontinues Sighs, rialroomsontheotherbank.

doubtlessstudentsmanageto standardsarerigorous; Ofcourse,academic but,comparedto environment, inthisblissful e ven desperate a nd -getfraught

isfairyland. St.John’s campus, university wind-blown blocky, theaverage was Theeconomy political. wasnotstrenuously Atthetimetheuniversity * KenWelsh,anAussie,wrotea bookfullofgoodresearchandsoundadvice,butithasn’tbeen haveto dowiththedeclineinhitchhiking. updatedsince1993forreasonsthatprobably

ST. JOHN’S,SMOKERS,NETWORKS ANDFRIENDS 61 not as forgivingas in the previousdecade,and the studentsof the seventies

wereby and largegettingtheirheadsdownand working.Theywereno

longerangry, onlyabitmiffed. Douglas wasnotpolitically radical inanyconventional sense, forhewas fartoointellectually subversive totrustanysetofideasorganizedenoughto becalledanideology. Laterinlifehewrotewithpolemical zealaboutconservation,but he seldomventuredexplicitlyintoPolitics(witha capital“P”),

thoughthereadercanoftensensehimshaking hishugeheadathumanfolly, asifsaying tohimself “dumb, dumb,dumb." Douglas's shortstory“Young Zaphod Plays ItSafe” isasstrident asheever

gotaboutmattersasparochialasthehierarchical arrangements onourlocal planet.Itisa littlebeauty,bytheway:ZaphodandtwocreepsfromtheSafety andCivilReassurance Administration areon a salvagemissionto recovera

fearsome cargofroma starship wrecked byitscaptain's foolish diversion to collect alobster dinner. Unfortunately, oneofthecreatures intheship'shold hasescaped.It’sa charmingbutsimplehominidthatisoneofthemostdangerouscreaturesthateverlivedbecausethereisnothingthatitwillnotdoif allowed,andnothingthatitwillnotbe allowedto do.It’scalleda Reagan*

Cambridge isfamous formanythings—including, but,asthelawyers say, notlimited to,academic excellence, Ludwig Wittgenstein, astronomy, exquisitebutirritating novelsaboutspoiltgits,privilege, parties, pubs,pleasure, punting,spies,andFootlights. Ofthese,pubs,parties,pleasureandFootlights featuredlargelyin Douglas’s life.

Footlights, ormoreproperly theCambridge Footlights Dramatic Club, was bornin1883 andgivenitsnamebyaMr.MH.Cotton. Atfirsttheatmosphere intheclubwasbracing—quite foreign tothatnaughty auraofsophistication withwhichitwaslaterassociated.' Itwasn’tuntil1924thattheformatsettled downintothe revuestyleforwhichit becamefamousas a showcasefor brightyoungtalent.Alargeshareoffamousnamesinwritingandactingfirst

trodtheboardsinFootlights revues. Performers inthoseearlyyearsincluded * Thisstorywaswrittenin1986fortheUtterly, Utterly MerryComicReliefChristmas Bookandre-

published inTheWizards ofOdd, edited byPeterHaining (Souvenir Press,1996). t Roger Wilmut, inhisscholarly andenjoyable bookFrom Fringe toFlying Circus (Eyre Methuen, 1980), quotes asource asdescribing theclubatthattimeas“decidedly hearty.” Forearnest historians ofFootlights, thepotted history bytheclub’s treasurer, Dr.H.C. Porter, published inthe programme forthe1974revue, Chox, isinvaluable.

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NormanHartnell, CecilBeaton,theactors,JackandClaudeHulbert,andMal-

colmLowry, authorofUnder theVolcano. Filmwasusedforthefirsttimein 1931;a recordingwasissuedin 1932,andin thatyeartherewerewomenin thecast.The1933revuewascalledNoMoreWomen.

ManyofthebestpeopleinBritish theatreareFootlights graduates. They wereknownastheOxbridge Mafia, eventhoughCambridge hadafarbigger influence thanOxford (which boasted AlanBennett asanotable exception). The 1954Footlightsrevue, with Jonathan Miller,LeslieBricusse,Frederic Raphaeland John Pardoe,transferredto London,as did many other produc-

tionsfrom1963onwards.MichaelFraynandJoeMeliaperformedinthelate

50sasdidBamber Gascoigne, Timothy Birdsall, Eleanor Bron, JohnBirdand PeterCook. EvenDavid Frost. Bythesixties theescapees fromtheclubformed athunderous roll-call ofnamesthatweretodominate therevuescenefora generation. TrevorNunn,HumphreyBarclay andCliveJamesalldirected, and

the actors included John Cleese,Graeme Garden,Miriam Margoyles,Bill Oddie,Graham Chapman,EricIdle,TimBrooke-Taylor, RussellDaviesand

manyotherswhowentontobestrategically placed intheatre, tellyandother media. Footlights’ firstbigsuccess wasin1963 whenitsrevue,muchadapted for its newvenue,transferredto Londonunderthe nameCambridge Circus. TheatreproducersandTVscoutsstartedto attendFootlights showsona regularbasis.Theannualshowturned,bydegrees,intoan auditionforShaftes-

buryAvenue and,almost invariably, theEdinburgh Festival. Inresponse, the clubexerted itselftoputonshowsofevergreater professionalism. Thistraditionwaswellunderstoodby undergraduates withhistrionic leanings.BythetimeDouglasarrivedin Cambridge, Footlights wasnotonly theplacetohaveastonishing funwithlikeminded youngthesps—it wasa ca-

reermove. ButFootlights wasnotaclubopentoeveryone, and,besides, noteveryonetalented wasattracted toit.Among Douglas's contemporaries, JohnLloyd

wasstudyinglaw—or, ashe concedes, notstudyinglaw—next dooratTrinity.Heand Douglasstruckup a complexand competitive friendship,and Johnlaterbecamea collaborator on—inter alia—theradioseriesofHitchhiker's

(aswellasevolving intotheUK'smostsuccessful TVcomedy producer). He recalls thathisnickname forDouglas wasVastCreature. JohnLloyd wasa good-looking youngmanwhosefloppyblondhairmadehimratherresembleAnthonyAndrews, theactor,playingSebastian FlyteintheTVadaptation ofBrideshead Revisted. HisviewofFootlights islessthanawestruck:

ST. JOHN’S,SMOKERS,NETWORKS ANDFRIENDS’63

Footlightswas goingthrougha rather loucheand decadent patchatthetimewhena lotofmiddle-agedorevenelderlydonsin

velvetsmoking jackets gotyoung,handsome undergraduates todo songanddanceroutineswiththem...Footlights wasa joke.None ofusworthoursaltwouldhavegoneneartheplace.Peoplewho ran the stallat the undergraduate fair—theFreshers’ Fair—we thoughtwerea bunchofwankers.I'dhonestlyneverheardofFootlightsbeforeI gotto Cambridge, so it wasa yearor sobeforeI got

roundtothinking aboutit.Andinthemeantime Igotapartinthe TrinityrevuewhichhadbeenfamoustheyearbeforeforCharlie [Prince Charles] beinginasketchabouta maninadustbin...Inmy secondyear,with my friendRichardBurrage,we ran the Trinity revueandthisiswhenI gotto knowDouglasaswebothhad collegerevuebackgrounds.

Mindyou,JohnLloyd dideventually audition forFootlights attheprompting ofagirlhewasinlovewithatthetime,theactress, MaryAllen. Naturally he wasacceptedandenjoyeda vintageyearwhenJonCanterwaspresidentof the club.Jonwasat Gonvilleand Caiusnot reallystudyinglaw,likeJohn

Lloyd. Aftergraduation, JonCanter* MaryAllenandJohnLloyd wereallimportantinDouglas's life. Douglas auditioned forFootlights inhisfirstterm,butwasrebuffed anda littlehurt.Footlights wasquitetightlycontrolledat the timeby thosewho hadrisenupthroughtheranks;besides,Douglas's writingtalentshadnotyet beenhonedbyperformance. Long,haranguingmonologues didnotworkfor

thelanguidly wittyFootlights committee. Douglas toldNeilGaiman years later(seeDon't Panic) thathefoundthem“aloof andratherpleased withthemselves,” sohejoinedCULES (theCambridge University LightEntertainment Society) instead.Thisorganization literallyhad a captiveaudiencewhenit tookitsshowsoutto prisons,andin hospitalsitsaudiencewasusuallytoo

decrepit todoa runner;Douglas lookedbackontheexperience withsome embarrassment. SuchwasDouglas's appetiteforperformance thathejoinedtheADC (Amateur Dramatic Club)whereheplayedSirLuciusO'Trigger in SueLimb’s * Buffs might liketoknow thatJonCanter, alifelong palofDouglas, cameupwithMarvin’s line— “Life, don’t talktomeaboutlife’—in arevuein1972.Douglas always gaveJonthecredit forit.

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productionof Sheridan'sTheRivals. OppositehimwasJonathanBrock,an-

otherfrienddestined toplayanimportant partinDouglas's lifeafewyears later.Jonathan Jonnytohispals)wentontobecome abarrister, andthena QC*Hisrecollection oftheirstageswordfight wasthatDouglas “hadthecoordinationofa mastodon.Wedidfiveperformances in whichthe resultof the fightdependedon whetherDouglascouldgethis weaponout of his scabbard.”Jonnyin facthad been at schoolwith JaneBelson,laterto become

Douglas's wife,butshewenttoOxford sohemetDouglas tenyearsbefore shedid.Atthememorial service hecommented thatitwas“tenyearsofchaos beforeshesortedhimout.” However, Douglasdideventually getintoFootlights. Itwasa littlehubris-

ticofhimtothinkthathewouldbewelcomed inhisfirstyear;itwasconsideredthattoperform inFootlights onehadatleasttohaveacquired thejaded sophistication ofthesecondyear,andtheattainment ofearthlyparadise (beingon thecommittee) wasmoreor lessreservedforthird-yearstudents. AsFootlights’ personnelchangedwithtime,Douglaswasencouraged byone committee memberwhowas“friendly andhelpful,allthethingstheothers

weren't, acompletely niceguynamedSimon Jones” (latertoplayArthurDent sobrilliantly). Douglas andhispalKeithJeffrey wereelected together—but notbeforea minorrunningskirmishandclashofegoswithinFootlights. ButevenifFootlights in 1971wasfullofaesthetesexchanging wickedly inexplicit understandings, therewasanotherpathto messingabouttheatri-

callythatinmanywayswasmuchmorefun.Thiswasthecollege revue,or “smoker,” arelatively informal affairinwhichhistrionic undergraduates performed frivolous sketches fortheamusement ofthemselves andtheirpeers. Thetermderivesfroman earlierera’s“smoking concert,” onein whichthe chapswere allowedto smokeand fromwhichwomen were excluded,prob-

ablyonthedaftgroundsthatmanyofthesketchesfeaturedrelentless sexual

double entendres. (“Your ejaculations fillmewithsurprise.”)” Thesmoker appealed enormously toDouglas. Hegottogether withtwo friends,MartinSmithandWillAdams,to writesketchesfora revueoftheir * When | interviewedhimforthisbookinhischambers,hetalkedaboutDouglas warmly, withap-

palling energy andperfect clarity ofdiction, foranhourwithout appearing todrawbreath. Sometimespersonalities andjobsseemwellsuited. t Quoted inDon’t Panic, p.10. coQuotedbyBenDuncanina reviewforTheTimesEducational Supplement, 17March1973.

ST. JOHN’S,SMOKERS,NETWORKS ANDFRIENDS’65

own.MartinandWillwereatFitzwilliam College studying Economics and English respectively. Martinisneatandclever, andWillisbeardyandclever. MartinandWillhadbeenwritingtogetherwhentheymetDouglas, butthey immediately clickedasa team.Thethreeofthemcreatedsomebrilliantmaterial.WillandMartincontinuedtowritetogether, butDouglaswroteonhis

own—a lifelong preference, thoughratherperverse fora manwhoneeded company asmuchashedid.Ontheotherhand,hispainstaking drafting and redrafting couldonlyworkwithonecreative intelligence incharge. Martin describes theirmethodofworkinglikethis: Thethingwas,Douglasand Willand I writeverydifferently.

WillandI alwayswrotetogether. WeweretheclassicGaltonand Simpson, Clement andLaFrenaistypeofcombination. Wewere alwaysstultifiedinto inactionunlesswe weretogether.Douglas alwayswantedto writeon his own.Whathe woulddo is write three sentences of brilliant introduction, and then he'd be so

thrilledwith them he'd run up CastleHill,to whereFitzwilliam was,and he’dsit downwithus and say,“Listen,listen,listen...,” andhe’dtrynotto laughallthewaythroughhisreading.Willand I wouldthentakeit awayandwritea sketchbeginningwiththose lines.It waslikea gameof consequences. Willand I wouldshare

thelinesout,butIthinkourabilitytoself-edit wasn’tthere.Sowe wouldturnoutstuffthatwasquitefunny,butwasn’tverydifferent, so then Douglaswould take it back again, and take what we'd

doneand makeit funnierand better.Andthen we’dtakeit back offhimand makeit work,becauseifyouleftit to Douglasevery-

bodywouldbedelivering eachsketchinSerbo-Croat whileriding onrollerskates... It’sinterestingthateventhenDouglashad a compelling needforapproval, andhefoundit almostimpossible towaitbeforeaskingforit.SueFreestone,

theeditorofmanyofhisbooks,wouldlaterexperience thistoadegree unusualevenamongwriters, a notoriously demanding lotwhenit comesto emotional neediness. Douglas wasalways innocent aboutfindinghisown jokesfunny;theywerefunnyand nobodyhad evertaughthimthat Brits shouldonlyallowthemselves a self-deprecating littlesmileovertheirown

achievements. Besides, hewouldhootwithmerriment atotherpeople's jokes.

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MakingDouglaslaugh,allhisfriendsagree,wasoneofthegreatdelightsof theworld.

Withhisnaughtymagpieinstinct, Douglas laterimmortalized Martin whenFordPrefect says“thisisZaphod Beeblebrox—not bloodyMartinSmithof Croydon.” (WhenMartinevolved intoa seniormanager in advertising he usedto haveclientsaskhimifbychancehe camefromCroydon.) Willwent intopublishingand becamea bookeditorand quizcompiler. Martinand Willwere—and are—engaging andfunnymen.

Theirfirstrevuewasstagedon14June1972 intheSchool ofPythagoras, thetheatreinSt.John’s, Itstartedat11p.m.,a moment notonlypastcocoa andpyjamas timebutalso—significantly—pub closing time.TheLadyMargaretPlayersandAdams,Smith,AdamspresentedSeveral PoorPlayers Strutting andFretting (30p,ticketsfromthePorters’ Lodge). Oddlytheprogramme inside

wasCalled “Fruttin’ inStreatham,” thoughperhapsit’sjustthataftera few drinks“strutting andfretting” (areference to Shakespeare’s unmentionable Scottish play,ofcourse) startedtotransmogrify. Thecastwas MartinSmith,StefanieSinger,RachelHood,WillAdams,and

Douglas,andthe scriptswerewrittenby Adams,Smith,Adamswithadditionalmaterialby JohnParry,JonCanter,JerryBrownandJohnCleeseof

Monty Python fame.Douglas’s roommate, NickBurton, managed thehouse. “Look aroundforhim,” theprogramme notesadvised, “he'llbetheonewho isn'tlaughing.” Whetherstruttingor fruttin’the revue was wellreceived.Who did what

inthewritingisan enigma,butcomicwritingisoftena teameffortbecause

itissohardforoneindividual toknowwhatisfunnyandhowitwillplay. Thethreeofthemdeserve equalcredit. Theyhadbecome goodfriends, but WillAdamssaysthattheirconversation waslargely banterastheybatted wordsandjokesbackandforth,enjoyingthe occasional rally.“Welikedto amuseeachother,”herecalls,“bytoppingeachother’sjokesorrunningwith

thefantasies. Weveryrarelytalkedaboutanything personal, andIratherregretthatnow." Theprogramme forSeveral PoorPlayers wasreplete withadsforTrinity's ABigHandonYour Opening andTheBudgie byTonyChekhovandvariousbitsof spoofbiography, but thesketchesthemselves arelistedwithminimalist detail.MaryAllenrecallsthattherewasawonderfully funnyoneabouta struc-

turalistanalysis ofa railway timetable. (Railway timetables meantmorein thosepre-privatized days.) Structuralism wasfashionable atthetime,butnot

ST. JOHN’S, SMOKERS, NETWORKSAND FRIENDS’ 67

asbigasirony.Ironywasenormous.Everybody wantedit in quantitiesthat

aroomful ofFrench intellectuals couldnotdeconstruct* Douglas madefriends easilyincollege, butatfirsthemissed Helen. Althoughthatrelationship eventually fadedaway, inthemeantime hevisited her.Shehadalsogoneto university, toWarwick (which,despitethename,is not in Warwick but liesbetweenCoventryand Kenilworth). Douglas,who

lovedanecdotes fortheirhumourandcarednotiftheymadehimlookdaft, toldthestoryofhitching therewiththatessential prop,hisguitar, toseeher. During hisvisithemetthelong-haired blokefromalongthecorridor, also withguitar.Theyjammedtogether, withtheothermantryingtodirectDouglasto laydowna goodrhythmlinearoundwhichhe,theotherbloke,could takeflight.ThiswasanaffronttoDouglas's guitarheroegoanditgoadedhim

intoventuring theoddand,ashebelieved, dazzling improvisation. “No, no,” thehairyonesaid,“ifyoudon’tmind,I'lldothefiddlybits.”Andhedid. What'smore,hewasdauntinglygood.OnlyyearslaterdidDouglasfindout thattheothermanwastheyoungMarkKnopfler, laterofDireStraits. It wasduringhisfirstsummerholidayfromuniversitythat something

happened thatretrospectively seemsspooky, butisn’t.Whathappened was this:Douglas hadasummer jobinDorset inalocalwarehouse. Shaftesbury anditsenvirons boastsomeofthemostbeautiful countryside inBritain, but itisquitehilly.Douglashadto drivea tractorforthisjob.Untilyougetused to them,tractorsaresurprisingly difficultto masterwiththeirbewildering

gearchanges andhighcentreofgravity. These days,justtoprovethattheEU is notexclusively aboutthecurvature ofbananasandcreative expenses, therearesensible regulations thatenforce roll-over barsonsuchvehicles. Thatsummer,at the bottom of a hill,Douglashad an accident.Hewas in

an opentractortowing atrailer fullofirongirders.Hetriedto changedown ashestarteddownthehill,buthejustcouldnotgetthelowergeartoengage. Thetractorcareereddownwards inneutral,gettingfasterandfaster.Seeinga

logacross theroad,Douglas steered toavoidit,butthetractorturnedover. Douglas,the tractor,the trailerand the girderstumbleddownthe hill, roughlyin thatorder,withDouglaskeepingjustfarenoughaheadto avoid * Thereadermight enjoy a veryhelpful littlepoemonthesubject ofstructuralism. Itgoeslikethis: Thisisthecreedo’Jacques Derrida There ain’tnoauthor. Thereain’tnoreader,eeda.

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beingkilled. Instead hebrokehispelvisandspentthreeweeksinYeovil DistrictHospitalwhilehe mended,flaton hisbackstaringat theceiling,bored out of his mind, and, rather to his doctor's surprise,recuperatedenough to

startthe nexttermat Cambridge on time.Here’sthe coincidence: exactly

twenty yearslater,onthesamespot,another manturnedovera tractor—and diedofhisinjuries. Hisname:Douglas Adams. It musthavebeenpartlyDouglas’s accidentthatinspiredAdams,Smith, Adamstorunthefollowing creditsintheprogramme fortheirnextrevue,The Patter ofTiny Minds:

Mr.Adams'’s (D)pelvis byYeovil District Hospital

TheshapeofMr.Smith's feetbyStart-Rite Mr.Adams's(W)disposition byYeastvite

ThePatterofTinyMinds,stagedfrom15-17November1973in the Schoolof Pythagoras, wasmoreambitiousthan the trio’sfirsteffort.Theyevendid

somemarketing withasmallflyerputinbicycle baskets, andalargish poster featuringWillin someveryoddshorts,Martinallinblacklookinglikea hit man,and Douglaswearinghischickensuitcompletewithrealcockscomb. Douglaswasalwaysgametogetintothispreposterous garment;endearingly

henevermindedmaking anarseofhimself fora goodcause,andheliked beingindisguise. Theshowboasteda director, TonyRoot,soundandlighting engineers, JohnFassnidge andJimBesley, anda musician, AndyThurston, whoseviolin addeditsownmusicalcommentary. JohnLloydiscreditedwithwritingadditionalmaterial,andthereis scriptadvicefrom“Otto.” ItturnsoutthatOtto

wasa reference toJohn“Otto” Cleese, whohadgiventhemonesketch, but whomtheyfeltshouldbeobscured—perhaps forfearofappearing precious. Evenmoreimportantly, thecastincludeda woman,MargaretThomas, a talentedthespandsingerwhomtheyallapparentlyfanciedsomething terrible. Thespoofcopyintheprogramme wasnotentirelya matterofinvention:

MARGARET THOMAS isgettingfedupwiththeimproper advancesthatarecontinually madetoherbytheotherthree[mem-

bersofthe cast],allofwhomaredeeplyandtragicallyin lovewith her.Theyareoftentobeseenofferinghertokensofaffection—dried

cockroaches tiedupinribbon,bitsofpapersmeared withgumand

ST. JOHN’S,SMOKERS,NETWORKS ANDFRIENDS’69

backcopiesofTheFarmer andStockbreeder. Ona cleardayitisjustpossibleto discernwhich of the three she deteststhe most.

The Patter ofTiny Minds wasdeliciously funnyandregarded asabigsuccess. The timing wasdeliberately designed tobeoneintheeyeforthechapsinvelvet jacketsoveratFootlights. Competitively scheduled justa fewdaysbeforethe Footlights revue,it startedlatesothatifyouwerebenton an evening'sfrivolityyoucouldgotothepubandattendtheAdams,Smith,Adamsrevueaf-

terwards. Douglas, WillandMartinreckoned thatpeoplecouldnotfailto makejudicious comparisons between theirrevueandFootlights—and that theireffortwouldbe regardedasbyfarthefunnierAndsoit cameto pass. Nearlyallthereviewers enjoyedit,thoughtherewasoneslightlysuperiorreviewintheEagle—not thegreatcomic,but St.John’ssubscription-only col-

legemagazine, a wonderfully eclectic mixofcricket newsandanalysis of foreign literature (readintheoriginal, naturally). Thereviewers, Keith Jeffery andFelixHodcroft, praisetheactingofMartinandWill(Martin's “searing” LeonardCohenparodysoundstoo goodto be lost)and relishMargaret Thomas'ssinging,but aresharpaboutDouglashimself(“hehasthebiggest pose”). Theirprincipalcriticism ofthewholepieceisthatit containsstereo-

typicalworkers withstockproleaccents—undergraduates impersonating PeteandDudimitating theworking classes* Thisreview wasatypically polished Cambridge put-down, eventhough co-written bya mate,KeithJeffery, andnotintendedtobereadentirelyseriously.Nevertheless, it reflecteda preoccupation withclassthatwasnotonly ofitserabut hasneverreallygoneaway.ThegreatJohnCleesewroteand

performed oneofTV'smostenduring sketches aroundthattimewithhisillustration oftheclasssystem inwhichthediminutive Ronnie Corbett played thetokenprole.Cleese’s UpperClassTwitoftheYearhasalsolodgedlikea burrin thecollective memoryofthenation.Left-leaning publicschoolboys areoftenguiltilyhung-upabouttheirprivileged backgrounds, whichmay

explain whytherearesomanyoftheminthemediawhodissemble about theirorigins anddresslikeundercover policemen. Allsocieties havea class system, butperhaps itisonlyinBritain thatweare,asOrwell said,branded * PeterCookandDudley Moorehada popularTVseriesonatthetime,NotOnly.. . ButAlso,

which oftenfeatured thetwooftheminominously blotched macspretending tobemembers of theproletariat.

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onthetonguesothata singlevowelsoundisenoughfortheeducatedearto

placea speaker's origins. Thisis preposterous, andthusendlessly funny. Adams, Smith, Adams wereusingstapleingredients bywayofshorthand (the upper-class buffoon,thetea-makingbuildersandso on).Admittedly these arecomicstereotypes, butnotportraitsofindividuals to be sneeredat.CertainlyDouglascarednotawhitaboutsocialcredentials; creativity andbrains

werewhatheratedmosthighly. Adams, Smith, Adams's biggest crimehere wasnotsnobbery, butcliché. Adams, Smith, Adams hadanotheroutingwithThe Patter ofTiny Minds in

January1974, thistimeintheBushTheatre,abovea largepubinWestLondon’sShepherd's Bush(anareawellawayfromthebrightlightsoftheWest End).TheyaddedanotherSmithand anotherAdams,so the lineup read Adams,Smith,Adams,Smith,Adams.In fact,the extraAdamswasMary

Allen, whojoinedEquity (theactors’ union)asanAdams, andtheadditional SmithwasJohnLloyd.Itwasa hootto doit in suchan intimateandboozy

venue. Martin remembers:

Wewereonasa latenightshow—we camedownfromCambridgetodoit.Themainperformance oftheevening wasLindsey Kemp’spantomimeto the workofJeanGenet.Weweresharinga roomwithLindseyKemp,who of courseis as campas a rowof tents,anditwasquitea laugh.Oneeveningwewentto thecinema

andwatched—in thedayswhenyou'dseetwomainmoviestogether—The Wicker ManandDon't Look Now. AndinTheWicker Man,of course,LindseyKemp'splayingthepublican.Andsoitwasextraordinary,watchingthefilmandseeingthe manI'dbeenavoidingall week.

Sharing theminuscule changing roomsmusthavebeenthestuffofsitcoms, withtheyoungsters exquisitely anxious nottogiveoutanyofthewrongsignals.Douglaswasthrilledthatthe reviewmade a profitof£25foreachof them. Forthesecondtimeinthehistoryofcomedy(andpossiblyforgoodreason,the last),the show introducedthe odd notion of shavinga cat.Thisen-

tailedno harmto anymoggy; it wasa thoughtexperiment ratherlike Schrodinger’s unrealistically ambiguouscat of quantummechanicsfame. Bothwereusedto suggestabsurdity. In the surrealAdams,Smith,Adams,

ST. JOHN’S, SMOKERS, NETWORKSAND FRIENDS

71

Smith,Adamsversion,shavinga catweavesin andoutoftheprogramme—

rathercat-like infact.Doesitmeananything? Doesitstandfortheimpossibilityofromantic yearning, hemhem?Isitjusta daftideathatappealed to theirundergraduate imaginations? Herearea fewexamples:* THEROMANTIC TRADITION

MikeandJohnsitting, facing audience Johnreading newspaper, orFreud, orUsage andAbusage [LotsofPinteresque pingingwordsacrossthevoidin fraughtbut inconse-

quential fashion. Then:] J: Look,Keatswasa romantic, wasn’the? M: Mayhavebeen... J: Well,he didn’tshavecats.

MICRO PAUSE M:Yeshedid. J: Nohedidn't. M:Yeshedid!. J: Nohedidn't!

M:Look, cleverdick, doyouknowthe“OdeonMelancholy?" i Mise: M:Theonethatbegins: “No,no,gonottoLethe/Neither getyour knickersin a twist. J: That’snot what Keatswrote.

M:Yesitis,andhewentontosay:“Butwhenthemelancholy fit

shallfall,/Sudden fromheaven likeaweeping cloud/Go and shavethecat.”

J: You'remakingthatup,Mike. M: I am not!

Andsoon...Orthere'sthissong: * 1amgratefultoMaryAllenforfindingthesesketchesandtoWillAdamsandMartinSmithforlet-

tingmereproduce themhere.

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SHEERROMANCE Well,babe,it oftenseems,

I'vealways knownyouinmydreams, Youcameto mebeneaththemoon,

ThatstarrynightinearlyJune. Well,babe,I thinkI loveyou, Youmakemyheartgopitterpat, Feelingso romantic,

ThinkI'llgoandshavethecat. Thefinalsceneinthethree-part sketch hasamanandawoman talking with hopeless desireaboutdoingit (nodoubtin theaudience's mindthatit equalledsexatthispoint)beforedashingoffstageinsomeexcitement. Then therearesoundeffectsof—you've guessedit—catshaving.Describing thisin

proseisa vividreminder aboutwhyyouhavetoseesketches performed; yankedoutoftheirnaturalmedium theyflopaboutlikedistressed goldfish. Incidentally, aboutthistime,inhissecond yearatSt.John’s, Douglas met MichaelBywater, who wasin his firstyearat CorpusChristi.Michael,a dauntinglybrightman,wasstudyingEnglish,havingswitchedfromMedicine,althoughhehadoriginally plannedtobethereonanorganscholarship.

Hisinterest inthetheatrewasrathermoreconventional thantheFootlights approach, buthesometimes contributed totheirmusical interludes. Herecallsthatwhatbroughtthemtogetherwasthattheybothfancied(withthat terribleurgencyofnineteen-year-olds) a lovelywomancalledIsabel.Later shemarriedMichael (andmuchlatertheydivorced). Hewasdestinedtoreap-

pearinDouglas's lifeintheearly1980s. Butfornow,Douglas wasseldomsohappyaswhenhewasonstage performing. Heoftenremarked thathereallywantedtobeJohnCleese—he wastallenough—but wasdisappointed to discoverthatthejobhadalready been taken.Thisdid not stop him frombeingin someways a rather

Pythonesque character—mercurial, funnyandgiventooccasional attacks of ill-coordinated panic.ThenDouglas actually metJohnCleese. Douglas had comedowntoLondon toseea showattheRoundhouse andfoundhimself in theintervalstandingin thebar,byhappycoincidence, rightnextto John Cleese.Please,please,he said,for sincehe was seventeenhe had beena fer-

vidadmirerofMonty Python, pleasecouldIinterview youforVarsity magazine?

Perhaps Johnwastakenbysurprise—or itwasdifficult tosaynotosomeone

ST. JOHN’S, SMOKERS, NETWORKSAND FRIENDS

73

soearnest whocouldlookyoustraight intheeye—but hewaskindenough to assent.Indeed,it wasanexceptionally longinterview withthekindof searching questions andintelligent dialogue thathavenowbecome aliento mediacomplicit inthecelebritygame. DouglastreasuredhisinterviewwithJohnCleeseandkepta boundcopy

inthegreatcratesofstuffthatbiographers arepleased tocall“archives.” He marked onepassage inbirothatisperhaps thebedrock ofalotofsurreal humourInresponse toaquestion aboutthedevelopment ofhisparticular style, JohnCleesesaidthis: Somepeoplehavesaid,likeMartyFeldman,that it [a Cleese

sketch] hasgotaverystronginternal logic...Thatdespite thefactthat it’smad,therulesarelaiddownattheverybeginning andtherules ofthemadnessarefollowed verycarefully. Itisnota conscious thing. I thinkit comesfromthe factthatI wasa scientistanda lawyerby training...The nearestsimileI canfindto actuallywritinga sketchis

thatyoudigaround a bitinthetopsoilandallofa suddenyouhit something, a veinofsomething, andyoufollowit,andsometimes youloseit,andyouhavetotrackyourwaybacktowhereitlastwas* Yearslater,Douglaswasone of onlytwowriters—other than the Pythons themselves—who evergota writingcreditonMonty Python's Flying Circus. (Neil

Inneswastheotherone.) Monty Python occupied aspecial placeinDouglas's affections, asitdidfor an entiregenerationofBritishstudents.It wasa showthatturnedthe map upsidedown,an anarchicconvention-shatterer thatwasalwaysstimulating evenwhentheviewerswincedratherthanlaughed.Blokesofa certainage

canvoicesuchclassics asthedeadparrotsketch withwordperfect synchrony. Forthestudents whowerekidsinthesixties, Monty Python hadaplaceinour heartsratherliketheoneoccupied byThe Goon Show forthosegrowing upin thefifties. YoustillcomeacrossmenwhoonlyneedputonanEcclesorBluebottlevoiceto fallaboutpole-axedwithmirth.'Decadeslater,Douglaspro* JohnCleese alsoadumbrated theThreeLaws ofComedy: NOPUNS, NOPUNS, andNOPUNS. t Spike Milligan’s genius washugely influential onageneration offunny young men.However, the painofwriting theGoons wasnotdissimilar totheagony experienced byDouglas whenstruggling tofilla pagewithapparently effortless drollery.

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videdthesameservice forhisownfans.Douglas wasinthatgreattradition oftheGoons andMonty Python—he wrotesomethingthatbecamethespecial

property ofageneration* Despite thattoneof“we'readultsnow,anddamnhardtoplease” from Douglas's college mates, The Patter ofTiny Minds hadbeengreeted withdelight. Thethreeprincipals, according toJohnLloyd,were“easilyfunnierthananythingin Footlights.” Theywerein demandbut likethethreemusketeers, so severalinformantshaveassuredme,they had in a momentof passion

formeda pact.According tothislegend, theywouldallaudition forFootlights, anditwouldhavetotakeallofthemornoneofthem.Allforone,and oneforall.Thisunderstanding wasputtothetestwhenMartin Smith wasrecruited byCrispin Thomas toperform inaFootlights Mayrevuewithout the

othertwo,thoughas a soptheywereinvitedto be scriptconsultants. Fora whiletherewereapparentlysomedislocated noses.Douglascouldcertainly

sulk,thoughWillisrecorded byallasbeinginsanely good-natured. Theonly othertroublewiththisstoryisthatneitherWillnorMartincanremember theirlivesbeingblighted byanysuchincident. Inanyevent,allendedwell. By1974,underthepresidency ofJonCanter,MartinSmithwasthesecretary andDouglasandWillwerebothcommitteemembers,thoughtheydidnot

perform onstage. Asa performer Douglas waslargelyfrustrated, butaspartofAdams, Smith, Adams, hehelpedtowritegreatchunksofChox, the1974 Footlights show.Theintermission dividedtheshowintothetoplayerandthebottom layer(chox=chocs).Theproductionwasa knock-out. Thecastwasparticularlytalented:JonCanter,SueAldred,JaneEllison,GriffRhysJones,Martin

Smith, Crispin Thomas, animprobably hairyCliveAnderson andGeoff McGivern. (Geoff waslatertobecome FordPrefect intheradioversion ofHitchhikers,and—togreateffect—also did the voicesof DeepThoughtand the Frogstar RobotandTraffic Controller) Butamidallthatbrilliance, therewasstillno spoton stageforDouglas.

Hewasdisgruntled aboutitatthetime.Thereisa suggestion thatthecommitteestrucka dealwithhimwhereby ascompensation hecouldwrite,with WillandMartin, manyofthesketches, sothattheteamalmost became inef* Thebacklist salesofDouglas’s books bearwitness tothefactthatthenextgeneration loveshis worktoo.Attheageofnineourdaughter could recitechunks frommemory. “Those kidswillpay mypension,” Douglas onceremarked.

ST. JOHN’S,SMOKERS,NETWORKS ANDFRIENDS 75

fecttheprincipalscriptwriter. Yearslaterhewasstilla littlebitter.“Footlights wasbecominga producer’s show,”he said,“inwhichtheproducercallsthe

tune.I thinkitshouldbeawriter-performer show.” Bytheway,onesketch bythetrio,“Beyond theInfinite,” prefigured some ofthebest-known linesofHitchhikers by fouryears.Consider thisfrom Adams, Smith, Adams (1974): Faroutinthedepthsofthecosmos,beyondthefurthestreachof

man’sperception, amidsttheswirling mistsofunknown Galaxies, wherelostworldsrolleternally againstthegateway ofinfinity, inexorablyon throughmillionsoflightyearsofcelestialdarknesswe callSpace—Space—where man daresto braveindescribablyelementalhorrors,Space[therefollowsa StarTreksplitinfinitivejoke

nowtoofamiliar tobereproduced]...I can’tbegintotellyouhow faritis—Imeanitissofar.Youmaythinkit’salongwaydownthe streettothechemist, butthat’sjustpeanutstoSpace... Whythisunwillingness on behalfofhisfellowthespsto letDouglasact?It wasn'tdeliberateunkindness. MaryAllen,an actorwithimpeccable stage-

craftthinkshetendedtounbalance thegeneral performance: Douglaswasneverin a Footlightsrevue,and J thinkthat was becausehe was suchan idiosyncratic stagepresence.In a group revueyouhaveto haveyourownpresence,but alsobe ableto lose

it.Sometimes youhavetoplaysecond fiddletootherpeoplesoyou havetobeabletoblendinwiththegroup.Youneed a fluidstage presence thatyoucaneithercrankup,to be someone wildand

weirdand eccentric—a character—or you cancrankdown,to get lost in a supportingrole.Partlythroughphysicalsize Douglas

wasn'tabletodothat.Hewasn’tabletolosehisidentity... Hewashuge,andhealways lookedasifhewasabouttoburst intolaughter. Andyoufeltthatwaspartlybecausewhathewas doingwasextremelyfunny,but you alsofeltthat it wasa sortof * BenDuncan inareview inTheTimes Educational Supplement saidthatsheoccupied that“borderline between beauty andoddity wheregreatwomen comics occur, shestepsforthconfidently, acomplete original.”

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cosmiclaughterif you like—thatthe wholethingwas absurd.It

wasn'tthatpurelyironic,parodicapproach toabsurdity. Itwasan affectionate, comicapproach toabsurdity. Douglaswas a talentedactor,but Mary’scommentschimewith othersources.

Hewasnotgoodin ensemblepieces.Histimingwasnotperfect,he wasas

conspicuous asa double-decker bus,andhecouldnotdodeadpan ifyou stoodpoisedoverhimwithred-hotscrotalshears. Hewasjusttooeasily amused—especially, as one slightlyenviousfriendremarked,by his own jokes.A6’5”giantgrinningwildlyinanticipation ofa lineyettobedelivered is distracting forthe otheractorson the stage,andit telegraphswhatis to

cometo thedetriment ofthatnotoriously trickyartofcomictiming. The axiomofthespsisthis:don’tactwithanimals orchildren—to whichmight havebeenadded,norDouglasAdams. But,youmustbe wondering, wasCambridge allfun?Didn'tthe damn studentseverdoanywork?Wheredidhelivewhenhewasn’tinthepubor

onstage? Well, inhisfirstyearhehadaroomincollege (thelessglamorous “new’” bitofSt.John’s). Inhissecond yearhewasindigsinSydney Streetin ahouseforwhichDouglas couldnotmuster anatomofsentiment. Butinhis thirdyearhe sharedpalatialroomsbackin collegewithNickBurtonanda chapcalledJohnnySimpson, handilylocatednearthestudentbar.Thisac-

commodation subsequently became themodelfortheroomsofDr.ChronotisofDrWhoandDirkGently fame.Theywerebook-lined andcomfortable, witha distinctambience oferuditionandnaughtiness, afilmsetinwhichyou couldpractisefeelingverygrown-upindeed—especially ifyouwereasking someoneback for a drink, or even tea, with or without an option on your

body.Perhapsthereisnosuchthingastrueadulthood,onlybetterandbet-

terimpersonations ofit.Onsecond thoughts, thatmayonlyapplytomen. Asforacademic work,Douglasendedupwitha BAdegree,class2.2.His

tutor,Mr.KJ.Pascoe, wrotetoinformhimthathiscompulsory dissertation earnedhima high2.1,hisotheressayswereof2.2standardandthathehad actuallyfailedhistragedypaper.Douglasseemsto havedonejustenough

worktowingit,butnevertheless seemed tohavegotonwellwithhistutors iftheamiable toneoftheircorrespondence isaguide. Withhistruepassion always lyinginnon-fiction science, itisinteresting toseewhathemadeofthetraditional liberalartssyllabus. InDon't Panic hetold NeilGaimanthathewasproudoftheworkhe’ddoneonChristopher Smart,

ST. JOHN’S,SMOKERS,NETWORKS ANDFRIENDS 77

thesubject ofhisPart1Tripos English Dissertation. Having unearthed this

document, I suspectthatDouglas's giftforparodydidn’tstopshortofliterary criticism. Hecoulddo scholarship, buthe wasjollywellgoingto makesure

thatthat’showitsounded. Tryreading thechunkbelowasifyouwereAlan Bennett doinghissteeple-fingered academic (“Very fewpeoplewhoknew Kafka as| did,thatistosay,scarcely atall...”), andyouwillseewhatI mean: It wasonlyafterW.H.Bond'sdiscoveryofitsantiphonalstruc-

turelofSmart's Jubilate Agno] thatitbegantoberecognized assomethingmoreimportant—a fragment ofa failedliteraryexperiment, gigantic, perhaps bizarre, eventually outofcontrol, butnevertheless theproductofa rational andcoherent idea—the transplantation of

the rhythmsand structureof Hebrewpoetryintoan Englishreligiouspoem.

Doesthisremind youofanything? ArthurDentandFordPrefect bullshitting totheVogon captain abouthisexecrable poetryperhaps? “Oh,yes,I thought thatsomeofthemetaphysical imagerywasreallyparticularly effective. ..’* Christopher Smartwasan eighteenth-century poetwhohad alsobeen educatedatCambridge. Fromthestudent'spointofviewhehadtwovirtues:

heonlyproduced twopoemsofsignificance andhewassufficiently obscure fortheretobenobodyofknowledge withwhichone’sopinions couldbe easilychallenged. Hewastheperfectchoiceforthecleverstudentkeeneron thepubthanthelibrary.Thereisa legendthatDouglasonlywrotethreeessaysinhisentiretimeatSt.John’s.Cambridge isgoodataccommodating ec-

centrics as longas theyaretalented, andSt.John’s(whichis richfrom investments andmakes nocallonthepublicpurse) clearly recognized somethingofvalueinDouglas. However, oneessayayearwouldhavetriedthepaIt is difficultto trackdownthe tienceofeventhemostdetachedacademic. isthatDouglas wasdelinquent actualoutput,butthemostlikelyexplanation aboutgettinghisworkin ontimebut hewasforgivenonthegroundsthat whenitfinallyarrived,itsparkled.

Despite simulating thevoiceofscholarship, Douglas wasnevertheless genuinelyintriguedbySmart.MostofSmart'slifehadbeenspentdrunkand debaucheduntil,quitesuddenly, in 1756hesufferedanextremeattackofre* FittheSecond, TheHitchhiker's Guide totheGalaxy.

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ligious ecstasy thatlefthimundera compulsion toprayinthestreets. Thisled tohiseventual confinement inaloonybininBethnal Green. (How muchdid Douglas knowabouthisfather’s experience onIona?) Onleaving theasylum Smartwrotea longpoem,ASong ofDavid, butheisbetterknownforJubilate n

Agno(“Rejoice in theLamb”), an immensemanuscriptofwhichonlya fragmentsurvives, thatwasrediscovered in 1939.Thepoemconsistsofan inter-

minablecallandresponsepattern,likea paralleltextin whichmany hundreds oflinesbeginning withtheword“Let...” arematched byanequal numberthatrelateto thembeginningwiththeword“For...”* Onlythirtytwopagesofthisremain,butforallitsoddnessandtherigourofitsconstruction,it feelspositivelyHomericin length.Fortunately someof it, though

celebrating themystery ofGod,isaboutSmart's cat,Jeoffrey (sic), andit is quitedrolltolearnaboutthisbeast’s fleasinsuchafeverishly spiritual context.Those keentotracetheprovenance oftheanswer (forty-two) mightbe interestedto knowthat linenineteenofJubilate Agnoreads:“Forthereis a mysteryinnumbers.” Douglaswouldhavegrinnedatthisover-egged connection. Nevertheless,

Smartlikedhiscat(“For theEnglish catsarethebestinEurope”) andhisline forty-two—quite bychance theantiphon toanother overexcited observation aboutthemoggy—reads: “Forheisa mixtureofgravityandwaggery.” Thisisan appositecommenton Douglashimself,forthetimewasupon himwhena youngman—albeit onefortifiedby a networkofthebrightest

mates—is flusheddowntheplughole oftheeducational systemintothe worldofpossibilities. Inthesummer of1974, heleftCambridge andsetoutuponthreerather bleakyears.

* Jubilate Agno hasalsobeensettomusic byBenjamin Britten. Religious music canbewonderful, eventheexquisite sounds ofmonks inprickly underwear singing aboutdeath,butthispieceby Britten isanacquired taste.

“Was thisreally theEarth? Was there theslightest possibility thathehadmadesomeextraordinary mistake?” SoLONG, AND THANKS FOR ALL THE FisH

FOUR

“What goodarebrainstoa man?Theyonlyunsettle

him.”

TH

Ss eepnpy

fLarTSs

ca

P.G. WODEHOUSE

TheAdventures ofSally

fterCambridge, sofarfromreaching the“commanding heights” of theeconomy, Douglas embarked uponaneraofseedyflats.The

firstwasin a classiclocationfortransitoryaccommodation. Everycitymust havesucha placewhereno namesareeverput on doorbellsbecausethe turnoverwouldmakethetasktiresome.InLondonitisEarl’sCourt,an area

ofcliff-like red-brick Edwardian terraces known thenasKangaroo Valley becauseofthefavouritfoundwithitinerant Aussies. (TheAussies havemoved ontocolonize thewholecity,buttheextraordinary density offlatsremains.)

DouglasandMartinSmithshareda largeroomina flatin Redcliffe Gardens thatwasownedby twoupmarketandgrimlyconstipatedSloaneywomen

whoneededhelpwiththerentbutwhohatedMartinandDouglas being there(andpossibly alsoMartin andDouglas aspeople). Thesecond wasasprawling butaffordable houseinFordwych Road, Kilburn, or,as it isknownto estateagents,WestHampstead.In additionto Mar-

tin andDouglas,it containeda randycollection ofbrightrecentgraduates,

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includingNigelHess,a Man CalledPhil*a floatingpopulationof bedpartners,andMaryAllen,whowasappearingin TheRocky Horror Showin the

WestEnd. Douglas hadcometoLondon determined tomakeitasa sketch-writer, butsoonfoundthattheworldwasnotpoised waiting forhim.Aseries oftwit officejobshelpedhimcopewiththetyrannyofpayingtherent.According to NeilGaiman’s Don'tPanic, oneofthesewasasafiling clerk.Itishardtoimagineanyonelesssuitedthan Douglasto the choreoffiling.Hewouldhave

beentempted toredesign thewholesystem fromscratch, side-tracked bythe philosophical complexities ofinformation storage andthearbitrary waysin whichweorganizetheworldintodiscretecategories. Puttingbitsofpaper intofilesphysically wasforeigntohisnature.Itmusthavebeena torment.He couldhavefiledeverything under“S”forstuffor“P”forpaper;alternatively

hemighthaveplunged intominutesubdivisions ofsemantic nuanceaccessibleonlytohimself. Whennotrunning thegauntlet ofthosetemporary jobswealltendtodo afterleavinguniversitybut beforesettlingin our packetslikedetergent, Douglaspersistedin writingsketches. OnetargetwasWeek Ending, a weekly radioprogrammeon BBCRadioFour.It wasprobablythe mostsubversive

thingtobefoundontheairwaves, notexcluding TV. TheLight Entertainment department, asitwasthen,hadanadmirable recordofproducing wonderfullyfunnyand anarchicprogrammes. Thetraditioncontinuesto thisday, possiblyin partbecausethe excellentDavidHatch,then a performerand producer, isnowManagingDirectorofBBCNetworkRadio.

Back intheseventies therewasalottobesubversive about.TheYom KippurWarbetween Israel, EgyptandSyriawasthelatestofa seriesofbitter conflicts thatcontinue evennow.Thisparticular oneerupted inOctober 1973

witha surpriseattackonIsraelacrosstheGolanHeightsandSinai.Muchfutileblood-letting ensued,andwasfollowedswiftlybyanenergycrisisasthe

OPEC countries imposed anoilembargo. Asthepricesofjustabouteverythingshotup,theypassedtheeconomies oftheWestgoingtheotherway. Harold Wilson's Labour Government waselected inMarch1974, andwilyold “Wislon,”as he was known to readers of PrivateEye,ducked and dived,

trimmedandfudged,to holdhispartyandthegovernment togetherwhile * Notanescapee fromaWestern, butPhilBuscombe, a musician whohadbeenthedrummer in Footlights andwasthenworking inJesusChrist, Superstar.

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thegraphoftheBritisheconomyplungedlikeShirleyBassey’s cleavage. On

thepopularculturefront,JimmyPageofLedZeppelin appeared at Earl's Courtinsatinflairslargeenoughtohouseafamily ofrefugees, fashion victimsworecork-soled shoesfourincheshigh,digitalwatches hadjustappeared;anda certaingloomprevailed. Recentuniversity graduatesnolonger enjoyedtheheadysensethattheycouldmessaboutandstilllandon their feet.

Witha pacealmosttoofastfortheestablishment powers attheBBC to clock thefullextentofitssatirical rudeness, Week Ending excoriated thetopical follies inthenewswithalltheinhibition ofahandgrenade. Itwasextremely

funny,andboastedterrificwriterslikeDavidRenwick, AndrewMarshalland JohnMason.AndrewMarshallrecallsthe pridethiswildlytalentedbunch hadintheirideas,andhowtheyhadtowinddownattheendofa franticday

bycomparing notesinthelocalpubnearthestudio, TheCaptain's Cabin. The programme'spacemadegreatdemandson the cast.ThisincludedDavid Jason,NigelReesand BillWallace—allof whom went on to become well

knownin otherspheres—so Week Ending wasalsofertilegroundfornewactingtalent.Itsbreathless speedwasafearsomeconsumerofmaterial, afactre-

flected inthewriting credits. Evenenunciated quickly byaprofessional with precise diction, theywentonandon:everyone whocontributed a snappy one-linerwasentitledto a credit.ButDouglas’s namerarelyfeaturedamong them.TheonlypieceacceptedwastheAdams,Smith,AdamsMarilynMon-

roesketch thatthethreeofthemwroteintheirlastyearatCambridge and phoneddowntoJohnLloyd—by thenworking asa producer onWeek Ending—from aSt. John’s phonebox. Theradioproducer,SimonBrett,’whosefaithin Douglaswasto be so strategica coupleofyearslater,saidthatDouglasandWeek Ending wasoneof theworstmarriages betweenwriterandsubjectbecausethelatterwasspecif-

icallybasedonnews,andDouglas's mindjustdidn’tworklikethat.*Ican madea coolblackone.Despite Douglas * They wereexpensive untilClive Sinclair's company digital watches werea pretty neat beingsatirical aboutusape-descendants whostillthought forget therisible C5“car”) madesome idea,hedidlatergettoknow SirClive Sinclair who(let’s prices. sophisticated electronics available forthefirsttimeataffordable T NotonlywasSimon animportant tellyandradioproducer, buthehasalsowritten many enjoyablecrimenovels featuring Charles Paris, aso-soactorbut a brilliant detective. eoQuoted byJamesNaughtie interviewing Douglas onBBC Radio Four’s Book Club, 2January 2000.

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seewhy.Inphotography, inordertocompose theimageandgeteveryone withtheirfeetandheadsintheframe, youoftenhavetotakea steportwo backwards. Douglas’s viewwashugeandodd;organizing a picture,hewould havestarteda lotfurtherbackthanthat.Itwouldbe trickyforhimto take

topical politics seriously enough tofindthemridiculous—for hisperceptions hadalready expanded tothepointwherehefoundman’splaceintheuniverseabsurd. Itwouldhavebeenlikefinding yourwayacrossBirmingham usinga globe.Besides, asa writer,Douglaswasa slow,compulsive polisher. Keeping upwiththeoutputofWeek Ending wouldhavefrazzledhimtoa crisp. Geoffrey Perkins, whoasa talentedyoungproducerwasdestinedtopro-

duceThe Hitchhiker's Guide totheGalaxy, saysthatatthetimeDouglas was“apar-

ticularly strangely shaped pegtrying tofitintoavariety ofround holes”: Hewasoneofmanyhonourableexamplesofpeoplewhowere actuallyverygoodwriterswho couldn'tget theirstuffonto Week

Ending. SomeverygoodwriterslikeAndyHamilton andAlistair Beatoncamethroughit,but thereareothers,likeDouglas,whodid

nothavea greatdealoftopicalorsatirical interestandwhosenaturalstylewasfarfroma pointedpiecethatplayedfora minuteand a half.He didn’thavethat sort of mind.He'dwritefive-minute sketcheswhichmeanderedoffon someamusingtack. However, Douglasdidgeta break.Chox, theFootlights revue,hadtransferred, heavilyrevised,to London’s WestEnd.DennisMainWilson,a seniorproducerfromtheBBC, wassenttolookatit,andasa resulttheshowwastelevised.Douglaswaspaid£100forTVrightstohiscontributions, a sumnotto

besneered atin1974; itmightbea fifteenth ofa younggraduate’s annual wage. TheTVversion wasnotagreatsuccess. ButtheBBC's David Hatchand SimonBretthad also seen the live show,and quicklycommissioneda radio

versionofitwhichfaredmuchbetter.“Itwasa gooddealcrisper,” JohnLloyd

recalls, “andverywellreceived—and thisdespite beingcalled Every Packet Carriesa Government Health Warning. Ithadnothing todowithChox except forthe factthatJonCanterandGriff[Rhys Jones], whowerestillupatuniversity, wereboth in it.” Anumberofthe Footlights aristocracy froma previousagewentto see Choxin itsWestEndincarnation, amongthemGrahamChapmanfromthe

Monty Python team.Graham wasenormously takenwithDouglas’s work,and

THESEEDYFLATS’ 83

invitedhimoverto hisplacein Highgate, NorthLondon,fora drink.One sketch,by Adams,Smith,Adams,about the Annual Meetingof the Crawley

Paranoid Society, wasonewhichGraham always saidhewouldhavelikedto havewrittenhimself. Douglas andGraham bothenjoyed asenseofthesurreal,anddespiteChapman beingoutrageously camp;andDouglas being joyouslyheterosexual, theygot on welland decidedto enteran informal writingpartnership. In 1974, Monty Python wasat a crossroads. Ithadentrancedthepublicfor

halfadecade, butthelastandfourthseriesofonlysixhalf-hours, broadcast from31October 1974, wasa bitpatchy. Thelinksbetween thesketches—in the pastso oftenwittyor deliberately underminingoftellyconventions— weregettingperfunctory, and the sketchesthemselvessometimestrailed awaywithoutanyattemptata conclusion. Notevenanotherviolentlyfunny

giantfootorweirdvisualpunfromTerry Gilliam couldquitecometotherescue.ThePythons hadchanged TVforever, buttheformat, oncesoliberating, wasbecoming restrictive. Theindividual teammembers werelooking to branchoutontheirown,andasa teamtheyyearnedto makemoremovies

(anddid).

GrahamChapmanhadtrainedto be a doctor’beforebeingledastrayat

Cambridge byFootlights. At63”,hewasn’t astallasJohnCleese orDouglas Adams, buthetowered overtheotherPythons, witha persona thatcame© acrossas a decentEnglishman at bay—really awfully reasonable, but indignantandbewilderedthattheworldcouldbe so strangeandcruel.Heand JohnCleeseshareda strongsenseoftheridiculous. Grahamwastheepony-

mousantihero inThe Life ofBrian (1978), athoughtful filminapolemical kind ofwaythatisalsoachingly funny. Hediedfartooyoung(atabouttheage whenDouglas himself wastodie)ofcancer ofthespine,butatthetimehe wasanestablished aristocratofcomedy. Monty Python's Flying Circus hadrecaptured a generationofviewersforthe BBC;it had achievedinternationalfame, * JohnLloyd recalls going toGraham’s houseandbeingaskedifhefancied asnog.Hedeclined. JohnrecountsthatGraham, whenverydrunk,onceemphasized someconversational pointby brandishing hiswillyonthebar.

t Graham wasalways ratherguilty aboutgiving upmedicine. Heandhispartner hadinformally adopted—in thesensethattheylooked afterhisinterests—a young Greek Cypriot boy.Graham hadalaboratory inthebasement ofhishousewherehetriedtoeducate theboyaboutmedicine. | believe theladgrewuptobeatheatrical impresario.

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wonseveral awards (including theSilver RoseofMontreux foracompilation programme), andtransformed theBeeb’s imageofslightly censorious aunty tosomethingmorelikeaninventiveharlot,thesortthatbeckonsfromdoorwaysand asksif you'dliketo try somethingunusual.It wouldnot be a grosslydaftexaggeration to saythat at the timeGrahamcouldhavedone

whatever hewanted. Another Python, Terry Jones, hadseenDouglas inrevueandhetooparticularly remembers theCrawley sketch thathadsostruck Graham. Atfirsthe

hadbeenimpressedmoreby Douglas'ssizethanhiscomedy,but he soon recognized an authentictalent.HerecallsthatDouglas, asGraham'scollabo-

rator,attended somePython scriptmeetings: HestartedworkingwithGraham,becauseGrahamhadstopped writingwithJohnat that stage.Andso Douglasstartedcomingto scriptmeetingsforthe fourthseries...Douglaswasfullofideas—I

remember hehadlotsofideas—and waskeentogetwriting. We justgotonverywell.Wehadthesamesortofmindset; weenjoyed chatting andhavingdrinks. Wewerebothinterested inrealale,so becamealechums,ifyoulike.And,ofcourse,he appearedin that fourth seriesas well,in a couple of cameos*

Sotheportents lookedgoodforDouglas, finding himself conjoined witha staratonlytwenty-two. Unfortunately, thecollaboration withGraham Chapmanproducedlittle,andevenlesswasactuallyscreened. Grahamwasnotan easypersonto workwith.TerryJonessaysthathis contributions wereintangible; he wasa manwhocouldcomein withvery oddideaswhichweregreatfun,butfora lotofthetimehewasan “offthe wallreactor.” Ofcourse,feedback—even ofthe vehement“Goodgrief,that

sucks” variety—is invaluable foranywriter, especially onetryingtobefunny.

It isa goodserviceto refinesomebodyelse’sideasbypushingthemto the breakingpoint.Douglas saidthatGrahamwouldsitthere,puffingonhispipe

* Oncehewasasurgeon andonceoneofthosesqueaky-voiced androgynous women thatthe Pythons called Pepperpot Ladies. LaterDouglas’s American publishers—desperate foracredentialthatwould meansomething tothestudent market—described himasoneofthePython teamtotheembarrassment ofall.

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andlooking tweedy, butthinking very,verynaughty thoughts—occasionally interjecting onethatwouldturneverything around* ButGraham wasalso boozing veryheavily, andthatmadelifemuchmoredifficult forallthose aroundhim. Terry,whois one ofnature’sgenerousspirits,is not surethat Graham hadn’'tstoppeddrinkingbythen.“Certainly he sortoftriedto stopdrinking

whenweweredoingHoly Grail, andwasfirmlyonthewagonwellbefore we madeThe Life OfBrian.” Everybody else,however, saysthatduringthisperiod Graham wasstruggling withpotentially severe alcoholism. Andrew Marshall recallsGrahamasa manofgreatsensitivity, andthismayin partbewhyhe drank.Sometimes alcoholservesa functionlikethecontrolrodsina nuclear

reactor; theydampeverything downandkeepthesystem fromgoingcritical. Graham hadaparticular tasteforgin;hislargehouseinHighgate featured a cavernous cellarlinedononesidewithanenormous winerack—except that insteadofwineitheldbottlesofginwithstrategicreservesoftonic.Itwasa wallofgin. Thecollaboration betweenDouglasandGrahamentaileda greatdealof

goingtothepub,amusing eachotheranddrinking alot.Someoftheircolleagues attheBBC werea bitmiffed aboutthis,anditwasnota lifethat Douglascouldaffordto sustainforlong,ifonlyfinancially. Besides, Douglas wasnota heavyboozer. MartinSmithremembersthat Grahamwas very generous.Sundays

(ratherlikeThursdays whichDouglas nevergotthehangof)weredullin London inthe1970s. Thedankshadow oftheLord's DayObservance Society stilllayacross theland.“Sixdaysshaltthoulabour, andontheseventh thou shalthaveno funat all”wastheeffectit wrought.Nothingmuchwasopen apartfromthe pubs,andthelicensinglawsgaveyoua narrowwindow,as

theysaynow,fordrinking andattenminutes beforeclosing timeyouwere chivvied tostopbyapublican withavoicelikeaKGB interrogator. Graham, knowing thatDouglas andMartin werebroke,wouldoftenphonethemon Sundayandaskiftheyfancieddinner.Theyalwaysdid,andwouldeithergo up to Highgateto Graham’s houseor outto a restaurantwheretheywould

eatanddrinktoomuch.Graham likedHelepi, a jollyGreekrestaurant in Bayswater, a lot. * SeeMonty Python Speaks byDavid Morgan (Fourth Estate, 1999)—a mustfortheserious Python buff.

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GrahamChapmanwasn'ttheironlyPythoncontact.Martinrecallshow EricIdlealsotriedto helpthemontothescreen:

Sometime in1975, whenDouglas andIwerelivinginFordwych Road,EricIdlesuggested thathewouldbeabletogetusintoRutlandWeekend TV(whichwasaboutto go intoproduction) as extras... Sadly,thiswasthetimewhenEquity[theactors’union]was run byCorinRedgraveandtherewerestrictrulesofentryintothe profession. Youalmosthad morechanceofgettingan equitycard

bycontributing tothefreedom fighters ofMozambique thanyou didbyflashinga BBCcontract. Butfora leftistthespianregime, Douglas mighthavemadeitasaperformer, afterall! OneofDouglasandGraham'scollaborations wasan SFcomedyintendedto beanAmerican TVspecialandavehicleforRingoStarr,thoughitnevercrept

asfarasthepilotstage. ItisapityasRingo thespace-going chauffeur sounds aniftyidea.Aprogramme thatdidappear—if thatisnottoopositive aword foran unannouncedlate-nightscreening on BBC2—was a miscellany called OutoftheTrees. Oneveryfunnysketch,whichDouglas wrotewithGrahamand BernardMackenna, startedoffwitha romanticman(SimonJones)pickinga

peonyforhisgirlfriend andadvanced, inexorably, tothermonuclear war.Another,thatbecamequitefamous,focusedon the domesticlifeof Genghis

Khan. Genghis hasbeensosuccessful thatbitbybithehasbeentransformed intoa harassedbusinessexecutive jugglinghisdiaryto seeifthereisa windowforhisfinancialadvisor.Allthatpillaging, sweepingacrossthesteppes

withgolden hordesandwhatnot, wasjusttoofatiguing. Onehasone’speopleforthatkindofthing.Itappeared againina slightly different formina Comic Relief anthology, andyearslatertheideawasrecycled andexpanded in a shortstoryin TheSalmon ofDoubt. NeilGaimanquotesDouglasassaying thatitwasinspiredbyGraham’s mutteringsabouttheothermembersofthe Pythonteam*

Asketch thatdidgetmade(theproducer wasBernard Thompson) showed thatexhilarating zoom-lens lurchfromthecosmic tothelocalthatwasone ofDouglas's favouritetropes.Itstartedlikethis: * Don't Panic byNeilGaiman (Titan Books, revised edition 2002).

THESEEDYFLATS 87

STOCKFILMOFGALAXIES ETC.FOLLOWED BYPLANETS FOLLOWED BYTHEEARTH Voice Over

Theuniverse, amultitude ofmightygalaxies, withineachgalaxy a myriadmightystarsystems,withineachstarsystema multiplicityofmightyplanets—and in justoneofthesemightyplanetsthe

mightyBritish Railelectric train...

Ofcourse, thePythons’ smashing (andperversely cheering) Galaxy songdoes

showthattheytoohadasense oftheridiculously oppressive scaleoftheuniverse,sothatvertiginous dropfromthecosmicto theparticularwasjustas Pythonesque asAdamsy. Aftergraduation, twoAdams,Smith,Adamsrevueswereproduced. SoYou

Think You Feel Haddocky wasstagedwithGailRenard, theCanadian comedy writerandperformer, intheLittle Theatre (now, alas,Stringfellows) inSt.Martin’sLaneinLondon’s WestEndintheautumnof1975. Cerberus wasputona yearearlierat the ADCin Cambridge. Thetitle couldhavebeena self-

deprecating reference to theshowbeinga doglooking in alldirections at once,butinfactitwasbecause Douglas, WillandMartin werephotographed ina clumpwiththeirthreeheads, likesomeghastly recombinant DNA exper-

iment,projecting fromanimprobable tangleofbody.Theprofitswerealmost imperceptible, andDouglasstillhadto payhisshareoftherent.

Another Adams, Smith, Adams sketchboughtbytheMonty Python team wastheinfamous oneaboutDeadMarilyn Monroe thathadenjoyed a brief outingforWeek Ending. TheMarilyn cultwasgoingstrongat thetime(and hasn'tabated) andthewriters thought itwastimethattherelentless recycling

wasgivena badtasteSwiftian spin.Thebasicideawasto getherin everything.A directorwantedherin hisnextmovieevenifit meantdiggingher

up.Cremation wasa problem here,ofcourse. Martinrecalls thattheyeach got£25fortherights. Itwassatisfying tobeappreciated, buthardlylucrative. Douglas alsoworked withGraham Chapman onanepisode oftheestablishedTVcomedyseriesbasedontheDoctor booksbyRichardandMaryGordon.Thenovelsusedto sellin considerable volumeandtherewasquitea reservoirof affectionforthem.Therewerefifteen—Doctor intheHouse, Doctor in

Clover, Doctor intheNude...—on whicha seriesofengaging British comedy filmshadbeenbasedwithDirkBogarde starring asaningénumedico. These

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werefun,thoughbymodernstandards quiteold-fashioned, andcharmingly innocent: having a flutteronthehorsesandsliding offtoplaygolfwereconsidered deeply wicked. GrahamandDouglasmappedouttheDoctor narrativeinsomedetail,devisingthe cliffhangers, playingwiththe deadlyhospitalrivalries, inventing the cringe-making surprisesand workingout howmanysetswouldbe

useofthe thederogatory buffs(wherefore needed.Forcausalantecedent word“anorak”?—it isaperfectly usefulgarment), theelaborate clockwork of the plotfeaturesa bookie’srunnerwho has to pretendto be a medical studentin frontof a particularlyfrighteningSeniorConsultant—a James RobertsonJusticefiguregreatlyresemblingDouglas'sfather.Unluckily the

Thescriptstatesthattheanquestion. runnerisaskeda medical bookmaker's swerisa numberwhichtherealstudenthastocommunicate frombehind theConsultant's backusingtic-tac(thehandsignals thatbookmakers useto conveyoddsacross a racetrack).Historydoesnotrecordifthenumberwas forty-two.

WhenJohnLloydhad comedownfromCambridge, he had been especially theuniversities, whichscouted upbytheBBC snapped promptly Oxbridge, forgraduate trainees. Nobody isasengaging asJohnLloyd when

he’stryingto exercisecharm.JohnHardress-Lloyd hailsfroma rathergrand Anglo-Irish family, thoughhesaysthathisbranchwasthepoorone.Hewent

toKings School, Canterbury, dropping thehyphenated bitfromhisname— aswasfashionable atthetime. John’s careertookofflikeanICBM. (After hisglittering startinradio,he wentontobecomethemostsignificant TVcomedyproducerofhisgenerationwithSpitting Image, NottheNineO'Clock NewsandBlackadder to hiscredit.) SoonhewasproducingWeek Ending, andwasinvolvedwitha hostofother

radioprogrammes, becoming frantically busy.AfriendofJohnsaysthatat the time,whenevertwoor moreof his contemporaries weregatheredtogether,theytendedto practisea nicelinein Lloydieparodies.Theywent alongtheselines:“I'mso,sojealousthatyouhavetimeto offermea beer.If onlyI could.Suchanenviablequalityoflife—amomentto oneselfto think.

OhGod.Ihaveatleast ahundredprogrammes toproduce, andthreeattractivewomen tojuggle. Shit.Isthatthetime?” Somehow Johnwasalsoableto directthe1975 Footlights revueParadise Mislaid. JohnandDouglashadbeenfairlyclosepalsin Cambridge, but onceestablishedbackin the big city,theybecamewhatJohncalls“utterlybest

THESEEDYFLATS’ 89

friends.” Indeed, Douglas hadanumber ofextraordinarily closefriendships in whichheofteninvested morethantheycouldbear.JaneBelson reckons this wasa recurringpatternin hislife:intensefriendships that sometimesdied awayor endedin hurtfulschism.HisfriendshipwithJohnwaslikeoneof

thosedeepbestfriendrelationships thatonehasatschool, founded notjust onpersonal sympathy butasanalliance against theworld,andthusina senseitdepended ontheworldtreating thembothequally. Itwasalsomade morecomplexby a needlingbone-deepcompetitiveness, the suppressed premiseof theirfriendship,and the mirrorimageof theirgreatpersonal

warmth, Thetension ofthingsleftunsaidwastoerupteighteen months later overthewriting ofthefirstHitchhiker's novel. Douglas andJohnusedtohangouttogether, particularly inTootsie’s, a hamburgerjointin NottingHillGate,witnessto numerouslongconversationsaboutjustabouteverything. Eventually too,DouglasmovedfromKilburn,andsharedwithJohna ratherpokeyflatownedbyBernardMackenna,

theactorandwriter(whose namehealmostappropriated inSoLong, And Thanks forAlltheFish), notfarawayinGreencroft Gardens—a location which inRealEstate Speakalsopurports, justabout,tobeinWestHampstead. This

wasthefirstoftheirvarioussharedlodgings; Douglaswouldoftensquatin John’stinyofficeat theBBC,andJohnwouldsometimes goup to Highgate

todrinkwithDouglas andGraham Chapman inthepub.Thesemarathon drinking sessions tendedtobeginthesameway,withthethreeofthemdoing thecrossword ineverynational paperwithinhalfanhour.Thiscouldhave beenjustfun,akindofintellectual limbering up,ora moreself-conscious advertisement ofcleverness. Sharinga flatwiththe awesomely successful JohnLloydmusthavein-

ducedmoments oftristesse, especially whenDouglas wastryingtowriteand thefickle muserefused eventoflirt.Consider thisusefuldefinition fromThe Deeper Meaning ofLiff:

Boinka(n) Thenoise through thewallwhich tellsyouthatthepeople nextdoor enjoy abettersexlifethanyoudo. MaryAllendescribesanepisode,inCorfu,ofwhatshecallsanall-timeterribleholiday.DouglasandJohnplannedtogooutthereandwrite,allontheir ownwithnofriends,visitorsorotheraccretions. Nothingwoulddistractthem

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fromthe Zenpurityofthe beachandthe disciplineofthe typewriterBut somehow, thiswasnotto be.Therentedvillafilledupwithmates.Douglas,

fargoneinlove,madeelaborate plansfora female friendtocomeandjoin them—and, without consulting her,tosleepwithhim.Thetrouble was,heset aboutitwiththesubtletyofa brick.Therewasmuchanticipatory jugglingof thebedrooms. Intime,blokesattainsufficient sophistication (pleaseGod)to knowthat

women hatebeingtakenforgranted, butattwenty-three youareblinded by hormones.Youarequitesurethatifyoudon’thavesexsoon,youwilldie. What'smore,manywomen—though theywantchapstocareandtryhard— findit unappealingifmencomeacrossasdesperate. Theiranxietyputstoo muchfreightona relationship toosoon.Thewomaninquestion,whobyall accountswassensitiveandquitelovely,endedupgettingoffnotwithDoug-

las,butwithJohnLloyd. LatersheandDouglas didgettogether, butitended unhappily. Thereafter Douglas wasneverentirely onanevenkeelonthesubjectofJohnLloydandwomen. In 1976, thecollaboration withGrahamChapmanwasdrawingto a close aftereighteenmonths.HeandDouglashadenjoyedthemselves, anddrunk

prodigious quantities ofalcohol, buttheirpartnership hadproduced littleof a concrete nature.Theirrelationship becamestrained whenDouglas was draftedin to helpwithGraham's autobiography, called,withdisarming frankness, ALiar’s Autobiography (1980). ThereisnoevidencethatDouglas's rdle wasasbigor asformalasthatofa ghostwriter—indeed therewereseveral co-writerson thisbook,so Douglas'sinvolvementseemsto havebeen small.

However, asanypublisher canconfirm, therelationship between biographicalsubject andghostwriter isoftenhorribly vexed. Ifthereisonethingover whichpeopleareentitledto feelproprietorial, it’stheirownlife,andthey hatedescribing itinsomebodyelse’swords.Theghostwantsthebooktobe a goodbook,butthesubjectwantsto presenta goodlife,howeverthatmay

beconstrued. Thetwoambitions arenotalways compatible. Absurdly, bothGraham andDouglas arenowdead,sowemaynever knowwhytheircooperation wasnotmorefruitful.DorothyParkersaidthat theworldisstackedagainstcomicwritersbecausetherestofus—notexcludingthosewhowouldratherbe dippedin sumpoilthanriskliteraryjudge-

ment—exercise therighttosay“that’s notfunny.” Bythetimea writerhas looked atajokesixteen times, rotated itthrough ninetydegrees, changed the context twiceandtweaked thepunchline, itisgenuinely difficult totellifitis

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funny.Therearemanyreasons whysomuchcomedy iswrittenbyteams (company, personalchemistry, complementary skills,livedialogue prac-

tice...),butcertainlyoneofthemishavingsomebodyaroundtoconfirmthat thegagactuallyworks.HowevermuchDouglasandGrahammusthavefelt

theyneeded eachother, withtheclarity ofretrospect twosuchdistinct talents wereneverlikelytobecompatible. Laterthatyear,Douglas wasinvited backtoCambridge todirecttheannualFootlights revue,AKick intheStalls. ButFootlights hadchanged,starting withthe saleofthe clubroomforredevelopment as a shoppingcentre.Insteadofa queueofthebrainiestyoungextroverts, poisedononefoot,breath

held,yearning tostruttheirstuffuponthestage,therewasafeeling abroad thatperhaps theclubwas a bitupitself, tousethatusefulidiom, andnotentirelythethingto dointhegrimmid-seventies. Douglas hadtobeatthe busheslookingfortalent.Theshowitselfhad a generallymixedreception* untilitwasoverhauled byGriffRhysJones,whotookittotheEdinburgh Fes-

tivalandmadeitwork.JohnLloyd remembers itasoverly complicated and thinksitwasamistake togetDouglas todirect. “Hedidn’thavea singledirectororproducer geneinhiswholegigantic genome. Griff, ontheother hand, is a born director.”

JohnandDouglasalsoworkedonanotheridea,Sno7andtheWhite Dwarves. (Awhitedwarfisanastronomical termfora smallishstarwitha highsurface

temperature butlowintrinsic brightness.) Asuperior intelligence wasplanningtousesupernovae foradvertising purposes, andmankind wasdoomed because oursunwasdestined tobethefullstopundertheexclamation mark

oftheslogan.JohnLloydwastoldbytheBBCthatSFwas“veryfifties” (this wastheyearbeforeStarWars) andthattherewasno marketforit.It sounds

asifitwouldhavebeen a blast. LaterthatyearDouglas hadanotherrebuffwhenheandJohnprepared a filmtreatment basedonTheGuinness Book ofRecords. MarkForstater had

acquiredthe rights,and Johnand Douglasinventeda raceof maniacally competitive aliens(‘notunlikethe Vogons,” Johnpointsout)whothreaten to destroythe Earthunlesshumanitycouldbeatthemin a kindof inter-

galactic Olympics. Thealiens wereunassailable atanything thatneeded a talentforviolence, butwerenotsohotatwalking backwards andeatingpickled eggs.JohnandDouglas werepromised atriptotheWestIndiestomeetthe * “Mixed” isshowbiz code forsnotty.

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mightyRobertStigwood, he ofthe eponymousorganization, to discussthis further,butatthelastmomentit allfellthrough.

Douglas andJohnthenmovedagain, thistimetoRoehampton, anaffluentbutsomewhat inaccessible WestLondon suburbfamous foritsestateof LeCorbusier-style blocksofflatsthatwinprizesbut arehorribleto livein. John,histhengirlfriend, HelenRhysJones,andDouglasmovedintoa house fullofdoiliesandchinaknick-knacks (theywerethelandlord’s andtheyhad a highmortalityrate).Aftera whiletheywerejoinedbya neuroticAmerican

whowaspronetoattackthegardenvegetation onthegrounds thatitwas untidy. Likethebear,Horace, inthekiddies’ story, everydayLloydie wouldgoout hunting—orratherto the BBC—and Douglaswouldmoonaboutin his

room,whichwasfullofwardrobes;and sleep.AndrewMarshallrecallsDavid

Renwick telling himthatDouglas actually slepta hellofalot,and,thoughwe shouldbewaryofglibjudgements, thiscansignify a kindofchemical depression. Healsotookmanybaths,partlyforpleasure andcomfort. Thebaths helpedhimtothink,anditwassomething to do.Johnreportsthatoccasionallyhe wouldcomehomeaftera dayforgingandcleavingat the BBCand

findDouglas exactly ashehadlefthimthatmorning—in bedortakinganotherbath.Hemusthaveenteredthebathlikea plum,and emergedas a

prune—a verycleanprune. Douglascan'thavebeena tremendously jollyflatmateforJohnLloyd. Writingis a solitarycraft,andwritersareself-absorbed evenat thebestof times(justoneofthe manypersonalitydisordersto whichtheyareprone,

alas). Authors whoknowtheyhavetalent, butwhoarefailing, areentitled to feeldark.OnceJohn—out ofexasperation andnotcruelty—suggested to Douglasoneeveningthathereallyoughttogoout.Johnwashavingfriends round,andDouglaswassomiserablethathewouldhavecastan effluvium ofgloomovertheproceedings.

PooroldDouglas musthavebeenina state.Hisself-esteem wasalways asfragile asasoapbubble. Topayhiswayhetook aseriesofsillyjobs,subsequently immortalized by anecdote. Hisfavourite fromthisperiodwas whenhe wassingle-handedly holdingbackthe drilledhordesofterrorists, creditors,disgruntledbookmakersand generalne’er-do-wells froman in* There weresevenwardrobes, according tolegend. ItmusthavefeltlikethesetofoneofBeckett’sabsurdist dramas.

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conceivably wealthyArabfamily(notthatasinglemiscreant turnedup).After answeringan ad in theLondon Evening Standard, he hadbeentakenon as a

bodyguard toasheikh. Hemusthavebeenemployed onthegrounds ofsize alone;manyprofessional guardsarewiry,quickandneat.Douglas would havebeenappalled byviolence andwouldnothavebeenmuchcopatdishingit out,but,intermsofpayperunitvolumeofguard,theclientsgottheir money’sworth.Douglashadto sitfortwelvehoursat a timeinthecorridor oftheDorchester Hotel,justincase.According tomyth,hisemployer hadan

income of£20,000,000 perday,a figurethatseemsimprobable evenbythe standardsofoil-richsheikhs.Evendividedbyten,however, thiswouldstill nothavebeenafamilyontheedgeoftheabyss.Douglas usedtotellthestory of themgoingto the diningroomand orderingfromthe stunnedwaiter everything onthemenu—the wholelota lacarte—so asto ascertainifthere

wasanything thatpiqued theirjadedfancy. Itwasathousand pounds’ worth. Nothing reallydiditforthem,andtheylatersentoutforhamburgers. Another pleasure available ona personal delivery basisalsoappeared

whileDouglaswaskeepinghisvigilinthehotelcorridor. Oneeveningthere steppedout fromthe lift a truly spiffingprostitute—a top-of-the-range

modelofsuchsexiness thatstrongmenhadtobitetheirknuckles tostop themselves whimpering. Douglas looked upfromhisbook,andbetween the twoofthemacomplicit lookwasexchanged, onethatacknowledged thefundamentalsimilarity oftheirposition.“Itseemedto saywe'rebothtarts,”said Douglas,“andshewasn’twrong.”Whensheleftan hourlater,shelooked downatDouglassittingathispostandsaidina pleasantly modulatedvoice:

“Atleastyoucanreadwhileyou'reonthejob...” Despite hislowmorale, hedidgetittogether togowithsomefriends to thatyear’sEdinburgh Festival FringeinAugustwithashowcalledTheUnpleasantness atBrodie's Close—a wryallusiontoDorothyL.Sayers’s TheUnpleasantness attheBellona Club. Brodie’s Closeistheactuallocationofthevenuein Edin-

burgh;it’saMasonic hall.JohnLloyd recalls thatthelighting wasaswitch on thewall.(Ifyouareunfamiliar withtheEdinburgh Festival, it’sworthgoing at leastoncefora manictouroftheculture.TheFestival wasrelatively sane inthe 1970s, butit hasgotbiggerandbiggereversince.Oncea yearit takes overthat highlyrespectablealbeittourist-wracked city.Therangecovers

everything fromWittgenstein’s doorknobs toinstallation art.) Theshowwas a seriesofsketches writtenbyDavidRenwick, Andrew Marshall, JohnLloyd, JohnMasonandDouglas. JohnMason, whooscillated

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between sketch-writing andthehigh-level teaching ofmathematics, hadorganized thevenueandkindly (recklessly?) underwritten thecostofhire.Typically, Douglas’s contribution wasthelasttoarrive, andtherewassomedoubt

thathewouldmakeit at all,forguardingthesheikhpaid£100perweek— evenwithoutoccasional colossaltips,thatwasseriousmoneyifyouwere

broke. Whattiedtheshowtogether, moreorless,wastherunning gagofacoupleina railway station(akintoBrief Encounter) urgently tryingtomovetheir

relationship forward,butbeingforeverinterrupted. Thecouple'sfrustrations anticipatedthe touchingscenein SoLong,andThanks forAlltheFishwhen ArthurDentishopelessly tryingto conveyhislovetoFenchurch intheteeth

ofa relentlessly attentive lotteryticketseller. Likeeverywriter, Douglas was wonttorecycle goodideas.Doesthisdetract fromhiscreativity? Nota bit.It isworthprintingthisinboldanditalics:execution is all. Therevuestarredthe “Brodie’s CloseRollers” (theegregiousBayCity Rollersweredominatingthe pop chartsat the time).TheBrodie’sClose

Rollers wereDouglas, JohnLloyd, JohnMason, Becky Fanner andGeoffrey Farrington (bothperformers ratherthanwriters), andDavidRenwick. Andrew

Marshall hadbeenobliged toscuttle backhometoateaching jobbeforehe

couldgetonstage.DouglasclaimedhimasthemodelforMarvin,thePara-

noid Android*though Marvin,for reasons too involuted to be described here,was alsothe nicknameof MartinSmith.Fromthe literarypoint ofview

Marvinwascloserto Eeyore inWinnie thePooh. Douglas confessed thathe foundthismelancholy animal inspirational. Years later,whenhereadWinnie thePoohtohisdaughter, Polly,hewasstruckagainbyhowverysimilarMarvin andEeyorewerein tone.Andrewis nowa successful TVwriter.David Renwick wentontobecomeoneofthecountry’s topscreenwriterswiththe

likesofJonathan Creek andthecreation ofOne Foot intheGrave. Lloydie himself is noslouch, especially atcrispone-liners. Itwasaformidably talented team. Theyevenproduced a promotional T-shirt. Twoin fact.Oneborethe

enigmaticcommercial message: “IhavebeenUnpleasant at Brodie’s Close.” Theotheronecarriedthesurreallegend:“SohaveI...”Theplanwastowalk * Andrew hasaffectionate memories ofDouglas, butatthetime feltthatbeing identified with Marvinwas alittleover-personal. Wearecomplex creatures, notcartoony caricatures, and—though heknewDouglas wasentirelywithoutmalice—Andrew wasjusta bitcheesedofftobecarrying thissandwichboardadvertising hisidentity aroundthemediaworld.

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aroundEdinburgh sidebyside.Theymusthaveattracted someattention eitherwalking information, orsingly. DavidRenwick, whohad firstmetDouglasin the writers’roomat the BBC's AeolianHallinNewBondStreet,recalls:

TherewasalsoanoddsketchofDouglas’s abouta cerealmanufacturer whoputdeadjellyfish incerealpackets asagiveaway, and wassurprisedwhenit didn’thelpsellmorecornflakes. Thestage wasso smallthat we had to hidebehindthe two curtainsat the sidesoftherostrumin orderto change.I rememberDouglas'slarge

bottomprotruding frombehindthecurtainwhenhehadtodress upasLongJohnSilver... Douglas andI hadtosharea room,too. HewasreadingDombey andSon[Dickens wasoneofhisfavourite writers],andhe usedto talkinhissleepsometimes. It’sa pityI cannotrememberwhathe said.

JohnLloyd remembers thosecurtains behindwhichtheyhadtochange. “Just ordinary window curtains,” hesays,“designed topreventpeopleoncherry pickerslookingin on secretMasonicrituals.” Headds:“Douglas gotterribly upsetonenightinabarbecausehejustwasn’tgettinganylaughs.Everytime

hespoke, theaudience fellrespectfully mute.AtthetimeDouglas wassportinga huge,black,piraticalbeard,andaftera fewlagersweworkedoutthat

thiswastheproblem. Enormous manwithveryloudvoiceintinycramped hallpreceded bytenebrous efflorescence offollicles... Hewassimply terrifyingtheaudienceintosilence. Thatnightheshavedofftheoffending item,and afterthat everythingwasfine.”Andrewsaysthat Douglas’s almostuncon-

tainable joyinperforming wasquiteinfectious, andthatmadehisoccasional lapsesinstagecraft forgivable. Brodie’s Close wasahugesuccess. ItfilledtheMasonic halleverynightand the run wasextendedforanothertwodaysby populardemand.Unfortunately,thehallcouldonlyholdseventy-five people,thoughtheysqueezedin ninety,sotherevuemadenomoney—not thatthat’sthereasonwhypeople

takeshowstotheEdinburgh Fringe. Theyhopenottolosetoomuch,enjoy themselves and,perhaps, togarnerenough smartattention totaketheirshow ontoamorecommercial incarnation. TheBrodie’s Close Rollers succeeded in twoof theseambitions:theyhad enormousfun and did nothingto their bankbalances.

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MaryAllenrecallsDouglasaslistlessandbrokeatthistime.Shefeltsorry

forhim,butsheneverwenttobedwithhim.(“We oncecameveryclosein Cambridge,” sheremembers, “buttalkedaboutMacbeth allnightinstead.”) Douglas wasindeedbrokebythistime,andhisoverdraft wasgrowing with thekindofinexorability thatonehopesistoogradual forthebankmanager

to notice. AndrewMarshallpossessesan acuteif slightlylugubrioussenseofhumour.Heand Douglasgoton verywell.Andrewremembersgoingallthe

wayouttoRoehampton ononeoccasion andfinding Douglas inpoorspirits.HesatupallnightwithhimwhileDouglas cheered upandtheytalked aboutIdeas.Douglasenjoyedideas;he likedto sneakup on them,likea mugger,fromunexpecteddirections. Buthe hadlittlesmalltalk,something thatwasbothendearingandrude,forsometimes thesmallchangeofhuman

discourse isasimportant asthebigstuff.Andrew thinksthatwhatcame across asrudeness wassometimes fear.ForallDouglas’s Cambridge dazzle, he couldfindconfident, cleverpeoplea bitdaunting. Andrew recalls thatthey talkedhugelyuntilthe sun cameup.Theyhad bothrecentlyreadRobert Sheckley’s classicofstoned,wittySF,Dimension ofMiracles, andtheywereex-

hilarated byit. Douglas's writing career, despite Brodie’s Close, wasstillwretched. Theopportunity ofworking withoneofhisheroes fromMonty Python haddissipated ina cloudofgin.Thescript-writing wasgoingnowhere,thesketches wereinconsequential, hislovelifewasnon-existent, hewasbroke.What'smore,he

sharedaflatwithagolden boywhoselifeonthesunlitpastures wasamockingreminder ofhisownlackofachievement. Despite knowing hehadtalent, hefeltprettywashed up. Thatsummer, 1976, hadbeenthesecondoftheworstdroughtinliving memory—the upperreachesoftheThamesdriedup completely, andthere wasevenan unfortunateMinisterofDrought.Thecountryside wasparched

brownandgasping foradrinkofwater. Finally, asautumncreptintowinter, itstartedraining again—and moreorlessdidnotstopforayear.ForDouglasitwasthepathetic fallacy writlarge. Hisspirits hadbeenfalling monthby month;he was later to describethat year as the worstof his life.

In 1991,lookingbackat his miserywiththe perspectiveof one who knowshemovedon,hegaveaninterviewto DannyDanziger oftheIndependent:

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I totallylostconfidencein myabilityto write,or to perform,or to do anythingat all...and wentintoa catatonicspiralofdepres-

sion.I suppose because ofmybackground, havinggrownupasthe childofdivorced parents, a typicalsortofshuttlecock kid,whenI get depressedI tendto feelsuperfluous,that the worldis actually better off without me, and that the world is not interested in my

welfareat anylevel.WhenI wasin thisstateofdepression,I kept

tryingtofindactivities thatwouldstopmybraingoingroundand roundand round.Oneday I decidedto learnGerman,and went

andgotmyselfa pileofTeachYourself German books,andspent every singlewakinghour poringover those books.And by a strangecoincidence, attheendofthemonthI happenedto wander intothegarden,andtherewasa womanlookingforsomeonewho usedto be in theflat,andshewasa German.SoI satandtalkedin

German withheranddiscovered thatI haddoneincredibly well. Butsincethen I'veneverspokenGerman,and I|don’tthinkI remembera word*

Despite themorale-lifting effectoflearning German, byNovember hewas closetonervous collapse. Ina spasmofimpatience andgeneral misery, he decided thathewasnevergoingtosucceed asawriter. Acomplete existen-

tialupheavalwouldpickhimup andputhimdownagainsomewhere else— somewherehappier.Heappliedfora job,“aproperjob,”withJardines,the

well-known finance andtradinghouseinHongKong, andhewasaccepted. Fortunately forhismillionsofreaders,hemusthavereconsidered.

Hissubsequent retirement tothecountryside wasverymuch a retreat, “blackdog”ofdepression may andoneinwhichhefelta failure.Churchill’s but it wascertainlysniffingaround not havebeena constantcompanion, andlookingfora goodtimewithhistrouserleg. Dorset,hisoldroomwaswaitingforhim,rentMeanwhile in Stalbridge,

free.Atanytimehismumwasgladtoseehimandextendthecomforts of home-cookingand family life.Ron,Janet's second husband, the vet, was

kindlyandalwaystookan interest,andDouglaswasfondofLittleJaneand James,hishalf-siblings, thenagedten andeight.(Once,manyyearsbefore, * Douglas Adams talkstoDanny Danziger, “The Worst ofTimes,” theIndependent, 11March 1991.

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duringtheschool hols,Douglas hadbeeninthehouseworking whileinfant James hadbeenupstairs, asleep. Leaving Douglas incharge, Janetnippedout onanerrand.Whenshereturned,youngJameswassittingonthesofalookingatDouglas withwide-eyed fascination. “Ohdear,”shesaid,“didhedisturb

you?” “Notatall,Mum,” replied Douglas. “Ithoughthemightbeabitlonely upthereandbroughthimdown." Itisdebatable whoneededwhosecompanythemore...) Douglas's roomwasevenruralenoughtoofferaviewofa pigsty,though atthetimethiswasbeingknockeddownin orderforthesiteto be redevelopedasanoldpeople’shome.YoungJamesThriftwasfascinated bytheJCB

whichwasknocking thestuffing outofthepigsty (though foroncethemore robustidiomwouldbeliterally accurate). Thedriverofthisimpressive machineapparently kepta loadofpornomagsundertheseat.Douglas would havebeenstaringoutofhiswindowatthiswhilecudgelling hiscerebrumfor a reallygoodidea.The“ah-ha!” criticalresponseisto be distrusted, but one can'thelpthinkingofthe openingsceneofHitchhikers whenArthurDent's

houseisflattened bythelocalcouncil's bulldozer. Following hisstrategic withdrawal toDorset, Douglas plannedtheodd raidonthemetropolis to deliverworkthatwouldbe irresistible to producers,andtonetwork.Inthemediaparishyouhaveto remindpeoplethatyou stillexist.Thatwasthe plan—andthat,amazingly giventhe successrateof

mostexistential granddesigns, wasmoreorlesshowitworked out. Mercifully, inthenewyearDouglas wasindeedrescued. JonCanter, his wittyfriendfromCambridge andamanofkindness andsensitivity, hadvisitedhimoverChristmas andhelpedto cheerhimup.Janetremembers Jon withaffection. Atfirstshewasnotsureifhe couldjoinin thefestivities Jon

isJewish), butJanetsoondiscovered thatthereisnotmuchthatwillkeephim froma party.Jonwassharing a houseinIslington withanotherCambridge pal,Jonathan Brock, whohadplayed opposite Douglas intheADC inSheridan’sTheRivals. Whynot,suggested Jon,comebacktotown,kipontheirvast sofa,kickouttheblackdog,andlaysiegetotheBBConceagain? Atthispointtherere-entersintoDouglas's lifeanotherfigureoflegend, SimonBrett,then a LightEntertainment Producerat the BBC,a blokefor

whomtheword“urbanity” couldhavebeencoined. Comedy at theBBC was inastateofchange. Itwasonlyin1967 thattheprogramme designations had

changedfromtheHomeService, theThirdProgramme andsoon,to Radios One to Four (RadioOne,the pop station,had occasionedmuchsoul-

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searchingaboutwhetherit wasreallythe kindofthingthe BBCshouldbe doing.) InfactSimonremembers thatthewholeinstitution waspoisedbetween

thegenerations. Awholestratum ofproducers whohadjoinedtheBBC after thewarwasintheprocess ofretiring, andhespenta lotoftimegoingtotheir partiesandwishing themwell.Perhaps theywereabittweedy, butbyand largetheywerea decentandhumorouslot.“Therewerestilla lotofchaps withcravats,” Geoffrey Perkinsrecalled, “andI hadoneproducerwho,with thearrivalofstereo,turnedthestudiofloorintoanumberedgridandmoved

actorsaroundfromsquaretosquareasiftheywereonmanoeuvres.” Somebrilliant comedy, particularly theGoon Show, hademerged fromNationalServiceandarmylifein general,and a generationofproducershad sharedthe advantageofa similarbackground* (Mindyou,not allofthem wereupto speed:oneniceoldchapaskedSimonratheranxiously: “Whatis

this‘goon’showthatIkeepreading about?”) Simon quotes JohnPeel, theDJ withtasteandnowa RadioFourpresenter, as observingthatBBCcomedy wasallrun by ex-bomberpilots.Bythe mid-seventies the bomberpilots werehanginguptheirheadphones andtheBBCwaspursuinga policyofrecruitingcleveryounggraduates, mainlyfromOxbridge. SimonhadalwayslikedDouglas’s workaswellasDouglas, theman.“He

wasenergetic andfunny, andadelight tohavelunchwith.” Despite thedesert of1976, Douglas hadwrittena coupleofpiecesforTheBurkiss Way, a deli-

ciouslyfunnyradioshowthatSimonproduced.Oneofthem,theKamikaze Briefing, became abit ofa classic’ andwasmuchenjoyedbyJohnSimmonds, theSeniorProducer, soDouglasnowhadtwostrategically placedmanagers

(‘heavy dudes” inmoviespeak) poisedtosupport him. Inthecourseofinterviewing Simon forthisbook,heandIhadlunchat the GrouchoClubin London’s Soho.Atthe cornertablea tannedNorman Wisdom,hero of Albania,was being lionizedby three fashionables.Douglas

wouldhavechortledtothinkofusdiscussing himinsuchavenue.Simonhas * “Advantage” mayseemanoddwordforrisking yourlifeandthesacrificing ofyearsofitforthe common weal,butinthecontext ofblackcomedy theydosaythereisnothing likethearmed servicesforteachingyouhowtoplaythesystem. + Thesketchhasbeenreproduced inDon’tPanic.It’shorribly funny.Somehow thisparticular

Kamikaze pilothasbeenonnineteen missions, always finding someextraordinary rationale for notcompleting themission. Missing theseaaltogether figured atonepoint.

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beenaskedmanytimestotellthestoryofcommissioning TheHitchhiker's Guide

totheGalaxy andmustbewearyoftherepetition, butcourteously hedidit again: Douglaswascomingup fromDorsetto havelunchwithme[4 February1977]andhadpromisedmethreeideas.Hewasveryen-

thusiastic, curious andfunny—very much a socialanimal. Hehated beingonhisown.Sowhatifhewassometimes depressed. When judging thework,it’sthequalitythatmatters. In somewaysI felthe wasa talentwithouta niche.Hehad struggledtofindhisvoice,butat onelevelI don’tthinkhewasthat

surprised byfameeventhoughhefeltthepressure ofsuccess very acutely. Douglas knewthathehadsomething ...Wewentouttoa Japanese restaurant todiscuss histhreeideas.I can’tforthelifeof me rememberwhatthe othertwowere—andafterwardsDouglas claimedthat neithercouldhe—butone of themwasa comicSF idea.IthadstartedlifeasTheEndsoftheEarth,butitbecameTheHitch-

hiker’s Guide totheGalaxy. Everybody likedit,thoughIremember one ofmyseniorcolleagues, a lovelymancalledConMahoney [oneof thebomberpilots], askingme:“Isthisfunny?” I assuredhimit was.

Douglaswasonhisway.

“‘You're verystrange,’ shesaid. ‘No, I’mveryordinary,’ saidArthur, ‘butsomevery strange thingshavehappened tome.You couldsayI’m 7

morediffered fromthandiffering.

FIVE

TheRestaurantat theEndoftheUniverse

THC ORIGIN Or THC SPpeeiecs

ee

n 1March1977—three weeksafterDouglas’s lunchwithSimon

Brett—the BBC approved themaking ofa pilotofTheHitchhiker's Guide totheGalaxy. Then,beforecommitting tothewholeseries, itsatonits handsforsixmonths. Inthosedays,beforetheicyfistofcommerce hadsurprisedtheBBCwithitsgrip,thedecision-making processmovedat a speed thatremindsonethatglassissaidtechnically tobea liquid.Manyofthein-

dividual producers hadvisionandenergy, butfurtherupthehierarchy a committee system reigned whereby allthatwasrequired foranother month topasswasforonemember tolookjudiciously intothemiddle distance, expressuncertainty andsuggestthatmoreresearchand/orconsideration might bewiselyinvested. Thatwasalwaysanirrefutable position. Then,eachsummer,muchofthetopechelons woulddepartenmasse forwarmerclimes. Tus-

canywasawashwithBBC executives. On the otherhand,the BBC—free fromthe immediateimperatives of budget,ratings,andadvertising revenuethatcommandotherbroadcasters— madeprogrammes ofundoubtedexcellence. Competition maykeepindus-

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try “leanand mean’—often a euphemismfor subjectingthe workersto unimaginable stressormovingmanufacture outtoexploitative lowlabourcosteconomies—but there’sno evidencethat makingprogrammes under

thatkindofpressure improves them.Besides, asanyonewilltellyouinan organization makingsomething creative, goingliketheclappers isnotalwaysinthebestinterests oftheproject. Management booksmayemploy a ghastlyjargondrawnlargelyfromAmerican recreations likesportorhunting(“getting yourducksin a row,”“stepping up to the plate”), but theyare unanimouson the virtuesoftakingthe timeto getallthe machineryon

yourside. InanyeventHitchhiker's wassodifferent thatnobodyintheBBC could havebeenpoisedononefoot,breathheld,waiting forit.Geoffrey Perkins saysthatifanyonehadbeenaskedwhatkindofprogramme theywerelookingfor,nobodywouldhavesaid:

“I'mlookingfora sortof strangeSFthingaboutwhenthe worldendsto makea by-pass—and it willtakeanageto make everyprogramme.” I mean,it was just absolutelynot on anybody’sradarat all.Therewerelotsof discussionsaboutwhether to havean audience.[Itwasthereceivedwisdomin theBBCat the

timethatan audiencewasneededto tellthelistenerswhento laugh.] I thinkIwonthispointwhenI said,“Look, they'llhaveto sittherefora weekbecauseitwilltakeusabouta weektomake

these programmes.” Actuallyhalf the actorsaren’tthere at the sametimeanyway.

InanycaseDouglas wasthrilled togetthecommission andhismorale shot upasymptotically tothecheerfulness axis.Hewasstillhardup,ofcourse, and

livingoffhisparents,fortheBBCpaidhim£1000forwhatturnedintonearly sixmonths’work.(Mindyou,ifyouruninflationbackwards to 1977, £1,000 is worthfivetosixtimesmoreintoday’sterms.)Butatleasthehada realproj-

ect,andthepromise ofincome andfriendly facesinLondon—and notjust anywhereinLondon, butIslington, whichwastobecomethecentreofDouglas’smetropolitan universe. Asthepigstyoutsidehiswindowwasdemolished, hismumfedhimand broughthimcupsofteaandpeanutbuttersandwiches forwhichhe hada

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particular weakness. YoungJane(Little Jane)andJameswerequiteentertained

bytheirbigbrothergroaning piteously, andthentypingfuriously before scrunching upsheetsofpaperandthrowing themaway. Butalthough rejects filledthewastepaper basket, withina monththepilotwascomplete. Neil Gaimansaysrightlythatthefirstversionoweda lottoMonty Python, andit certainly tookawhileforDouglas tofindhisvoice;nevertheless thepilotcon-

tainedmuchthatwasassparkyandbrilliant asthefinalform.(Buffs should looktoDon't Panic, revised edition, forthedefinitive exegesis ofthedifferences.) Hismum'scupsofteainspired oneofDouglas's inventions—the Infinite Improbability Drivewhichusesteaasa Brownian motiongenerator. Hishero, ArthurDent,issavedbyit,but“henomoreknowshisdestinythana tealeaf knowsthehistoryoftheEastIndiaCompany.”

Therefollows ashortdigression onthesubject oftea. Douglas wroteanuncharacteristically finger-wagging essay'—aimed at improving theAmerican qualityoflife,andthusforgivable—about howto maketheperfectcup.Warmthetea-potwell;spoonin an adequatesupply oftea(preferably loose,butbagswilldo);pourinroilinglyboilingwater;in-

fuseproperly; pourthemilkintothecupfirst.OK?Hepointsoutthatitisnot considered sociallycorrectto putthemilkin first,butontheotherhandin

England itisgenerally considered socially incorrect toknowthingsorthink aboutthings. AsArthurDentisblownuncontrollably aroundthegalaxyin thecom-

panyofsomeone infinitely morehipthanheis,hedevotes muchofhistime tolooking foradecentcupoftea,a drinkoftenaccorded miraculous powers ofcomfort byBritsinadversity. Legamputated? Shiptorpedoed? Nicecuppa willsoonputyouright.Indeedthereissomething pathetic aboutArthur, a bewildered young/oldmaninhisdressinggown,hisentireworldwipedout

behind him in an unnecessarycock-up,whoseambitionis limitedto finding a hot, herbal infusion.—

OnceArthurnearlycauses hisowndeath,andthatofhiscompanions, by rhetorically asking Eddie, theshipboard computer withtheirritating fauxbonhomme American primarypersonality, whyEddiethoughtthathe,Arthur,

wanteda cupoftea.Thecomputer, grimlyliteral-minded asonlya machine * TheNarrator’s preamble attheverybeginning ofTheHitchhiker's Guide totheGalaxy. t InTheSalmon ofDoubt, p.67.

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canbe,devotes moreandmoreprocessing powertothequestion—imperillingthemall* Douglas’s mostrepeatedanecdotewasalsosetarounda cupofteaandis believedtohavestartedlifeasa real-lifeincidentonCambridge station.Ithas

beenrepeated sooftenyouwillprobably allknowaboutthebattleofsilent British willpower whenthestranger acrossthetableina stationcaféstarted eatingDouglas's biscuits—or so it appeared. In fact,Douglas's biccies emergedfrombeneathhisnewspaperaftertheothermanhaddeparted.In Douglas’s hands,thistinyincidentwaspolishedtoa comicgemsuffused with cringe-making Englishsocialcontainment. Shamelessly, heevenusedthean-

ecdoteinSoLong, andThanks forAlltheFish, whenArthuriswooing Fenchurch. InThe Salmon ofDoubt thestoryisreprinted inanAmerican context, withtea changed tocoffee. However, anyotherbeverage wouldnotbecredible; rail-

waycoffeeisan insipidhotbrownliquidthatonlyresembles therealthing inasmuchastheybothtaketheshapeofthevesselthey'rein.(Incidentally, a

railway guardoflongstanding tellsmethattheporkpiesarealsoathingof wonder. Every 50,000 milesa trainedengineer givesthematapwithaspecial hammer) Thebiscuitstoryhassincereappearedin manyguises,andmayin some off-beatviralwaystillbe replicating in saloonbarsandoverdinnertables.

Overtimeithaspicked upaccretions ofplausible detail. Thepaperwasthe Guardian. Thebiccies wereRichTea.Itactually happened tosomebody else, andinvolved theDaily Telegraph anda Kit-Kat. ItstemsfromJeffrey Archer's shortstorywiththesameplotdevice,exceptthatin hisversionthebiscuits werecigarettes. (Bitofalongshot,thatone,asanexplanation oforigins, given

Jeffrey Archer's eclecticism andthefactthathiscollection waspublished someyearsafterDouglas started telling thestory.) TheBBC's Home Truths programme(aradiomagazine, hostedbytheaffably unshockable JohnPeel, aboutouroddities) hasbroadcast an honest-sounding accountfroma womanwhoalsohadasilent clashofwillswitha strangerovera packetof

* Serious SFfansmight recognise thisideafromaGordon Dickson shortstory, “Computers Don’t Argue” (a1965Nebula winner), inwhich, aftera foolish bet,a computer issetthetaskofsolving a logical paradox, andisthusdisabled frommaintaining theenvironmental systems ina Martian colony. Theparadox istrulyancient, beingaversion ofEpimenides’s oldchestnut aboutallCretansbeingliars.(Epimenides wasa Cretan.)

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Garibaldis. People havelookedmeintheeyeandtoldmethatthisself-same amusingincidentbefellthem. Urbanmyth?Possibly, butnoearliertellingthanDouglas's istobefound.

Although thisiscircumstantial, therearestories, jokesandindeedniftyturns ofphrasethatseemtosweepthroughsociety likeanepidemic. Mytheoryis thatmanyofthemoriginate withcreative usersofthelanguage, someof whomareunsungpeoplewhojusthappento deploytheirmothertongue withsomepizazz,but a substantialproportionwillemanatefromprofessionalwordsmiths—copywriters, authors,scriptwriters, DouglasAdamsand

soon. BackinStalbridge, Douglas founditfrustrating waiting forthegearsto turn in the BBC,so he alsosenthisHitchhiker's pilotto RobertHolmes,the scripteditorandoccasional writerofDr.Who. Hewashopingtogeta commissiontowriteaDr.Whostorylinethat—ifitfollowed theusualpractice—would

lastforfourhalf-hour episodes. Hesucceeded. BobHolmes likedwhatDouglashaddone alot, andonthatbasiscalledhiminfora meeting withAnthonyRead(whowasjusttakingoverfromBob)andtheproducer, Graham

Williams. Theyencouragedhimto havea go.Douglas'sresultingDr.Who scripthadgreatpromise,but it neededa lotmoreworkthathe undertook

withgrace. It’sbeensuggested thatDouglas's original overdid thehumourto the extentthatit mayhavecomeacrossasforcedor,evenworse,frivolous. Butthenthestorystillneededa smidgemoreto tweakitfurther,andfinally justa nuancehereandtheretogetthetoneabsolutely spoton.Evenafterthe refinement, somehardcoreDr.Whofansmaintainthathisepisodesaretoo

jokey. Allthiseditorial tuningwaseducational forDouglas, andimproved the script. Butitconsumed agreatdealoftime,withtheresultthatwhenDoug-

laswascommissioned to writea four-partDr.Whostoryin August,it coincidedwithina weekor twowithhis commitment to writethe Hitchhiker's radioseries.Thus,between1977and 1978,Douglaswasto undergoa meta-

morphosis, fromlistless aspiration tonerve-end-shredding overwork. Douglas hadalways enjoyed Dr.Whoand,unlikesomeEnglish Literature graduates, neverlookeddownhisnoseatitonthegroundsthatitwasgenre. (MikeSimpsoninhisinvaluable Hitchhiker's Guide* saysthatDouglasoriginally * Published byPocket Essentials, 2001.

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submitted ascriptforDrWho in1974, butthatitvanished beyond hopeofretrieval somewhere intheBBC. Alas, therewasnosignofitinDouglas’s papers.) “ThePiratePlanet,”the firstof the episodeswrittenor co-writtenby

Douglas, isratedasoneofthebestbythemanyDr.Who enthusiasts whohave analysedeveryepisodeand,thanksto theInternet,arekeepersoftheflame. It’sfull of cortex-mangling concepts—transportable hollowplanets,time

dams,cybernetic controlsystems andevena high-tech bionicpiratecompletewitheye-patch androbotic parrot.(Douglas hadplayedLongJohnSilver,don'tforget, andwaskeenonthecomic potential ofparrots; onefeatures strategically in Starship Titanic.) Thepirate—typical humanbeing—uses all the breathtakingpowerand technologyat his disposalfor trivialself-

agegrandisement, beltingroundtheuniverse stealing otherplanets’ resources likesomecosmic shoplifter. TomBaker, theactorplaying theDoctor, spouted thescientific arcana with totalconviction. He and MaryTamm,as his gorgeousassistant,Romana, breezedthroughDouglas's adventurewithpanache,brilliantly supportedby AndrewRobertson asMr.FibuliandBrucePurchaseasthewafflingCaptain.

(There wasnospiteinDouglas, buthecouldsometimes beinadvertently cruelinhisdesiretobefunny. Oneoftheleading ladiesinDrWho provoked himtosaythat“herideaofacting wastopointhereyesinonedirection while swivelling herhipsinanother’) EveninthisearlyworkDouglas’s playfulapproachtoscienceisapparent.

Heinvents traveltubesinwhichthepeoplearestationary andthetuberaces pastthemlikethere’s notomorrow. Douglas hadreadhisRelativity, andunderstood thatinaninertial frametherewouldbenodistinguishing between themovingandthestatic,sohewaschortlingknowingly inthedirectionof Einstein. SFfanshavewonderedaboutthe provenanceof Douglas'sideas,and

thereisa minorscholarly industry intracking themdownasifwecannot credithimwithbeingsostartlingly inventive. ButDouglas wasn’t steeped in thegenreandhewasalways mildlyputoutifhelearned thatsomeoriginal thoughthadoccurredto an SFwriteralready.Ahollowplanet,forexample, might be traced to IsaacAsimovwho, decadesearlier,had posited such a

planet,Trantor, inhisexhilarating Foundation trilogy(later, unwisely, racked intoa tetralogy fora largeadvance). Making a planet—or atleastcities— moveable atwillhadbeensuggested byJames Blish manyyearsbeforeinhis

Spindizzy stories.ButDouglaswasnot particularly wellversedin SF(apart

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fromSheckley), unlikehiswife,JaneBelson, whohadreadeverything. Apart fromthe Eaglecomic,he had—inmy partisanview—misspent his youth reading CharlesDickens,when he could have been immersedin UrsulaLe Guin,RobertSilverberg,John Wyndham,PhilipK.Dick,TheodoreSturgeon,

FredPohland,topinchKingsley Amis’s usefulexpression, manyotherdazzlingcartographers ofhell* Dr.Whois—orratherwas—agreatnationalinstitution. “Cult”is a word peoplereachfortooeasily,butDrWhoqualified. Withtheexceptionofthe

wretched StarTrek, whoselongevity hasbeenunnaturally prolonged byits transformation intoanindustry, Dr.Whowasthelongest-running SFseries everproduced. Itwasfirstscreened in 1963anddidn’tgoofftheairuntil 1996—and eventhenit continuedfora whilewhenthe rightsweresoldto Foxfora one-off. Dr.Whohimselfwasa TimeLordfromthegalactically centralplanetof

Galifrey. Despite thestrictures oftheirnon-interference code—and thedeeply laidplotting fromanotherpowerful butmoremalign TimeLordcalledThe Master—Dr. Whowhizzedaboutspace-time doinggoodandrightingwrongs in thecompanyofa resourceful andattractivefemaleassistantwhohelped tokeepthedadswatching. Oneofthesewasplayedbytheactress,LallaWard, who,introducedbyDouglasto RichardDawkinsat oneofDouglas’s wicked

parties, subsequently became Mrs.Dawkins. Fortransport, DrWhoemployed an old-fashioned British policetelephoneboxcalled theTardis (allegedly anacronym forTimeandRelative Di-

mensionin Space). Thoughfiniteon the outside,thisvehiclehad as much spaceinsideasthelargeststudiocouldaccommodate, anditsabilityto roam

through timeandspaceprovided awonderfully flexible narrative device. The special effects werealways a bitclunky, withwobbly setsandacresofBacofoil;laterDouglas grievedabouttheTVadaptation ofHitchhiker's onthe groundsthatit remindedhimofDr.Who.Butthegoodthingabouta budget limitedby timeand moneyis thatyouhaveto fallbackon old-fashioned virtues—in thiscasethe wit,inventiveness and story-telling abilityof the

writers who,byandlarge, delivered thegoodsforoverthreedecades. Among Dr.Who'simplacable foesweretheDaleks, created byTerry Nation, creatures withtotalitarianviewswhosenastylittlebodieshad mutatedto the extent thatthey movedaboutin motorizedcontainers.Conveniently thesewere * Kingsley Amis, NewMapsofHell(Ayer Co.Publishing, 1975).

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aboutthesizeofa vacuumcleaner.Ontoptheycarrieda rotatabledomefit-

tedwithanall-purpose sensordevice, andprojecting fromtheirbodiesa deathrayandwhatlookedsuspiciously likea telescopic drainplunger* Douglas hadalways beena fanoftheDaleks, whoweresucha charismatic crossbetweenlagoandakitchenappliance thattheyhadtoberevivedevery fewyearsby populardemand.Hehad evenwrittenan episodeofDr.Who

whileatBrentwood School, butcouldrecall littleofitbeyond thefactthathis Daleks werepowered byRiceKrispies.' Itwasariskcommissioning anunknownwritertotackleDr.Who. Evenasa relatively out-of-sight freelance, writingforitwaslikebeinggivenapaintbrush andbeingtoldtonipintotheTatetotouchupaTurner. Therewerealsolotsof rulesdesignedto avoidinconsistency orboxingwritersinforthefuture.Le-

gionsofknowledgeable anddedicated fanswerepoised totellyouifyoumade abotchofit.Itisatribute toDouglas thathealways tookDr.Who seriously, devotingparticularcareto devisingconceptsthat wereat leasttheoretically workable(unlikemagic,forexample,whichsuspendstherulesandisjusta cop-out), Asinwritingasketch,Douglas understoodthatSFmusthaveanin-

ternallogic. Inthiscontext—though itwasaprinciple towhichhecleaved in general—he saidthattheexpression “tongue-in-cheek” wasoftenanexcuse for laziness. “Itmeansit'snotreallyfunny,butwearen'tgoingtodoitproperly.”” Dr.Who,the TimeLord,was ableto regeneratehisbody afterdeath a total

oftwelvetimes—and thiswasjustas wellas the actorsplayinghimwere proneto anxietyabouttypecasting’ BythetimeDouglaswaswritingforthe

series, thefourthDoctor wasinplace, TomBaker: anengaging, largerthan life,formermonkwithanextravagantly outgoing personality. Helovedthe partsomuchthathestayedwithitforsevenyears.Douglasoncetoldmethat Tomwasthentherandiestmanhe hadevermet—andhe hadencountered oneor twoin whomthebalanceofpowerhadnevermovedevenslightly

northwards fromthegonads tothecerebrum. * Even todayifyouwaggle ahandinfrontofyourfaceandcroak“EX-TERM-IN-ATE! EX-TERM-INATE!” witha voicefullofgrit,people(Britsanyway) willinstantly recognize a badDalekimpression.

t Hitchhiker’s Guide, p.8. coDon’t Panic, revised edition, p.81. § OK, forthebuffs, inorder, theDoctors were: William Hartnell, Patrick Troughton, JonPertwee, TomBaker, PeterDavison, Colin Baker andSylvester McCoy.

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Douglas wentontowritetwomoreDr.Whoepisodes: “TheCityofDeath” (co-written withtheproducer,GrahamWilliams) and“Shada.” Healsowrote

Dr.Who andtheKrikkitmen asafilmtreatment, featuring oneofthosesickening timeloops.Thisnevergotveryfar,but the ideasweresubsequently putto gooduseinLife, theUniverse andEverything. “Shada” unfortunately gotcaughtup

inastrikeattheBBC andwasnevertransmitted, thoughIbelieve thatforseriousbuffsitisavailable onvideo* However, Douglas didrecycle partofthis whenDr.Chronotis, a retiredTimeLordwhoseroomsin Cambridge so resembledDouglas'sown,appearedin thefirstDirkGentlynovel,DirkGently’s Holistic Detective Agency. InthisstoryDouglasonceagainscratchesawayat thetime-travel para-

dox—on thisoccasion withliterally cosmic ramifications—like someterrible intellectual itch.Whathappensifyougobackin timeandwaylayyour grandadwitha quickbeer,thuspreventing himfrommeetingyourgrandma? (TherearemoreFreudianexpressions ofthisnotioninvolvingkillingyour mum,but the paradoxisthe same.)Ifyousucceed,youno longerexistso

couldnothavesucceeded—in whichcaseyoudoexist,soroundyougo againina logically impregnable circle. Thisconundrum wassomething that clearly fascinated Douglas forhecamebacktoitfrequently. Remember Zaphod Beeblebrox summoningup his grandfather, ZaphodBeeblebrox the Third? Anaccident,Zaphodexplains,witha contraceptive and a timemachine.

“TheCityofDeath” wasafour-part scriptstartedbyDavidFisher, aregularandreliable scriptwriter whohadbeensuddenly waylaid byfamily problems.Douglasand GrahamWilliamsfinishedit offunderimmensetime pressure,a directoranda studioslothavingbeenbookedonlydaysaway fromtherealization thattheyhadno script.Douglaswaslockedup in Gra-

ham’sstudywherehelivedonblackcoffee andwhisky. Because ofWriters’ Guildregulations, thedepartmental nameofDavidAgnew wasusedforthe credits. Despitethe rush,or possiblybecauseof it,“TheCityof Death”storyis _splendidlyinventive.It prefigures thatsomewhatdisturbingHitchhiker's idea that life is not only inadvertent,but possibly—thanks to time-travel—

circular. Dr.Whohastoensurethatanexplosion onEarthactually happened * TheDaily Telegraph (16November 2002)reports thatitwillnowberemade withPaulMcGann as theDoctor.

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becausetheresultingchemical chaoskickstarted thewholeimprobable businessofevolutionthatendsupwithsentience, charteredaccountants, geraniums,ants,whalesandallourplanet'sastonishing biodiversity. Thisagainis

thehorrorofthetime-travel paradox, butwritlarge.InThe Restaurant attheEnd oftheUniverse, Douglas positsthattheentirehumanraceisalogical absurdity as it is descendedfromthosewhoreturnedto the Earthandbecametheir ownancestors. Teleologically speaking, it’steeth-grindingly up itself. TheDr.WhoplotalsoembroilstheviewerinthestealingoftheMonaLisa

(therearemultiple copies, someofwhicharemarked “fake” infelt-tippen). Eleanor BronandJohnCleese provide delicious cameos asart-lovers whobelievethattheTardis isagallery exhibit. Meanwhile, Douglas,encouragedby JonCanter,wascommutingback and forthfromDorsetto London,graduallyrelocatingin the cityas his moraleimprovedand he had more work.Jon,who had studiedlaw(“amis-

take”), nowhadajobasanadvertising copywriter andwassharing a house in ArlingtonAvenuewithtraineebarrister, JonnyBrock,andhiswife,Clare Gorst.Jonny,youwillremember, wasthe aspirantthespianfromDouglas's daysof amateurdramatics,who eventuallybecamea QC.Thehouseboasted

a largesofaon whichDouglaswasinvitedto crash,andhe frequentlydid

whenintown.Jon,JonnyandClareoffered friendship, warmth, digestive biscuitsandstability inaddition tosomewhere tosleep.Douglas wasveryfond ofthem,anddedicated thefirstHitchhiker's noveltoJonnyBrockandClare Gorst,and“alltheotherArlingtonians fortea,sympathyanda sofa.” Theirhouseinthisparticularly leafyearlyVictorian partofIslington overlooksa sectionofthe GrandUnionCanal,now recreationalrather than mer-

cantile, whichcircles London totheeastandwestbeforejoining theThames. Whereitrunsthrough Islington, itstow-paths arecompacted bymassed joggersfromthe law,telly,advertising andjournalism. Duringhisintermittent spasmsof physicalself-improvement, Douglastoo usedto jog alongthe canal,andcontinuedto dosowhenhe hadhisownplacein nearbyUpper

Street* In 1977, thingsweredistinctly lookingup.Douglas hadhisDr.Who episodes towriteandsupportive friends intown.Finally heevengota real * Sueand| methimonthecanaloncein1979looking veryragged andsweaty injogging gear. “Every generation willhaveitscharacteristic ailments,” hegasped. “Ours willhavegreatcardiovascular systems, butterminally buggered kneesandtendons. ”

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job.Hewasdelighted. Itwastheworld’s lowliest jobinradio,asaproducer sojuniorthateventhecleaners couldbosshimabout,butitwasstillajob, oneonthestaffandnotjustafreelance contract—and attheBBC noless,a nationaltreasurewithcorrespondingly hugecachet.DavidHatch,thenthe HeadoftheLightEntertainment Department, hadgivenittohim.LikeSimon Brett,hebelievedinDouglas, andDouglasmayhavefeltundersomeobliga-

tiontoshowthattheirconfidence wasnotmisplaced. Apparently though, Douglas wasnotmuchcopasaproducer. JohnLloyd hadseconded himbrieflyto theNews Quiz* whentheusualco-producer, DannyGreenstone, wasaway.Butit didnotworkout.JohnLloyd:

Trouble wasDouglas wasnever anygoodat allwithanybody else’sformats.Hecouldonlydo hisownstuff.Hereally,really wantedtobe abletowriteone-linersforTheTwoRonnies, orsketches forWeek Endingor whatever,but he justcouldnotdoit.Youmightas wellhaveaskedhimtowritethankyoulettersinKorean.Noneofit

madetheslightest sensetohim.SoIdaresay wecalleditadayafter gettingnowhere. Ofcourse,JohnLloyd—as latereventsaretomakeclear—has a complex view ofDouglas. Writersmaybe pals,but thereis alwaysan elementofrivalry.

GoreVidaloncememorably remarked thathecouldnothearofthesuccess ofafriendwithout dying alittle.Affection, envy, irritation, admiration, hurt— allgointotherichstewstirred byDouglas andJohn.Douglas maynothave beenallthathopelessa producer,butthereislittledoubtthathe couldnot resistendlessfine-tuningofa workin progress—and thatsitsuneasilywith

schedules that,oncepublished, marchwithnononsense toa drillsergeant’s beat. * Atopicalquizinwhichsomefunnyandfearlesspeoplearescurrilous aboutthepreceding week’sevents.Itsounds abit naff,butinfactisbrilliant. Theformatmakesforvariety, andthe

personal chemistry between theteammembers isa hoot. They areselected notjustfortheir personalities andquick witsbutalsofortheirwillingness toelaborate oneanother's fantasies. Theygetawaywithcomments thatina moresolemn context would havethelibellawyers reaching fortheirwrits. Theprogramme isstillrunning, andiswellworth alisten. tTOK. Thisisageneralization forwhich | canonlyoffer“anecdotal evidence” (sociologists’ codefor nogrant),butitisbasedonthirtyyearsofobservation.

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Todo theirjob,producersneedto geta lot of peopletogether,charm

them,organize them,andbullythemwitha judicious mixture oftactand steel,whilesimultaneously making themallfeelgoodaboutthemselves. The taskistoturnacollection ofdisparate andsometimes highlystrungindividualsintoa team.It'sa difficulttrick,andonewhichdidnotserveDouglas's

strengths. Hewastoovulnerable tocopewellwithstressand,despite being a socialanimalwitha needforcompanyandstimulation, asa creatorhepreferredtobesolitary. Whateverhisvirtuesasa radioproducerin theLightEntertainment de-

partment, Douglas didnotstayatitforverylong.Early in1978 hewasoffered, andheaccepted, thejobofscripteditorofDr.Who, whereAnthony Readwas moving on.David Hatch wassaidtobea littlenarkedasDouglas hadnotreallypaidhisduesin thecurrentjobandhishastein transferring appeared unseemly. SimonBretthadleftto goto LondonWeekend Television (leaving

Geoffrey Perkins asHitchhiker's producer). But,asDouglas remarked, David himself moved onshortly afterwards soDouglas didnotfeelsobadlyabout it.Radiopeoplearealways sensitive aboutthetalentleaving themforthe glamorous butblowsytartcalledtelevision. Thereisaninferiority complexat workthat’sentirelyunnecessary, especially asradioisoftenbraverthanthe telly,moreintelligent andlesstyrannizedbymarketexpediency.

Onecollaboration withJohnLloyd thatdidworkoutwellwaswhenthe twoofthem,bytheninadjacent offices inLangham Street behindBroadcastingHouse,wrotethescriptfora DutchcartoonseriescalledDr.Snuggles. They werepaid£500,a verygenerousfeewhenyou considerthattheirannual

salaries wouldhavebeenbetween £2000 and£3000 atthetime.Dr.Snuggles wasdesigned tobeoneoftheveryfewnon-violent cartoons forchildren. Johnsaysitwashugefuntodo:“With animation theonlylimitwasourown imaginations. WealsolovedthefactthattheDutchproducerwascalledJoop Visch,hisassistantwasa youngmancalledWimOops,andhissecretary was Veronica Plinck.”

Douglas's lifewasthreatening togofromtorpidtoflat-out fasterthana Porsche 9288. TheBBC approved Hitchhiker's attheendofAugust 1977. Healso hadtheDr.Who commissions. Thenhegotajob.Itseemed likeasensible time to findanagent. Hebecame aclient ofJillFoster, towhomhehadbeenrecommended by

Graham Chapman. Jillwassmall,quick,no-nonsense, good-hearted and rathersexy.Shehadrecently declared independence froma largeragency

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andsetup onherownwithherhusband,Malcolm Hamer,anagentspecializingin sports.ShelookedafterallthePythonsapartfromJohnCleeseand

EricIdle,andsheknows what'swhat.Jillhasalways triedtodowhatisbest forherclients aspeople. Ifthismeanstheyshouldnottakeonsomething unsuitable, despite cabbage-sized wadsofcashwaved undertheirnoses, Jillwill

tellthem. SherecallsthatDouglaswashugelyamusingandhada talent forlunch.

Heoftenrangheratteninthemorning andchatted, despite thefactthatshe

wasverybusy. Jillalways forgave himbecause hewassofunny, “like agiant puppywithasenseofhumour" Sherecalls thathewrotea sketch abouttwo

lighthousekeeperswhohadfallenout.(Theydrewa diameterlinethrough theirlighthouseand couldnot infringeon eachother'sterritory.) “Itwasa

brilliant sketch,” shesays.“Themarketforsketches wasverydifficult andI couldnotfindabuyerforit.Butitwasexceptional andI realized thenthat hehadsomething veryspecial.” EvenafterDouglas hadleftherfora new agent,EdVictor, following publication ofTheRestaurant attheEndoftheUniverse, theyremainedongoodtermsandwouldenjoytheoccasional lunch.“Ithink hefanciedmeabit,” saysJill,“buthegaveup flirtingafterI gavebirthto my

daughter.” These daysweliveinapost-Hitchhiker’s worldinwhichreferences tofortytwo,life,theuniverse andeverything aregreeted withasmileofrecognition. It’shardto thinkbackto thetimebeforeoursensibilities wereskewedforeverbyDouglas's work.OfcoursetherehadbeenhumorousSFbyBobShaw,

RobertSheckley, Theodore Sturgeon amongstothers,thoughit wasnot widely readoutside theparish. EvenIsaacAsimov likedjokes, anda lotofhis shortstories werewittyexplorations notofwhodoneit?butofwhatdoneit? andhowwasitdone? ButbeforeDouglasnobodyhad beencosmically funny.Helovedphilosophicalideas,andhada naturalgraspofthem,buthe knewthatplonking

themunadorned intothetextwouldinduceinstanttediumfollowed bythe heterodyne squealofa million radiosbeingretuned. Forinstance, Douglas describes thecreator oftheuniverse asacurmudgeon withadisagreeable cat

anda muckyshed*Thisdecrepitoldgithaslostallconfidence thattheuniverseactuallyexistsbecausehissensedatacouldbe doingthedirtyonhim.

(“Contingent” isthewordphilosophers useinthiscontext.) It’sa nightmar* TheRestaurant attheEndoftheUniverse, Chapter 29(PanBooks, 1980).

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ishlysolipsistic idea.Youcannotknowforsureifanything isreal.That’s why Descartes’s famous observation, cogito, ergo sum,issuchanimportant testfor existence becauseevenifthe“I”thatseemstobeexperiencing theworldisin thegripofsomehallucination, atleastitcanbe surethereisanentitythatis

conscious, evenifcruelly deluded. ThefactthattheSupreme Being ispreparedtodealadministratively withtheworldontheassumption thatitmight reallybethereisanempirical accommodation withphenomenalism—and

rathera bleakjoke.Besides,philosophical notionsdescribedin this way wouldbe prettydull.Douglas’s geniuswasto sneakthemintothe reader’s braincamouflaged asa seriesofextremely goodjokes.It isthisseriousun-

derpinning ofdazzling notions andintellect thatmadeHitchhiker's soextraor-

dinary.

Lestweforget, theworkwasquiteamazingly innovative. Hespoketothe

readerdirectly, even—especially—to readersunfamiliar withtheconventions of responsethat comefrombeinga regularconsumerof literature.When Douglasdied,itwaspoignantto seesomanyheartbroken teenagersleaving

theirtributes onthewebsite created forthepurpose. Alienated youngsters in smalltownsinAlaska knewthathewastalking tothempersonally. ThepilotforTheHitchhiker's Guide totheGalaxy wasrecordedin the BBC's largeWestLondonParisStudioinJune1977. SimonBrettwastheproducerof thepilot,almosthislasttaskbeforeslidingoffintotelly,andthenfortherest

oftheseriesGeoffrey Perkins tookover.Although heself-deprecatingly says thathehadnoideawhathewasdoing(“that’s allright,” saidDouglas, “neitherdoI"),itwasclearfromthebeginning thatGeoffrey gotit,astheysay, perfectly. Hewasalsoconfidentenoughabouthisownhumourandsenseof narrativeconstruction tochivvyDouglas whenthingsgottooincoherent. It’s

partlyasa resultofGeoffrey's nagging thatanything resembling a plot emerged atall. Muchhasbeenwritten aboutthecasting oftheshow, andforcompletists thefullcreditsareincludedinanAppendix. TherealitywasthatDouglasand Geoffrey werewellservedbythecast,manyofwhomwerematesfromthe Footlights days.(Thisold-boynetworking wouldbe harderto acceptwereit

notforthefactthatthecastwasbrilliant.) Theactors performed toperfection, eventhosewhofoundthewholethingbewildering. Don’tforgetthatthey didnotallhavetobepresent duringtherecording, sosomeofthemhadtheir partssplicedin later.Thescripttellsa picaresque, strangeanddiscontinuous storyatthebestoftimes—even ifyoulistentoitall,andpayattention—so it

THEORIGINOFTHESPECIES 115 is not surprisingthat some of the actors,like RoyHudd for instance,who

playedthecompéreintherestaurantattheendoftheuniverse, founditalla

bitweird* Alltheactorslikedplaying theirparts,whichsayssomething for theliltofthewriting andthehugegrinthatshines through thetext.Similarly, alltheengineersandstudiomanagersrelishedmakingit allsoundseamless. (SeeChapterSeven.) Thefuntheyhadwascommunicated ineverybroadcast moment.

ThestoryofPeterJonesastheBookhasbecome partofthemany-volume Chronicles ofAdams thatembrace thefirstbroadcasts. PeterJoneswasanexperienced radioperformer withexquisite comictimingfrom alifetimebe-

hindthemicrophone andtreadingtheboards.He’dstarredinInAllDirections (withPeterUstinov) andwasfrequently onJusta Minute, a BBCradioshowin whichthepanellists haveto talkforsixtysecondswithouthesitation, devia-

tionorrepetition. (It’snotsoeasy.) HistonewasjustrightfortheBook. Like someautodidact inabartelling youallthespecies ofwoodlouse tobefound northof50°latitude,hewasterriblymatter-of-fact, slightlysententious and utterlyuninterruptible. Douglasand SimonBrettwerecastingaboutfor someonewitha PeterJones-type voice.MikeSimpsonreportsthattheyhad

approached Michael Palinandoneortwoothers, butwerefrustrated.t The classic anecdote goeslikethis:theywerehavinga meeting overBBC teaand digestive biscuits, butgettingnowhere. “Wedefinitely needaPeterJonesysound,”opinedDouglas. “Damn, damn, damn...” Therewas much gnawingof knucklesand suddenstartsof “How

about...?Oh,bugger, he’sdead”or“Thingy mightdoit,butishetooexpensivenow?" Simon'ssecretary, losingpatiencewiththe high-octaneratiocination of thechapswiththeirV8brains,thencameinandsaid:“Doyouthinkit’spossiblethatPeterJoneshimselfmighthavea PeterJones-type voice?” * Geoffrey Perkins tellsa storyofhowRoyHudd metStephen Moore (Marvin) foraninterview for theBBC World Service, andtoldhimthathe’djustbeeninthisreally strange thingwiththeuniverseendinginsomekindofcabaretact,andthathehadtodoaboutfiveminutesofad-libbing

aswell.Hehadnoideawhatitwasabout. Stephen saidtohim,hmm, thatsounds likethething thatI’min.ItwasGeoffrey whocalled theandroid Marvin bytheway.Douglas’s original was Marshall, butitsounded toomilitary somehow. t Hitchhiker’s Guide.

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Lights flickered inBroadcasting House, daffodils erupted fromtheearthin nearbyRegent's Park,suddenly thesunshone.Ofcourse, whynotgetPeter Joneshimself? Women,eh?Dauntingly pragmatic... Douglas nowsetaboutwritingtheHitchhiker's radioseriesinatremendous spasmofcreativity. Thesedayswearesousedtocomputertechnology thatit

takessomeimaginative efforttounderstand thediscipline ofthetypewriter. Itwasquickerthanlonghandand,Godknows,in mostcasesmorelegible, butitwasnotmoreflexible. Nocopyandpaste,no scrolling up thescreento addanafterthought ortransposea sentencesothe rhythmwasbetter.Every wordhadtobepoundedontopaperwhereitsatasimmovable asa pyramid.

Thewholepagehadtobejettisoned, andclean-typed afteranamendment or two.And,ofcourse, quiteapartfromthemechanical problems, comic writing isjustastonishingly difficult. TheParisStudioin MaidaValewas,despitethename,gearedup foran audience. Withoutone,it wasdarkandempty.Itwasn’ttheeasiestspaceto

workin,butanygloomwasquickly dispelled bytheenergy andenjoyment oftheteammaking Hitchhiker's. Relays ofactorscameintodotheirbit,and leftchortling. Geoffrey andhisbrilliant teamoftechnicians hadtoinventeffectsonthespot,sometimes singingthemthemselves (creating a vastchoirof off-keyrobots,forinstance). Itwasallhugefun.Inordertogetpropervoice separation, Geoffrey hid his actorsalloverthe building,evenstuffedinto

cupboards. Herecalls:

Richard Goolden, a littleguywhoplayedMoleinToad ofToad

Hall,musthavebeenabouteightythen.Hewasa sweetlittleactor whowasabsolutelybentoverdouble.[HewasZaphodBeeblebrox

theFourth.] I'dputhiminsomecupboard todohisbit,anditmust havebeenabouthalfan hourafterwe'dfinishedthatsequence whenthislittlevoicesaid,“Isit allrightif1comeout?”I said,“Oh, sosorry,Richard,Iforgotaboutyou...” WhenDouglashadwrittenfourepisodes, he hadto breakoffto writefour

episodes ofDr.Who, “The PiratePlanet.” Geoffrey Perkins empathized: Itwasn’tthatDouglaswastoobloodylazyto getdownanddo it.Hewassweatingovereveryword.Andhe hadthisstrangetechniqueofwritingbackwards. Hewasactuallytypingthe thingon a

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typewriterandwouldcomeinwithabouttwelvepagesofscriptthe week before the show,and I'd say,OK,so this a third of the script—

allright,we'llkeepthestudio,andkeeptheactorsbecause ifhejust keepsgoingat thisratehe'llfinishit soon.Butthenhe'dcomein fourdayslaterandsay:“I'vegoteightpagesofscript." Andyou

couldn’tquiteworkouthowhe'dgonedown...

Thereduction oftwelve pagesofeffervescent copytoeightwascharacteristic Douglas. Allhislifehewouldruthlessly self-edit hiswork,pruning andprun-

ingit downto itsnerveends.Justas poetryismoreintensethan prose,the resultofallthiscompression wasfrequentlybrilliant,but it musthavehad theproductionteamsighingandgroaning.It’snota handytechniquewhen theclockisrunningandthereistimetofill.‘Deadair’—orsilence—is anath-

ematoradioproducers; thirtyseconds ofbroadcasting nothing isaneternity. Hitchhiker's andDr.Who leftDouglas exhausted. I hadsimplyrun outofwords.SinceJohnLloydalwaysbeatme at ScrabbleI reckonedhe mustknowlotsmorewordsthanmeand

askedhimif hewouldcollaborate withmeonthelastcoupleof scripts.“Prehensile,” “anaconda” and“ningi" arejustthreeofthe wow

wordsI wouldneverhavethoughtofmyself*

Douglaswasalwaysthekindestofmen,but sometimes he foundit difficult

toacknowledge creative debts.Hewasscrupulous abouttheattribution of particular linestotheirauthors andgenerous inhispublicpraiseofthework ofotherwritersandthinkerswhomhe rated,butwhenit cameto personal

assistancehe wanted to be the solecreator;DoctorAdamswith the crashcart

paddleswouldkick-starttheheartofthebeast.Thereisa kindofchild-like

“look whatI'vedone!Andallonmyown!" inallauthors, hencetheirhunger foradmiration nomatterhowestablished theyare.InDouglas's casehisde-

sireforapprovalwentbeyondthefamiliarandforgivable promptings ofego; itwasa desperateneedforreassurance. Pragmatically too,hisperfectionism and idiosyncratic voicewouldhavebeenhardto imposeupon a writing

partner without Douglas coming across ascapriciously difficult, ifnotincipientlybonkers. Besides, heknewhewouldbejudgedonthework.Hewell * TheHitchhiker's Guide totheGalaxy: TheComplete Radio Scripts, footnotes toFittheFifth.

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understood justhowmuchhecravedemotional support, encouragement, cupsofteaandall-purpose round-the-clock unconditional love.Butwhenit cameto hearingthe musicwithinhis ownwordshe needed—as withhis sketcheswithWillSmithandMartinAdams—to workonhisown.Helpwith

theactualtextwassomething hecouldn't bear.Thisleftsomeofhisfellow said, feeling,asWodehouse scribes,suchasJohn,andlaterMichaelBywater,

notexactly gruntled—an emotion doubtless exacerbated bythehugecommercialsuccessofthework.It’sonethingtohelpananguishedfriendinthe creativeprocessiftheresultisonesmartmentionin theTLSandthesaleof threecopies(twoto the author’smother).In thosecircumstances you're

whenthe to havebeenofuse.Butyoumightbemoreambivalent pleased andmadeyourpalfacopies million hadsoldoverseveral workinquestion mous.

In theendit is hardto assessthedegreeto whichDouglaswashelped. Havingsomeonesimpaticofizzingawaycreatively onthesamewavelength

isaninvaluable service. Ontheotherhand,Douglas hadinvented theconhadto fit.The episodes intowhichtheremaining textandthecharacters JohnLloydis a However, werealreadyestablished. voiceandthetemplate

verytalentedman,and Geoffreyrecallsthat at leastone longNarrator’s speechin episodesixwasentirelydownto John,whoalsodreamedup the Haggunenons, the fast-evolving creatureswiththe undisciplined chromo-

withwhodid preoccupied somes.Withoutwantingto gettoofruitlessly reacchemical scriptislikeoneofthoseirreversible a co-written what—for tionswhichcannot besortedbackintoitsoriginal components—Douglas appears to acknowledge John’scontributionwith the Narratorand the Haggunenons asthosepassagesincludetheaforementioned words,“Ningi,” a galacticcurrencyunit, and “prehensile,”that he reckonedwere essentially

thoughinthelightoflatereventshardlysurprising, Itisinteresting, Lloydie. thatwhenDouglas wrotethefirstnovelofHitchhiker's basedontheradio scripts,hedidnotrelyonJohnLloyd'scontributions at all. Inhisintroduction tothecompendium ofthetrilogy(infourparts)pub-

lishedbyPanin1992andalsoinhispreamble tothethirdvolumeofthe Byron Preiss graphic novelsofThe Hitchhiker's Guide totheGalaxy (published in 1993), Douglas makes itclearthathisfirstbookwasasubstantially expanded novelversionofepisodesoneto fourofthe radioseries,i.e.he didnotuse anymaterialfromtheco-writtenepisodes. Inthesameintroduction, Doug-

lasexplains thathissecond novel,TheRestaurant attheEndoftheUniverse, was

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based—with heavyrevision andediting—on episodes seventhrough twelve, andthenalsofiveandsix“inthatorder.” Douglas mayhavebeenconcerned aboutcopyright, although heneverhadalegalisticturnofmind(indeed, he

couldbe quiteinnocentin suchmatters), butwhenhewaswritingthefirst noveltherehadbeensucha majorfallingoutwithJohnLloydthatDouglas

wouldhavebeenalerttothedangers ofusinganyofJohn’s ideas. Bythesecondbook,relations withJohnhadsettleddownto a statethatin hospital parlance mightbedescribed ascritical butstable. Douglas feltabletoreturn

to episodesfiveandsix,buteventhenhelargelywroteJohn’scontributions outofthenovel. 50Douglas's assessment ofJohnLloyd'scontribution ismisleadingly flip-

pant,forheneededhelpurgently. What'smore,episodes twotofourwere recorded in theParisStudioin November andDecember of 1977, so the

schedulewasrapidlycatchingupwithhisrateofproduction. Bythe timethe firstepisodewasbroadcast(8March1978), theywere

stillrecording thelastepisode, cuttingthingsfinegivenpost-production editingandtheleadtimesforpublishing theprogrammes. Laterthatyear therewasa “Christmas Special” broadcast inDecember thathadnothingat

allto do withChristmas, and whichGeoffreysucceededin prisingout of Douglasby movingin with him and zappinghim with pathoson an hourlybasis.

JohnLloyd's account ofworking withDouglas onthelasttwoepisodes of thefirstseriesisnotascoolasDouglas's. Hereckons thatbythetimeDouglashadreached episode fiveoftheradioseries, hehadproved tohimself that hecouldcreatesomething completely original,andthathejustwasn’tenjoyingtheprocessanymore.Johnhimselfwasinthethroesofwritingnotesfor

acomicSFnovelcalledGiGax, atermthatmeantthegreatest areathatcould beencompassed bythehumanimagination (soeverything froma nutshell to thecosmos). Douglas, saysJohn,gotcompletely stuckaroundthebeginning ofepisodefive,andwasverydistressed aboutit.Johncametotherescueand plunderedsomeofhisownideasfromGiGax:

TheghastlytraumaformewithDouglas wasthathegotstuck, andsaid,“Look, we'vegottowritetheselasttwoandI’munderter-

ribletimepressure now,butifyoucouldhelpmeoutifthere’sanotherseries,we'llgo backto our oldsystemofwritingtogether.” | waslivingin Knightsbridge at thetime,in theflatofa ratherwell-

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offfriend*Therewasa kindofgaragethathadbeenconvertedinto a roughand readyofficewherewe worked.Andalthoughit had

takenDouglas almosttenmonthstowritethefirstfourepisodes, thelastoneandahalf/two wewroteinthreeweeks. Actually, thoughthechronology ishardto reconstruct, it looksasifDouglas wasnotquiteasdilatoryasJohnsuggests. HedidnotgetdowntowritingseriouslyuntilAugustwhentheserieswascommissioned. However, there'sno

doubtaboutthedeadlines. Time, tideandtheBBC waitfornoman.Bringing Johningavethewholeprocess anenormous boost. Welaugheda lot.WhathappenedwasthatIgavehimhundreds ofpagesofmynovel,GiGax. I can’trememberwhyI calledit that,

butI doremember thattheguywhocreatedDungeons andDragonswascalledsomething likeit,andI thoughtI'dinventedthe name.Anyway, I gavehimthesehundreds ofpagesandsaid,take anythingyouwant.Minewasa ratherpretentiousbook,I suppose, but therewerequitea lotofcrucialideasin it andDouglashadthis wonderfulwayoftakingthekernelofanideaandturningit around

tomakeitmuchfunnier. Healways hadawayofputtingagagon theend,whereas mynaturalinclination wastogoforward withthe basicideatotrytofinda solution ratherthana gag.Itwasinthat garagethatwejointlycameup withthenumberforty-twoandthe Scrabbleset,whichevenat the timeseemedthe mostwonderful,

striking, simpleandhilarious idea. Apropos offorty-two, bytheway,Griff RhysJones, afriendsincetheirschooldays,remarksthattherewasalwaysa precisionto Douglas's writing.Griffis surethatDouglaswouldhavefirsttoyedwiththe comicpotentialofeigh-

teen,andmulledoverthepossibilities ofthirty-seven. Fivealways seemsa perkylittlenumber, butisitfunny? Bynowforty-two hasbeenthesubject ofagreatdealofarcanespeculation;Douglaswasalwaysamusedanddivertedbyjusthowabstruseandin* Alex Catto inWilliam Mews, Knightsbridge. Years laterAlex, bythenaventure capitalist, wasone oftheinvestors inTheDigital Village.

THE ORIGIN OF THE SPECIES

121

ventivesomeoftheexplanations couldbe.Itisappreciably moredrollthan

forty-one—though perhaps notsuch a ribtickler asseventy-eight. Bizarrely, onceyoubecome sensitized toforty-two, youseeiteverywhere. ItseemstocomeupmoreoftenintheNational Lottery thanitshould(no,

no—thatway,madnesslies).There’s agiantofficebuildingintheCityofLondonwithanilluminated forty-two, lightingupthenightsky,acrossitsupper floors.Mostappropriately thereis a wonderfulbookcalledPowers ofTen*

whichexplores thewholeuniverse bystarting with,roughly, thehumanscale (onemetre) andworking upwards anddownwards inpowers often,fromthe quarktothegreatest knownextentofthecosmos. Thenumberofbaseten

exponents? Forty-two. Itsaysa lotforthepoweroftheideathatitcanbeinvokedwithoutanyneedforcontextintheconfidentexpectation thatpeople

willgetthereference. Douglas's background asa frustrated performer wasagreathelptohim in writingthe dialogueforHitchhiker's. Geoffrey Perkinssaysthatit allread veryfluentlybecauseDouglaswouldhaveheardit spokenin hismindbeforecommitting it to paper.Ontheotherhand,Geoffrey sometimes hadto

remindhimaboutconsistency, forDouglas, understandably reluctant to abandon a hard-won goodbit,wouldsometimes movelinesfromonecharactertoanother. Thewholeexperience, saysGeoffrey, wasenjoyable, butnot

withoutangst. Whileallthiswasgoingon,therehadbeendevelopments overinArling-

tonAvenue. Clarewaspregnant, andsoonerorlatersheandJonnywould needJon'sroomfortheforthcoming child(aSam,asitturnedout).Douglas couldnotcampontheirsquashy sofaforever. SowhenJonCanter, oneofnature’sgentlemen, suggested thattheysharea flattogether, it wastimely.Jon hadfoundaflatupanarrowflightofstairsredolentofdepartedcatsinKingsdownRoad,N19,justofftheHolloway Road.‘ Thoughthismajorthoroughfare

leadsdirectly intoUpperStreet inDouglas's beloved Islington, inthelateseventiesitwasprettygrim—a wasteland ofgarages, downmarket bargain stores, dodgy-looking minicab companies, unbelievable traffic, andcurryhouses * Powers ofTenbyPhilip andPhylis Morrison andCharles andRayEames (Scientific American Library,1982).

T Apropos incontinent moggies, Douglas onceremarked thatunderground carparksallsmellof thesamething: impatience.

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whereforpeaceofminditwasbestnottoaskexactly whatcreature wentinto thevindaloo. Nearthejunction withtheSevenSisters Road,anothermajor trafficarterydespitethe lyricalname,pubs—warehouses fullofhugemen

drinking withCeltic determination—offered detumescent stripshows. Jonrecallsthattherewasnothing eroticwithinmilesoftheHolloway Road. JonandDouglas movedintoKingsdown RoadinJanuary1978, inthe

teethofa miserably wetwinter.Thekitchenwassonarrowthattheycould notbothbeintheresimultaneously, and,iftheywere,theycouldnotgetpast eachotherwithoutthekindofcompromise alientoboththeirnatures.Itwas,

saysJon,“abitDesperate Dan-ish. Infact,theflatwasarealshithole.” Itwasinthisunlikely environment thatDouglas wastowritethenovelof Hitchhiker's, butinthewinterof1977-78 thatcommission wouldhavebeeninconceivable. WritingtheradioscriptsandtheDr.Whoepisodes wasmorethan enough.Douglashadonlytentatively emergedfromthedespondoffailure andwasstillquitefragileinside,howevermuchsuperficially hemaysome-

timeshaveappeared tobea confident Cambridge graduate. Moreover nobodyanticipated thatHitchhiker's wouldexplode insomanydirections so quickly. Geoffrey, whohasa sharpinstinct forsuchthings,reckons thathe knewtheyhadsomething veryspecialbyaboutepisodefour,butit’sfairto saythatbyandlargetheworldwastakenbysurprise.

It'sworthpointing outherethatthesecondradioseries—scheduled to startpre-production inAugust1979 fortransmission beginning theendof January 1980—was ifanything stillmorefraught thanthefirsteventhough everybody knewbythenthattheyhada mega-success ontheirhands.Once morethedeadlinescameexcruciatingly closetothewire. Geoffrey wasagaintheproducer. HeisnowCreative Director ofTigerAs-

pect,oneofthebestindependent production companies. Wheninterviewing himinhisoffice inLondon’s Sohoforthisbiography, thereweremoments whenhesighed ashewentintoatranceofrecollected pressure. Deepinhis bones,Geoffrey understoodthatbeingtheproducerofanyshowwrittenby Douglas was abit likebeingaratinastressexperiment offrightening subtlety.

ThistimeGeoffrey allowed plentyofroomforauthorial dilatoriness by starting thewholeprocess early, theverymoment hereturned fromhissummerholidays. Itwasjustaswellbecause thingswentveryslowly, withfalse startsand scriptsgoingbackand forth.Bymid-Octoberthey had only recordedoneepisode,butwithtransmission ofsixstartingattheendofJanuary,at the rateof oneperweek,Geoffrey thoughtthat,thoughtight,the

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schedulewasfeasible. SurelytheyhaduntilthemiddleofMarchto prepare thelastone? ThenDavidHatch,nowController ofRadioFour,fireda starshell. Youcan

imagine thescenefromoneofthosenavalwarmovies withKenneth More— klaxonsgoingwhoop,whoopalloverMaidaVale,and stiff-upper-lipped chapssayingthingslike,“Whata bore.Theballoonhasgoneup.”David wantedto awardHitchhiker's the ultimateaccoladein termsofthe BBC:the

coveroftheRadio Times. Despite themagazine's title,thefrontcoverwasseldomdevoted toradio;tellyhadtheglamour(Back intheseventies, before everybody wasallowed to publishextended programme information, the

RadioTimes waseasilythe biggestsellingmagazinein the country.It’sstill huge,witha printrun thatlookslikethe populationofa country,andan

evenlargerreadership.) Butaspartofhisnegotiations withtheRadio Times andtheBBC hierarchy, David hadagreed tomakethesecond seriesmoreof aneventbyrunning theepisodes consecutively inasingle week, anarrange-

mentknowninthehumidworldofbroadcastscheduling as“stripping.” This decision,thoughflattering,suddenlyconsumedall of Geoffrey's carefully contrivedDouglasfudgefactor.Theshowstookmonthstowriteanda week

toproduce. Theracewason. It isremarkable howpolished thefinalproduction sounded givenits closeshaveswithdisaster. Geoffrey recallsDouglas writingthescriptwithactorsactuallyinthestudio:

I canremember beingina taxigoingdowntotheParisStudio. Douglas hadgivenmethescriptandI'dreadhalfthepenultimate episode,andI'dbroughtthesecondhalfwithmetoreadontheway down,whichis onlya fiveor ten minutejourney.AndI'mgetting veryexcitedaswegotout ofthe cabwhenDouglassaid,“Doyou

realize thatthisscriptisnowactually toolong,andthissixorseven minutescenecancomeout andgo intothe startof the next episode—so you'venowgotsevenminutesofthenextepisode. Sothatwasgreat.Hurrah.Butwhenwegottothestudioforthe finalrecording,Douglasmust only havewrittenabout halfthe

script.Wetalked,veryroughly, aboutwhatit wasgoingto be— therewasthisruleroftheuniverse,themanin theshack,whowas

goingtobedubbedin.SoI bookedJonathan Prycetobetheruler of the universe,andwhenhe turnedup in the studioI said,“I'm

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verysorry, buttheruleroftheuniverse hasn'tbeenwrittenyet,”becauseDouglasisnowinthebackroomtypingawayonthesethings whichgaveyou six carboncopiesand whichlookedliketoilet paper—sortof ratherflimsy,slightlyhardtoiletpaper.Thatledto

themythofpeoplethinking thescriptshadactually beenwritten ontoiletpaper.Anyway, IsaidtoJonathan Pryce, “It’snotbeenwrittenyet—do youmindbeinganothercharacter calledZarniwhoop?" Andhe said,“Who'sZarniwhoop?” AndI said,“I’mnot sure,he seemsto be sortofvague—abit likeyouin fact.”Sohe didZarniwhoop,andI said,“Well,whilewe'rewaitingforthe rulerof the

universe, doyoumindbeinga tannoyannouncement?” Thiswas rightattheendoftheseriesonthisflightwherethey‘dallbeenbecalmedforhundredsofyearswaitingforthesupplyoflemonscentedpapernapkins.Jonathanhadto do thiswholethingabout

“Returnto your seat,return to your seat.”So he did that, and it was

aboutfiveo'clock, andhesaid,“I'mreallysorry,butI'mdueinthe theatre’—he wasdoingsomething rathermajoratthetime—‘and I'vereallygottogo.”SoIsaid,“Well, ofcourse, that’sOK.” Sobythe timeDouglasemergedwiththisbitofscript,theonlypersonleftto doit wasStephenMoore.Sohe didit. Whenwecametomaketheprogramme, wejustaboutmanaged

it.ButPaddyKingsland andIhadbeenupfortwonightsattheradiophonic workshop. Westartedepisodesixandgotmostofthe waythroughit,andthenPaddysaid:“I’mreallysorry—I’m justhallucinating...”Butwesortofjustaboutfinishedit whenLisa[now Geoffrey's wife]cameroundwithsomechampagneto celebratethe

endoftheshow.Wehadn'tquitefinished theediting, butwehad notimetoputanything behindthatlastfiveminutes—no timefor musicoreffects. SoIjustputwindbehinditbecause itsounded sort ofeerie.Anda cat.Windanda cat.

Geoffrey wincedashedescribed themechanics ofgettingthelastepisode doneandofftotheBBC. HisP.A’s husband hadbeenonstandby forhours withhiscar,buthadbeenobliged toleave. Amessenger waswaiting. I justhadto listento thetapefora finalcheck,soweplayedit. There was a retake that had been in the programme,so we cut it

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out—Lisa cuttheretakeout—butthetapewrappedroundthecapstanhead,sothe twoofus werejustcuttingbitsoftapeandstickingthemtogether.ItleftMaidaValeat abouta quarterpastten,and

hadto getto Broadcasting Housebyhalfpastten.I gotbackto whereIwasliving,onlytenminutesaway,andturnedontheradio fullyexpectingto hearan announcementsaying,we'reverysorry, we cannotbringyou the advertisedprogramme.Butit got there withtwominutesto go.

Douglas wasoutofallthis.AfterthefirsttwoshowsIremember hephonedupontheWednesday night—we wereinthestudio— justsaying,“IthoughtI'dphoneandfindouthowthingswere going.”AndI said:“It’sa bit frantic,but wesortofgotthere.”And he said:“Ohgood.Whatdid you thinkof the showlastnight?I

didn’thearitactually.” Wewerereally, reallyangrywithDouglas— afterallthat,hefucking didn’tlistentothefucking programme go out! Meanwhile,however,backon 8 March1978,at 10:30in the eveningon Radio

Four,andwithno publicityperceptible to humansense,thefirstepisodeof

The Hitchhiker's Guide totheGalaxy wasbroadcast. TheBBC's monitoring service wasnotsensitive enoughtodetectanaudience forit,soitrecorded alisteningfigureofzero—none atall. Thensomethingunusualhappened.Douglashad naivelyaskedSimon Brettsomemonthsbeforehandwhatthereviewswouldbe like.Simonhad chortledkindlyin orderto saveDouglasthe disappointment. “Thisis radio,

Douglas. We'llbeluckytogetamention anywhere.” Buttheprogramme was reviewed thatveryweekintwoofthequalitybroadsheet papers, TheTimes and the Observer. (In the latter,the shrewdPaulFerris,who loved it and who

wasparticularly takenwiththeBabelFish,remarked: “Thisjustmightbethe mostoriginalradiocomedyforyears...")What’smore,theprogramme was

promoted bythemostpowerful mechanism knowntoman,onewhichmarketingpeopletryhardest, andwithleastsuccess, tomanufacture: wordof mouth.Thefirsthappylisteners werestunned; theytoldtheirmateswhoin turntoldtheirmates.Likeneutronshittingnucleiandproducingmoreneutrons,a greatdemographic chainreactioncascadedthroughthepopulation. Bythesecondweek,mostofthestudentsin thecountryweretuningin.By

weekthreewordhadgotouttotheworldatlarge,evenasfaraspublishers

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in London. SimonBrettsayshe knewsomething extraordinary hadhappenedwhenhissquashpartner, anengineer, started talking aboutit.Byweek four,theproduction office wasreceiving anunprecedented twentytothirty lettersa day—oneaddressedsimplytoTheHitchhiker's GuidetotheGalaxy, Megadodo House,MegadodoPublications, UrsaMinor.SomeoneinthePost Officehadwritten“tryBBC” onthecorneroftheletter.Youwouldhavehad

tobelivingupa poleona smallislandnottohaveheardoftheseriesby weekfive. Whenthefinalepisodewasbroadcast, 12April1978, Douglas wasfamous, thoughasyethedidnotknowit.Therewasanidentifiable momentwhenthe pennydropped—but that’sforthenextchapter.

“|awokeonemorning andfoundmyself famous.” LORD BYRON ONTHE INSTANT ACCLAIM FoRChildeHarolde

SIX

mearkemMe ry

ca

ll overthe WestEnd,in restaurantswhere even the startersare in

French, youcanspotmenincrumpled corduroy suitsandbeauti-

fullyturned-outwomentoadyingabjectlyto smug-looking mediatrendies. ThesearepublisherslunchingTVproducers(onexpenses, Godforbidother-

wise)inthehopethattheywillbepersuaded tomakea huge-budget, multipart,prime-time serialbasedupononeofthebooksin thepublisher's catalogue. Theso-called TVtie-insarealloverthebookshops, sometimes to bizarreeffect.Someclassictitle,repackaged withsomuchfoilthebooklooks oven-ready, asthe oldjokegoes,andsportingtheembonpoint ofsomecurrentlyhotactress,willlookasifit hadjustsprungintobeingthatverysea-

son.Itmayhavebeenselling foracentury ormore.“Powerful” and“searing” aretwoadjectives towatchoutforwhensomefat,magnificent butstodgy nineteenth-century novelis giventhe tie-intreatment.Theoriginalwas probablywrittenin serialformfora marketsotragically boredanddesperatethatlengthwasa virtuein itself.

But,infact,theradio,thoughnotnearlyashugeastellyintermsofrat-

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ingnumbers,isin manywaysmuchmorereliable.TheRadioFourlisteners

areparticularly valuable. Demographers andmarketresearchers attheBBC willhavetoforgive thesimplification: Radio Fourreaches theconcerned and educated middle classes viaunerring self-selection. Itsaudience isprettywell the book-buyingpublic.Radioshouldneverbe underratedas a meansof sellingbooksjustbecause,asDennisPotterputit,TVistheoccupying power ofourculture.

WhenDouglas Adams's TheHitchhiker's Guide totheGalaxy burstuponthe airwaves in1978, publishers tooknote.BBC Publishing hadbeengivenan earlylookat theproperty, aswastheirright,buthadpassed(something aboutwhichtheyfeltimmensely sickthereafter). Infairnesstothem,comedy and SFhad alwaysbeena commercially vexedmix,and beinginvitedto makea judgementearlyisnotalwaysanadvantage. Theworldwas,afterall,

takenbysurprise. Tothoseofuswhotunedinwithincreasing enthusiasm everyWednesday evening, Douglas, withhiswildverbalpanache andwit, wasClearly a wordsmithwithalltheinstinctsofa writer.Itsoundedsowonderful,itwouldsurelyworkonthepage.Prettysooneditorswerebeatinga pathto JillFoster'sdoor.DotHoughtonofNELwasoneofthe contenders,

andNickAustin ofSphere wasn’t farbehind. Itisoddtobewriting a biography inwhichI,theauthor, havea small role.Otherpeople’s livesareatleastascomplex asone’sown—and much moresointhecaseofDouglas. Justgettingit downseemsto dosomeofthe subtleties amischief. Youcannothelptidyingthingsupa little. Sohowshould Idescribemyself? “Nick Webb,debonair, decisive, destinedtobeplayedinthe

moviebytheyoungClintEastwood, sweptdownontherightslikeamarsh harriersnatching upavole?” Alas,thatwouldbealie. ThetruthisthatIboughttherightstoHitchhiker's andthen,at theendof 1978,leftPanforwhatI (mistakenly) thoughtwasa granderjob.I tookno furtherpartin Douglas’s astonishing publishingsuc-

cess. Inresearching thisbook,Ihavefoundthatafewpeople tendtooverclaim abouttheirrelationswithDouglas—maybe to be closeto the glamourof fame—soperhapsit’stimeto comecleanandtellyouthatmypartin the storyismodest.I likedhima lot—andstilldo,despitebecominghisbiogra-

pher.Weremained matesuntilhedied,butwedidnothaveoneofthoseextraordinary andintensefriendships in whichDouglas invested somuch. Instead wewouldmeetupeverysooften, usually forlunch,andargueabout

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science. Douglas's voracious reading andpiercing intelligence usually leftme labouring alonginhiswake,butI knewenoughtosayfromtimetotime, “Hmm, I dunnoifthat’snotbollocks, Douglas.” Wealways hugelyenjoyed theensuingargument. Atthetimeofthefirstbroadcasting ofHitchhiker's, | wastheFictionEditor at PanBookswhosestaggeringly fashionableofficeswereabovethe Pan

bookshop intheFulham Road, opposite awinebarwherestrangely beautifulwomen wouldlunchwitheachotheraftera heavymorning intheshops. Panwasthenownedby a consortiumofthreelargepublishers, Heinemann,Collins,andMacmillan, andthisownershiphelpedgiveit accessto someofthemostdesirablepaperbackrightsin themarket.Paperback com-

paniesweredistinct fromhardback companies inthosedays,andmostof whatappeared inpaperback waspublished under alicence,usually ofeight ortenyears,boughtfromthefirstpublisherofthework.Backintheseventies,beforetheeraofconglomeration, thereweremanyoftheseindependent hardcoverpublishers. Onlya fewremain.Oneofthetasksofa paperback ed-

itorwastoscoutthesehousesandnegotiate forthemass-market rightsin booksthatlookedasiftheywouldhavea robustsecondlifeinpaperback. Because atthattimepaperbackers didnotoriginate asmuchasthehardcover houses(something thatchangedmarkedlyoverthenextdecades), theywere oftenpatronized(“notrealpublishers, oldboy”)whileatthesametimebeing

treatedaschequebooks onthehoofwhosesolepurpose wastounderwrite somehardcover publisher's dodgier investments. RalphVernon-Hunt, Pan'sManaging Director, justliketheretiring generationofBBCproducers, genuinelywasanex-bomberpilot*Hewasa charming manwitha long,bonyface,a roguishsmileand a saltyno-bullshit manner—very briskand no-nonsensewhen it cameto business.Sonny Mehta,a handsome, aristocratic Indianwithgoodtasteandintuition, wasthe

Editorial Director. HeisnowPresident andEditor-in-Chief ofKnopf, andone oftheindustry'sélite.Sonnyisoftencreditedwithstartingwhatbecamethe tradepaperbackrevolution whenhelaunchedthePaladinlistandpublished Germaine Greer’s TheFemale Eunuch. (Tradepaperbacks arelarger,moreexpen-

siveandusually moreliterary thanthemass-market variety.) Simon Master, * ThereisastoryofRalph beinginterviewed attheFrankfurt Book FairbyDieFrankfurter AllgemeineZeitung,nota frivolous paper.“WhenwereyoulastinFrankfurt, Mr.Vernon-Hunt?” asked theearnestyoungreporter. “Notinexactly, oldboy,”saidRalph.“Over...”

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a clever,somewhatcoolmanwithfamilyconnections tothefirm,ranthesystems,andtherewasa legendarySalesDirector, grey,streetwiseandtough,

calledBobWilliams, whoruleda formidable bunchofrepresentatives with steelbeneatha steelgauntlet. Thereweremanyothersinwhatwasa very competent teamhighlyregarded withinthepublishing parish. Iftheybuya winner,editorsalwaysshrewdlymaintainitwastheirjudgementandnotluck.Ontheotherhand,iftheybuya complete dog,it’sinvariablybecausesomeidiotin the art departmentfailedto packagethe book

properly, therepsneverunderstood itandthebigchains suffered apusillanimouscourage bypass byfailing toorderenoughcopies (or,inextreme cases, any).I wasluckyenoughtobetippedoff:Mysoontobebrother-in-law in darkestNorfolkhadtoldmeto listento Hitchhiker's ontheradio;I wascompletelyoverwhelmed bythehumour,itsbleakphilosophical jokesanditssheer verbaldexterity. ThisblokeAdams, Ithought,mustwritea novel.Inallhonesty

Ihadnottheslightest inkling thatthebookwouldgoasbananas asitdid. Butfirst,throughthegoodoffices ofJillFoster, I metDouglas andJohn Lloyd ina pubinArgyll St,neartheLondon Palladium. Itmusthavebeen aboutthe endofMay1978.TheArgyllArmsis oneofthosenoisypubs,a greatrectangle ofa roomdividedintosmallerbarsbyVictorian glass,andfull

ofyoungsters flirting urgently. Despite this,Douglas andI,beingmuchthe sameheight, managed totalkabovethehubbub. Wediscussed Wittgenstein andquantum physics. Actually that’sa fib.I couldbluffandreportwhatwe saidin immensedetail,butallI canrememberisthatwetalkedaboutHitchhikersandSFin general,andthathe surprisedmebynothavinga philosophydegree.Instead,muchmorevaluably, hepossesseda philosophical turn

ofmind.I thoughthewasratherwonderful. JohnLloyd wasalsoongood form,buthardertohearinthisill-chosen venue.Idorecallhowthewomen inthepubinstantlyclockedhimeventhoughDouglasandI didnotregister ontheirradarat all. Thethreeofusgotontremendously well,andI rememberthinking,asI

mademyslightly unsteady wayhomethatevening, thatiftheofferwerenot toomean,wewouldbesuccessful inacquiring thebook. SonnyMehtarecallswhathappened: Youcamein [that’smelin yourusualshamblingway,saying

therewasthisradioseriesyou'dbeenlistening tothatyouthought wasreallysomething, andthatyoufigured weaskthewriterofthe

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scriptsifhecouldturnit intoa novel.That’sroughlywhathappened.Yougavemesomeofthetapes—I remember listening to them. It was a small contract,but when we published, it just went

throughprintingafterprinting.

Editors arenotsovereign inmostpublishing houses; theyhavetogetthe blessing oftherightforuminordertospendthecompany’s money. Theydo thisattheeditorial meeting, aninstitution thatauthors havelearned todread. Suppose, theyfret,notentirelywithoutreason,thecommittee getsaroundto mybook,inwhichI'veinvestedyearsoftoilandanguish,aftera long,frac-

tious meeting,andit'stimeforlunch.

Attheeditorial meeting (nomenclature mayvary),theeditormakesa pitchabouta booktohisorhercolleagues, usually withthesalesdirector or someprofessional hard-nosealsopresent.Publishing is a businessto some extentconcernedwithmanagingfailure(axiomatically mostofwhat'spublisheddoesnotbecomea bestseller), sothepeoplearoundthetablearepretty

cynical. They've hearditallbefore, andregarditsrepetition asanunnatural act.Youmightthinkthisisa toughtestfortheworkofa delicate authorto endure,butit’snotunreasonable. Theeditorcangetthebenefitofthepooled experience ofthosepresent,andifheorshecannotsellthebookin-house,is itfairtoexpectthesalesteamtosellittothetrade?* Afterall,ifyouthinkthe editorialmeetingteam soundsblasé,let me tellyou its membersare sweet-

nessitselfcompared totheprofessional buyersinthebigbookselling chains likeW.H. Smith. These world-weary, etiolated peoplearesogorged onpublishers’hypethattheycouldscarcelyraisea flickerofinterestifa mile-high silverstarshiplandedon their Swindonwarehouse;they rank as amongstthe

mostjadedonEarth,possiblyintheentirehistoryofthespecies.

ButatthePaneditorial meeting, inanairless roominthemiddleofthe building, SonnyMehtaandtherestofmycolleagues smiled atmyenthusiasm.AftersomehagglingwithJillFosteroverroyaltiesandsub-rightsplits," * Publishing isaconfidence game. Theeditor mustbelieve intheauthor’s work, andtransmit that confidence totherestoftheorganization thatinturnmustconvey ittothetrade.It’sonlyafter thetradehasagreed todisplay theworkthatthepublic hasachance ofbuying it.Itispossible tositinameeting andseethechainofconfidence broken underone’snose,inwhich caseit mustberepaired quickly orelsethebookwillprobably fail. t Thesedefine thepercentages oftheincome fromthesaleofrights thatflowthrough totheauthor’saccount.

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Panacquiredtheworldrightsforan advanceagainstallearningsof£3,000, halfpayableonsignatureoftheagreementandhalfonpublication. Douglas

andJohnLloyd weretheoriginal partiestothecontract, butJohnLloyd's namewaslaterdeleted—and thereby hangs atale. Although notahugeriskforPan,in1978 £3,000 wasa decentsum.John Lloydsaysthatatthetimehewasbadlyindebt,withanoverdraft. It seemedlikea fortune.Writingtogetherwasperfectlynatural.

We'dwrittenlotsofthingstogether—a pilotfortheBBC, a film treatment, a cartoonseriesforthatDutchcompany. We'dtriedlots ofthingsandwewereveryclosefriends, we'dshareda flattogether. Wegotonverywellaswritersbecauseweweren'tthe samesortof writer,sotherewasverylittlecompetition; it wasjusta sortofcooperativething.Welaughed a lot;wehadgreatfun.

Douglas, livinginsqualor withJonCanterofftheHolloway Road, wasalso thrilledtogetanadvance. Heembraced thepossibilities ofhavingsomespare changewithchildlikeglee.JonrecallsDouglasnippingoutto thelocalofflicenceto buysomeCoke,andcomingbackwithan almostunmanageable

crateofthestuff—because hecould. He’dwokenuptotherealization thathe couldaffordtobuyinquantity ifhewanted. Douglas, literally andfiguratively,wasnevera singlebottlepurchaseragain. ButwhenDouglassatdowntowritethenovel,hefelt—as withhisscript andsketchwriting—that heshoulddoitonhisown,withoutJohnLloyd.He wrotetoJohnsuggesting thathe alonewritethebook,andthathewassure

thatJohnwouldseethesenseofdoingthingsthatway. Forallthecomplexities, JohnandDouglas werefriends, andformany monthstheyhadbeenthethicknessofa brickawayathomeandatwork,so thefactthatDouglasputallthisin a letterwasparticularly hurtfulto John. Whynottalk,forgoodnesssake?ItmaysuggestthatDouglasfoundit a dif-

ficultsubject tobroach, butitisjustaslikelythathediditinallinnocence, notanticipating thatitwouldbeaproblem, butonlyknowing thatonehad to be formalaboutsuchunderstandings. Itwas,asheexplainedin aninterviewwithNeilGaiman,hisproject.Althoughhe hadfeltit mightbe funto collaborate, whenherealizedhecoulddoithimself, hechangedhismind.He

waswithinhisrights, butasheadmits:

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I shouldhavehandleditbetter.JohnLloydandI areincredibly goodfriends, butontheotherhandweareincredibly goodatrubbingeachotherupthewrongway.Wehavetheseridiculous fights whenI’mdeterminedto havea go at himand he’sdeterminedto havea goat me*

Douglas wastakenbysurprise bythevehemence oftheirrow.ButJohnwas furious. Being firedoffthebookwasaburningcoalinhisheart.Hewashumiliated.Yearslater,when both men werereconciled,it wasstilla subjectthat

hadtobesteppedaroundasdelicately asa sapperprobingfora mine.Douglas,bythenfullyawarethathe hadbeena clodhopper, rationalized that it had been good for John,for it had pushed him into tellywhere he became

hugelysuccessful. John,suffused withthebenignity thatfollows thepassage ofdecades andtheextinction ofafriend, saysthatDouglas's needtowritethe bookonhisownwasvindicated byresults.Nobodyelsecouldhavecaptured his voiceor done it so well.Of course,John explains,he sulkedfor a while,

butnowheunderstands thatDouglasdidtherightthing.

However, atthetimeithurtdeeply. Wetendtolietoourselves aboutour friendships becausesuchfibsreflectwellonourownresources ofemotionalgenerosity. What'smore,facinguptothepossibility thatfriendships cansometimesbe a matterofconvenience requiresus to be unflinchingly clear-sightedabout the fallibilityof humanrelationsand the horrorof

loneliness. JohnandDouglas's relationship wasaplanetinahighlyellipticalorbit.Sometimes itwouldbeclosetoitsstarandbasking inthewarmth. Othertimesitwouldberemoteandfrozen—and atalltimesitwouldhave a ferociousprecessionasit wobbledaroundan axisofenvyandcompetition. Johnwasdriventofindanagenttorepresenthisinterests. Asa staffer, his

creative workattheBBC wastheproperty oftheorganization, butventures outofhousebelonged tohim.Besides, agentsareenormously usefultoserve as a toughie(“mypartner,Mr.Gradgrind”) whenyouwouldfindit embarrassingtofighta particularbattleyourself. MarkBerlin,ofLondonManagement, had admiredJohn since seeinghim in revue at Cambridge,and was

happytotakehimon.Markistidy-minded, courteous, andsteelywhenre* Don’tPanic.

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quired.Hehasa filingsystemofan efficiency unparalleled inthehistoryof the industryand canevenfindnotesoftelephoneconversations that occurreda quarterofa centuryago.John,Markrecalls,washurtbyDouglas’s decisionandsaid“thathewasnotpreparedtobe Douglas's emotionalfoot-

ballanylonger.” MarkandJillFoster haggled asonlyagentscan.Itwasallverycivilized. Mark’sadvicetoJohnwastoaskfor15%oftheincomefromthebookinperpetuity,a betterlong-termbetinMark'sviewthana moresubstantial share ofthe advance.Thecalculation of 15%wasbasedon John’shelpwithtwo

episodes outoftwelve, i.e.onesixth,roundeddowntoa moreconvenient number. Johnsaysthathewouldnothearofsuchanarrangement andchose instead theenhanced shareoftheadvance. Perhaps hejustwanted todrawa lineundera painfulwranglebysettlingfora paymentthatwouldclosethe subjectforever.Ofcourse,he mayhavefiguredthata chequeinthehandis

worthseveral inthefutureifyou'rebroke,buthewasalsoconcerned with doingthedecentthing.Inthemanycomplications oftheirrelationship John andDouglas wereadeptatinducing subtleguiltsineachother.Intheend, aftersometoingandfroing,JohnLloyd'sinterestinthecontractwasbought outforhalftheadvance,butwithnocontinuingparticipation in anysubsequentroyaltyincome.

Thisisaninteresting wrangle fromthepointofviewofwhatm’learned friends havetaughtustocall“intellectual property.” IfJohn’s contribution in thetwoepisodes heco-wrote (outoftwelve) hadbeentohelpdevise thees-

sentialfurnitureofthenarrative, thenhewouldhavebeenentitledtoa small butproportional shareofallthesubsequentincarnations ofthework.Evenif

hehadwholly writtentwoepisodes, butwithoutcreating theinfrastructure ofthenarrative, hewouldbeentitledtoshareproratainanydirectuseofhis

material. ButDouglas wascareful nottouseanything fromepisodes fiveand sixinthebook.Thiswouldhaverenderedtheargumentforcontinuingparticipationuntenable.Onthe otherhand,ifyouwerepreparedto be really bloodyaboutit(which,to hiscredit,Johnwasn’t), it mayhavebeenpossible

tonegotiate somemoremoneyinorderfortheproprietor nottobetroubled byanyfurtherencumbrance. Given thatThe Hitchhiker's Guide totheGalaxy went ontosella millioncopiesinrecordtime,thismusthavebeen abit gallingfor John,buthewasn’tthevictimofunfairness. Moneywasnotthewholeissue in anycase.InthefebrileworldofdauntinglybrightCambridge smarties,it

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wasfame,andespecially therecognition ofcreativeexcellence, thatwerethe spur

Johnwasdeeply cheesed offforyears. Douglas mayhaveneedled himin a peculiarly sensitive spot.Asa producer Johnhasbeeninspirational, butit mustbefrustrating tobethenurtureroftalent,foreveroutofshotwhenthe publicmakesstarsofthoseinfrontofthecamera.Ashesaid: The thing is, Douglaswas the first in our circleto make it. He

was arich personlongbeforeanyoneelse.ThenMelSmithgotrich andput£3,000 onahorse,andthatseemed mad.Nowlotsofpeopleoneknowsin thecomedysnakepitownstringsofracehorsesso nobodythinkstwiceaboutbringinga bottleofchampagneor or-

deringone.[Douglas hadordereda bottleofchampagne ina Chineserestaurant tothebewilderment ofthewaiterandamazement ofhisfriends.] ButDouglas wasalways a stepahead,andit’smore evidencethat he wentthroughlifewith a bag overhis head;he didn’trealizethatpeoplewouldbehurt.Andyet,heusedto saythe sameaboutme.Yearslaterhe said,“Jremembergoingto dinner

onceatyourhouse,Johnny, andyousaidtome:‘Pass thesalt,you failure.” Andhe'dcarried thatinsidehimforfifteen yearsofmultimillionaire success—this cankerinsidehimsaying, hehatesme,he

thinksI'ma failure.I thinkanyonewhoknowsmewillunderstand that I am just not capableof that kind of blatantcruelty.It was

probably saidasajokeorsomething... Once,afterNottheNine O'Clock News [thehugeTVhitproduced by John],Sean Hardie,the producer,and I went for a rather miserable

weekto the SouthofFranceto inventa newproject.Wedidn’treally comeup with anything—we’d been workingtoo muchto-

getherandtooclosely andhadrunoutofthingstosay.Butwedid comeupwiththisideafora sitcom. ItwascalledRichBastard. It wasaboutthiswriterwho'sveryrichandratherclodhopping inthe * Despite working formanyyearsinaferalAmerican corporation which prided itself, forsomeperversereason, onitskiller corporate culture, | havenevercomeacrosssuchcompetitiveness— usually unstated—as thatwhich prevails among theclever Cambridge media setthatgraduated withDouglas.

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waythatDouglas was.Itwasslightly abouthim.[Inthesitcom] he hadthisfriend,whowasa radioproducer whohewasalways terribly,improbably jealousof—which wasslightlytherelationship wehad.WhateverDouglasdid,he alwaysseemedto feelI'dbested him,includingthe businessofhavingchildrenfirst.Heusedto go

aroundsayingthatbastardLloyd’s beatenmeagain. TheplanhadbeenforDouglasandLloydie toflytoCorfu(again). Therethey wouldwritethebook,andattheendofa righteousdayat theword-face they wouldtotterdownthroughthecooloftheeveningand thescented,balmy airandrewardthemselves, whilethestarscameout,witha jollymealanda

bottleofretsina inthelocaltaverna. Withanylucktheymightbeabletooffer anoptionontheirbodiestoanypassing female Scandinavian tourists... Instead,Douglasrepairedto theflatoffthe Holloway Road,a longway fromtheGreekislandsin everysense.Therehe setaboutwritingwithwhat

was(forhim)grimmethod. Thisiswhathetooktohisroom:lotsofCoke(the drink),a typewriter, severalreamsofA-4,a gramophone, and “Wuthering

Heights” byKateBush(fortranceinduction). Heplayedituntilheworethe needleout.JonCanter,heroically good-natured, waswornoutaswell. AlistairBeaton,the authorand playwright, identifiesfourstagesin the collapseofan author’sself-esteem. Theygoroughlylikethis:

1)Thisisbloody difficult. Imaybeblocked.

2)Ohno,ohno.Ican’tmanage thisbitatall.

3)Gloom,gloom.Bloodyhell.IfI'mhonestwithmyself I can’twriteany ofit. 4)Thetruthis,I justcan’twriteatall.I'ma fraud,andfinallyI have

beenfoundout. DouglasdidnotgetveryfardowntheBeatonScaleforthisfirstbook,buthe wasa manwhoneededcompany. Insolitudehe couldeasilyfallintoa kind of gloomyvacancy.Writing,as wellas all its technicalchallengesand its

brain-bruising callsoninvention andtalent,islonely, andthewriter’s world tendstoshrinktojustaroomandthekeyboard. JohnLloyd says: Douglaswasdeterminedto provehimselfbecausehe’dbeena cooperative writer with Adams,Smith,Adams,Graham Chapman,

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RingoStarrandme.He’dneverdoneanything, exceptforthefamoussketchaboutthe Kamikazepilot,on hisown.Andsohe was determined,when he got the contractto do Hitchhiker's, that he woulddo the damnedthinghimselfand provehe was a proper writer.

Characteristically, Douglas delivered late.Inhisintroduction to thecompendiumvolumeoftheHitchhiker's novels,he describeshisdelinquency like this:

Aftera lotofprocrastination andhidingandinventing excuses andhavingbaths,I managed togettwothirdsofit done.Atthis point they said,very pleasantlyand politely,that I had already passedtendeadlines,sowouldI pleasefinishthepageIwasonand letthemhavethe damnthing.

Meanwhile Iwasbusytryingtowritethesecondseriesandwas alsowritingandscript-editing Dr.Who, becausewhileit wasvery pleasant tohaveyourownradioseries,especially onethatsomebody had writtenin to saytheyheard,it didn’texactlybuy you lunch.

Certainly thefirstnoveljudders toahaltwitheverynarrative strandinsuspension. AtthetimeIimagined—naive gitthatIwas—that hisabruptfinish wasadeliberate literarydevice,akindofplayfulsuborningoftheconvention wherebyfictionissomuchtidierthanlife.Alsothefinalpage,inwhichthe characterssetoffto the restaurantat the endofthe universe,lookedlikea

shameless meansofwhetting themarket's appetite forasequel. Butno.Pan's fictioneditorCaroline Upcher andSonnyMehtahadjustgotannoyed by beingstrungalongbyDouglas, whowasnotguiltyofdeliberate liesabout deliverysomuchasoptimistic andsincereself-deception. InDon’t Panic, Neil Gaimanreportsthat Panexecutives spokewithDouglasalongtheselines: “Howmuchhaveyoudone?”then,“Ohdear,well,it willhaveto do—we'll

sendsomebody tocollect it.”Caroline doesnotremember sucha conversation,anditwouldgoagainst anypublisher's graintopublish something incomplete.It’smore likelythat Douglasestimatedthat he wouldhave roundedthestoryoffmoresatisfactorily bythetimethemotorcycle messengerarrived—but hehadn't.

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Pan'spaperback hadbeencatalogued, presentedtothechainsandawitty one-pageflyerhadbeendistributed allovertheenvironment. Thecoverhad

beendesigned (Hipgnosis artwork withPan'sIanWright doingthelayout) andprinted, andwaswaiting onthebindinglineat Clays, thebigbookprinterinBungay, Suffolk. Therepshadsubscribed thebooktothetrade,and the turnoveranticipatedin the annualbudget.Justabouteverythingthat couldbe donehadbeendoneshortofhavingtheactualtext.Thepointhad beenreachedwhentheyjusthadto havethebook.

JohnLloyd reported thattohimatfirstthenovelreadrathertoomuch liketheworkofthegreatKurtVonnegut* Thereviewers alsopicked upon this,thoughithastobesaidthatthemoreDouglas wroteandrewrote, the morethevoicebecamehisown.HeandVonnegutdo havemuchin com-

mon.Vonnegut islessexplicitly comic, moredarklysardonic andmoreartful aboutnarrative construction. Bothwritershavea senseoftheabsurd— thoughDouglas's ismorecosmic—and theyhavemastered animmediate andconversational stylethatiseasyto read,buthellto write.Vonnegutisa humanist;asheputsitsowellinGodBless You, Dr.Kevorkian, hehastriedtobehavedecentlywithoutanyexpectation ofrewardor punishmentafterhe’s

dead.Healways seemsmelancholy aboutthehumancondition andthehorrificthingswecandotoeachother. Afterall,hewitnessed thefirebombing of Dresden, something sounspeakable thatittookhimovertwodecades tofind a wayof writingaboutit (Slaughterhouse Five). Youcan imagineVonnegut banginghisheadonhisdeskandsighingwitha blendofsarcasmandsadnessatmankind'santics.Douglas, ontheotherhand,islesssatirical; withthe

exception ofLast Chance toSee, hefindshumanity notsomuchtragically gracelessascomically odd. Bizarrely, Vonnegut, despitepre-datingDouglas byageneration, wasonce reviewedbysomeonewhosaidhehadwrittena veryAdamsybook,vizhis superbnovel,Galapagos." ThatnoveldoesindeedshareDouglas’s preoccupa-

tionwithevolution. Vonnegut pointsoutthatinthelongtermbigbrainsare notallthatdesirable fromtheevolutionary pointofview.Ina fragile world thepossessors ofthemcanusetheirintelligence toruintheplanetinways unimaginable bya lessintellectually endowedspecies(and,he asks,isintel* Ifyouhaven’t triedhim,startatonce.Slaughterhouse Five, Player Piano, GodBlessYou, Mr. Rosewater, Breakfast ofChampions andGalapagos areessential reading. t Published intheUKbyJonathan Cape, 1985.

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ligence anadaptation thatmakesforhappiness?). Vonnegut’s character who useshighexplosives “asa branchofshowbusiness” isa tropethatDouglas wouldhavebeenproudto devise.Butin theliteraryantecedents game belovedbycritics,it’sclearthatthishadalwaysbeenVonnegut’s voice—and hestartedwritingwhenDouglaswasscarcelytallerthana dachshund.

ThenovelofHitchhiker's wasnotthefirstreincarnation oftheradioseries. KenCampbell, oftheScienceFictionTheatreofLiverpool, hadheardthese-

riesandhadimmediately thought itcouldandshouldbestaged. Hewasvery quickoffthe mark,and soughtoutJillFosterto licensethe dramatisation rights.Hiswasto be thefirstofmanytheatricalversionsofHitchhiker's that continuetothisday.Includingtheamateurproductions, thesemustnumber

intothehundreds bynow.Therehasevenbeenastageversion ofthehorriblycomplex DirkGently’s Holistic Agency, directed byArvindDavidinOxford, thatDouglaslikedverymuch. | KenCampbellmayonlybe familiarto peopleundertwenty-fiveas a characteractoron the box.Heis a small,quick-witted baldywithbulging

eyesandamannersobelligerent andfizzing withenergy thatifhewereever to takestimulants hewouldprobably explode. Hisvoice,stillwithLiverpudliancadences, screeches withindignation. Itcanpenetrate a bankvault doorat a hundredyardsandhasthestrangulated qualityofa manwhojust a momentbeforehasstoppedscreaming. ButifwewereevertohaveHeroes

oftheBritish Isles(astheyhadoftheSoviet Union), hewouldgetmanyvotes forservices totheatre, funandgeneral subversion. Insomeways,KenCampbellisa similar spirittoDouglas—inventive, funny, somewhat amazed byit all.

TheScienceFictionTheatreof Liverpool,foundedin 1976,couldnot have

beenfurtherfromtheluvvieworldoftheWestEndwithallthosenicelyob-

servedplayswithsofasandFrenchwindows. Kenwasnotinterested in miniatures; helikedabiggercanvas. Oneofhisfirstprojects wasa “Discordianproduction” (“We're Discordians—We StickApart”), in whichanybody couldtakepart.ThiswasbasedupontheIIluminatus! trilogybyRobertAnton WilsonandRobertShea.Thesebooksmaybeafruitcake,buttheyarethegi-

antsofthefruitcake world—indigestibly rich,spanning thousands ofyears, andcontaining everypossible paranoia-inducing orarcaneingredient you canimagine. TheIlluminati aretheultimate conspirators withtheiroctupoid fingersin a plenitudeofpies—theCathars,themasons,theCatholicChurch, the greatPyramids, the KnightsTemplar, Atlantis ...One seductiveangleto

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theconspiracy isthatthelackofevidencetosupportit,supportsit,forsurely only they—the Illuminatithemselves—have the resourcesto covertheir tracksup so completely. Fearingthat IIluminatus! did not requiresufficient

commitment fromitsaudience, beingamereeighthours,Ken’s nextproductionwasTheWarp, atwenty-two hourcultepicwithbreaksforfood,hygiene andalcohol.According to RobertAntonWilson,it alsoachievedthedistinctionofwinningtheprizeforthegreatestnumberofsimulatedblowjobsin onedramainthehistoryoftheatre.

Ken’s approach toTheHitchhiker's Guide totheGalaxy wascharacteristically imaginative, quickandenergetic. Hesayshehadneverheardoftheprogramme untilsomefansranghimupandtoldhimtolisten.“Thatseemed great,”hesaid.“Imean,herewasanaudiencedemandinga show.” Theproductiontookplacewithdazzlingpromptness(theend ofMay,

1979) intheInstitute ofContemporary Arts,inCarlton Terrace, London. This elegantRegency buildingon theMall(thewideavenuethatrunsfrom Trafalgar SquaretoBuckingham Palace) ispossibly theposhestbitofreal estateinLondon. Thedramastartswiththedestruction oftheEarthso,in orderforthe audienceto feelfullyengaged,Kendecidedto takethemoffplanet.Proceedings beganwiththe saleof Pan-Galactic GargleBlasters,a

cocktail thatDouglas described ashavinganeffectlikebeinghitoverthe headwitha sliceoflemonwrapped around a goldbrick.Theperformance kickedoffin thefoyerwiththeaudience—only eightyorsoperperformance—sitting downonaraised dais.In factthiswasa platform,devised by a man calledMikeHurst,mounted on industrialskates.Thesewere de-

signedtomovemassive bitsofplantbyfloating themona millimetre or twoofairpumpedunderpressure throughthousands oftinyholes*Despitetheweight,theresultwasalmostfrictionless, sothewholeaudience— with the platform,all seventeenhundredtons of it—couldbe moved around smoothlyfrom set to set rather than sittingthere like nonparticipantpotatoeswhileunderpaidASMschangedthesceneryinfrontof

them.Itwasa radicalandinnovative idea,andtheproduction wasa huge success. * Fortheborderline obsessivefan,| canreportthattheplatform wassupportedby22”diameter

bluedisc-skates fromRolair Systems andthatMotivair supplied thecompressed airfroma 152DS Hydrovane Compressor. Even theStage, theprofessional thesps’ magazine, saiditwas technically brilliant, butaddedthattheseating wasinsufficiently raked.

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Theshowwasalsostunningly noisy,butTribune magazinesaidina review

that“theactorsresisted thetemptation tooverreact against thedin.”Thetwoheaded Zaphod problem wassolved byhaving twoactors inasingle suit.You couldn't geta tickettosaveyourlife.Morepeoplewereturnedawaythan

wereletin. Itwasa completesell-out.Douglaswasthrilled.

Inspired bythesuccess ofthefirstouting,KenCampbell decidedto restageHitchhiker's thefollowing yearJuly 1980) at theRainbow, a huge, rathergloomy building inFinsbury Park,northLondon, thathadstartedlife asa confident1930scinema,sufferedfroma changingmarketforitwasjust toobigtomakeeconomic sense,andeventually transmogrified intoa funky venueforrockconcerts. (Morerecentlyitwashometo charismatic Christian

evangelists, something thatDouglas wouldhavegrieved about.) TheRainbow production wasbrave,butdoomed. AsMikeSimpson saysinhisHitchhiker's

Guide, themostcharitablethingthatcanbe saidaboutthisproductionwas thatitfeaturedlasers,andwaslong.Thecriticsexcoriated it.Thesubtletyand witoftheoriginaldidnotsurvivethebigtreatmenthappily.Themostsuc-

cessful theatrical versions, liketheTheatr Clwyd showdirected byJonathan Petherbridge, arequiteintimate.

Anotherdealexecutedbeforethepublication ofthefirstbookwasforthe recordingrights.Perversely (forsurelytheyknewwhattheyhadby now?), BBCEnterprises hadonceagainpassedontheaudioopportunity, perhapson

thegrounds thatinrecordformtheunabridged radioserieswouldhaverequiredathree-album set—we’re talking bigvinylplatters here,don’tforget, not CDs—or a doubletapecassette.Bothwouldhavebeenexpensiveand dauntingforthe market.Withthewisdomofretrospectthe BBCfeelsnauseousaboutthisnow.

In1979, Geoffrey Perkins hadtalkedtoseveral recordcompanies thathad expressed interest inissuing Hitchhiker's commercially. Hewasonthepointof signing withoneofthemwhentheproprietor insisted onshowing hima hardcorepornfilm,a hopelessmisjudgement ofthecultureofhispotential businesspartner.Intheend,Geoffrey andDouglasdecidedon a smallcom-

pany,Original Records, thatseemed insympathy withthenatureoftheprojectandhadspecialized incomedy* Geoffrey assembled muchoftheoriginal radiocastwitha fewminor * ThiscompanyhasnothingtodowiththepresentOriginal Records, a reggaemusicspecialist.

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changes. SusanSheridan wasonaDisney filmsoCindyOswin fromtheICA productionplayedTrillian. DeepThoughtwasnot playedby Geoffrey McGivernbut by ValentineDyall,the ownerof a famouslychocolatey voice*

Someoftheradiomusiccouldnotbereplayed onarecordforcopyright reasons(forinstance, ithadcomefromalbums already licensed exclusively toa recordcompany). Thenewmusic,byTimSouster, wasregardedasatriumph. Allin all,Geoffrey waspleased.Thecuttinghadsharpenedthenarrativeline andtherewerea numberofimprovements to thevoicetreatmentsandthe effects. Someslightlymorehigh-techequipmentwasavailableandthistime

theteamwerebetterabletodrawbreathandthinkaboutwhattheywere doing. Thedoublealbumsoldremarkably well(over120,000 units), especially as itwasinitiallyavailableonlythroughmailorderat£6.99(including postage andpacking) viaa coupon,ostensibly writtenbyZarniwoop himself,at the backofthe Panpaperback. Thechequehadto be madeoutto Megadodo

Publications. Thiscouponwastakenoutoflaterprintings afterPanreceived complaints aboutfulfilment, andindeedGeoffrey Perkins reported thathe andthecastnevergotpaidforthefirstrecording, something thatmadethe

secondrecording ofTheRestaurant attheEndoftheUniverse “alotlessinteresting.” Infacttherewasa majorproblemwiththeroyalties, withtheresultthatEd

Victor, whobecame Douglas's agent,pushedthecompany intobankruptcy whenitdefaulted. Original Records seemtohavehurriedthemaking ofthe secondalbumtotheextentthatthequalitysuffered, butthefirstissuperb, andifyouhavea copy,hangon to it.It isnowa collector’s itemandquite valuable.

Douglas nowwasstarting tomakesomemoney. Itwasnotatsunami of cash,butenoughforhimtobuyablueMGsportscar.Hewenteverywhere init,possibly thetenyardstothepillarboxattheendoftheroadandcertainlydownto Dorsetto showitofftohismumandallthefamily. Douglaswasnot oneof nature'sdrivers.It’snot so muchthat he was clumsy,it was more a matter of attention.He lovedto talk,even in the car.

He’dbemaking somefascinating pointbuthewouldnotbefocused onthe six-axle forty-ton cement lorrywiththepneumatic brakesthathadimprobablyjuststoppedon a sixpencein the laneahead.“ForGod'ssake,”you wantedto say,“stopyourmindzoomingandpirouettingaboutthe strato* He’d beenTheManinBlack foracelebrated Home Service radioseries.

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sphereandcomedowntoroadlevel.” WhenDouglas wasdriving a manual hewouldchange gearfromtimetotimeasifheremembered thatthat’swhat drivers did. When he becamesuccessful,and beforehe settleddown with large,sensible,automaticsaloons,he had flings(soreminiscentofhis father’sromance

withAston Martins) withseveral Porsches. Thefirstone,a 911,hecrashed into thePiccadilly underpass atHydeParkCorner justoutside theHardRock Café wherea hugequeueofpeopleapplauded withsatirical cheeriness; nice JacquiGraham,the PressOfficerof Pan,had to comeout in her littleRenault

andrescuehim.Hewalkedawayfromthecarandneversaw it again.Hesaid he hatedthe caranyway:“Goingfora drivewaslikesettingoutto invade

Poland.” Nevertheless, heboughtanotheroneofwhichhesaid:“Itwaslike takinga Mingvasetoafootball match.” (Buffs mightnotethatanobnoxious PorschedriverfeaturesinSoLong, andThanks forAlltheFish.) Thissecondcarhe soldwhen he was in a militantlyanti-smokingphaseand StephenFry smokedinit—buthemayhavejustfancieda newoneanyway. Thethirdwas

stolenandneverseenagain.Thefinalsportscar,liketheritualsceneof cleansing attheendofa Hammer Horrormovie, wastotallyconsumed by fireatthePorsche garage whenitwasinforaservice. Afterthis,Douglas took

a briefcarholiday.InDouglas’s accountofthestory,thegaragestillaskedfor theirawesomebillto be paidon thegroundsthattheyhadcompletedthe

service before thefirebrokeout.OnceDouglas tookmefora rideinthislast absurdvehicle. Itwasa928turbo.“When youputyourfootdown,” Douglas explained, “there’s justtheteensiest delay: it'sthecarasking you—do youre-

allywantto dothis?” Allthrough1979,themomentumofHitchhiker's famewentongathering. Douglasgavemoreandmoreinterviews fromhissqualidflat,forit would

havebeenbadformtoinvitejournos tohisworkplace intheBBC. InAugust, hewasGuestofHonour attheworldannualSFconvention. Thatyearitwas “Seacon,” heldintheGrandHotel, Brighton. Thereisadegree ofcontact be-

tweenthewritersandreadersofSFthatisnotmatchedin anyotherliterary genre.Thewritersgeta weekendonexpenses, a welcomeboosttotheiregos

anda valuable opportunity togetfeedback straight fromthemarket. Ina senseallwriting istalking tothereaders, butitis—as faras1know—only SF thathasformalized theprocess ofturning themonologue intoadialogue via * Don'tPanic.

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so manylargeand well-organized conventions. What'sin it forthe fans? Theygetto meetauthorstheyadmireandto enjoythesocietyofthosewith

asimilar interest. Theyalsohavefunandfrequently drinktoomuch. InfactitwasnotlongbeforeHitchhiker's spawned itsowndedicated conventions. Onlytheyearafterpublication therewas“Hitchercon” intheAlbanyHotelinGlasgow (26-28September 1980). Douglas—or theBigDashe wasknown—was guestofhonour.Thereweremanysubsequent conventions andtheBigDattendedwhenhe couldin orderto performashimself—and

receive atremendous boosttohisamour propre. Anofficial fanclub,ZZ9Plural ZAlpha, withitsownniftyandwell-written magazine, Mostly Harmless, started in 1980.Thiswasavailable on subscription forenthusiastic “ZZ9ers,” the nomenclaturebasedon the coordinatesat whichArthurand Fordare pluckedfromthe icyvacuumof spaceby Zaphod'sstolenImprobability Drive.

Usually at conventions liketheonein Brighton—“worldcons” to give themtheirslightly surreal title—there isnoprizeforradio.However, thereis an awardforthe best SFrepresentation otherthan in artworkor words. Rathertoeverybody's disappointment inBrighton, itwaswonbythefilmSuperman, whichreceiveda politeroundofapplause.Hitchhiker's camesecond;

theaudience stoodupandgaveita standing ovation, afactnotlostonthe producers ofSuperman, whoweregracious enoughtosuggest thattheorder shouldhavebeenreversed. Iwasatthatconvention inthelineofduty,butI’membarrassed to admit thatin a momentofweaknessImetupwithsomeonewhothoughta sound strategyforappreciating the BestSFCreatureCostumeCompetition wasto

takeillegaldrugs.Alas,| remember verylittle.However, beforebeingled astray, IhadadatewithDouglas forabeer.Anincident thatsticks inmymind wasbeingdisplacedatthebarbya femalefan(seriously enthusiastic aswell asseriously female)whohadpointedherbosomatDouglaswiththekindof

graceful singleness ofpurpose thatoneassociates withnavalgunsswivelling forabroadside. Tactfully Ideparted, leaving Douglas withahuge,uncontrollablepriapic grinonhisphizzog. History doesnotrecordwhether hekept himselfentirelypurethatweekend. BythetimePanpublishedTheHitchhiker's Guide totheGalaxy, Douglaswas alreadyingreatdemand.JacquiGrahamnevertheless dida relentlessly pro-

fessional jobofpromoting him.There wasnoradioorTVstationsoobscure, nomagazine orjournalsoesoteric thatitdidnotgeta letter,a copyofthe

MAKING IT 145

bookanda follow-upcall.Thelistofinterviews couldbemistakenforBrad's PressGuide.FromtheInternational Herald Tribune to MissLondon, Douglasdid

thelot.Hissigning session inRogerPeyton's celebrated Andromeda bookshopinBirmingham soldover450copies, a recordunbroken tothisday.On theroad,beingmade a fussof,onexpenses, andperforming theroleheknew

best,thatofhimself—he adoredit,andwasalwaysa completetrouper.Autographingbooksuntilhisarmached,listeningpolitelyto thesamequestion thathe’dheardonlythirtytimesthatdayandchortlingappreciatively at its

insight, tellingjokesoncue,notoverrunning hisallotted time,tailoring his anecdotes tothepreoccupations oftheinterviewer, itwaslikedaysanddays ofstand-up toanaudience thatlovedyoubefore youevengotonstage. Evenbetter for his moralewas that he and Jacquibecame,as we used to

sayinthosedays,anitem.JacquiGrahamwasanunattached, brainy,veryel-

egantblonde whostilllooksmuchasshedidthen(though nowhappily marriedwithchildren). ShespeaksofDouglas warmly butwitha certaincool clarity. Hewas,sherecalls, romantic, amusing, relentlessly self-absorbed, spoilt,vain,emotional,entertaining, givento extravagant gestures,unpragmatic,exasperating, andfuntobewithmostofthetime.Theirswasnota relationshipdestinedto lastforever,but theyenjoyedthemselves whileit did

andremained friends. The Hitchhiker's Guide totheGalaxy waspublished on12October 1979 asaPan original, price80p,withaninitialrunof60,000 copies. Thatdisappeared in-

stantly.Theyreprinted,and reprintedagain(thistimeat 85p),then again. Withinthree months the book had solda quarter of a millionunits,the first hundred thousand in only four weeks,and it had been number one in the

Sunday Times paperback bestseller listsincepublication. It wasreviewed everywhere. PhilipOakes interviewed Douglas atlengthintheall-important Sunday Times. Therewasa largepictureofDouglaslookingcoolwiththecaption:“Higher absurditystrikesit rich,”anda chunkyheadline:“Cultists finda guidinglight.” Inthesamepaper,Hitchhiker's wasselectedasoneoftheBooksoftheYear

byPhilippa Toomey (‘Iamdeeplygrateful toDouglas Adams forThe Hitchhiker's Guide totheGalaxy, justasgoodastheradioserial...”). Herchoice wasa

welcomereliefasmostoftheliteratihadplumpedforMarySoame’s biographyofClementine Churchill, VolumeTwooftheLyttleton Hart-Davis Letters

(no,honestly) ortheMemoirs ofShostakovich editedbySolomon Volkov. Douglaswassensitive aboutthefactthathedidnotoftengetconsidered alongside

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mainstream “literary’—for wantofalesstendentious word—material, sohe wasparticularly pleased tobegraced bythatultimate accolade ofrespectability:fourintellectuals discussing himonRadio Three's Critics’ Forum* Fivemonthslatertherewasa hardcovereditionofthework—now a collector’sitem—licensed byPanandpublishedbyArthurBarker, animprintof Weidenfeld andNicolson thatspecialized inlibraryeditions.(Library suppli-

ersemployed legions ofnimble-fingered womenonpiecework whowould prepare booksexactly aslocallibrarians preferred. Therewasagloriousinconsistency aboutthisamonglibrariansin differentauthorities.) Buton Wednesday10October,two daysbeforethe publicationdate, somethinghappenedthatbroughttherealityhometo Douglaslikenothing

else.Bytheevening ofthatday,whenbychance hewashavingdinnerwith Terry Jones, theMontyPython, hewascrazywithexuberance, quiteincandescent withtheknowledge ofit.

AsDouglasrecountedthisstory(soit mayhavegained alittle in transmission), Panhadarrangeda signingsessionforhimat 12nooninLondon's

premierSFspecialist shop,Forbidden Planet, whichwastheninDenmark StreetintheWestEnd.Using theirusualandveryreliable carservice, Jacqui Graham hadarranged fora drivertopickDouglas upfromhisghastly flat, butastheyapproached thevenue,thegoinggotveryslow.Therewerepeople throngingthe streetsin unnaturalnumbers.“I'msorry,guv,”saidthe driver,“butwe'rehavingtroublegettingthrough.I don’tknowwhat'sgoing

on.I haven'theardofanything ontheradio.Mustbea bloodydemoora marchorsomething.” Butitwasn’t ademo,oramarch. Whathadcaused congestion intheWest Endthatdaywasthehugecrowdofpeopleenthusiastically converging on Forbidden PlanettomeetDouglas. Aproposedone-hoursigningsessionhad

fansqueuing roundtheblock, anditlastedsolongintotheevening thathe waslatefordinner. Hehadstopped thetraffic. ItwasthedaythatDouglas knewhewascondemned toeverlasting fame. Hehadmadeit.

* Critics’ Forum, Radio Three, broadcast 26January 1980,withRobert Cushman, Benedict Nightingale, Claire Tomalin andRichard Cork. Theyloved it.

“When | hearMozart, | understand whatitisto bea human being; when|hearBeethoven, |understand what itistobeBeethoven; butwhen | listentoBach, | under-

SEVEN

stand what itistobetheuniverse.” Douetas Abas,0NBBC’s Rapio Four,Private Passions

Hoare THe music

Bae

Hamilton, thepublisher, usedtocountRaymond Chandler among hisfriends andauthors, twocategories ofhumankind then

morelikelyto overlapthaninthecurrenteraofcorporatemediacartels.He oncewroteto Chandleraskingfora pre-publication quotefora bookthat

Hamish Hamilton wasabouttopublish. Publishers wereprettyshameless, evenintheeraofurbanegentlemen whothought itbadformtopoacheach other'sauthors. Chandlerwrotebacka wonderfulletteraboutlifein California, theperils ofalcoholandthestateofhismarriage. Hedidn’tignorethepleafora quote.

Instead hewrotesomething thathassuchprofound relevance topublishing thenasnowthatitshouldbecarved oneveryeditor's deskin72-point Arial Bold. Thischap,heobserved, canconstruct aperfectly grammatical andefficientsentence, buthejustdoesn’t hearthemusic. Douglasheardthemusic.Writersoftenworrythattheyarelosingcontrol oftheirprose,andarejustlettingitrambleonandon,withlotsofproliferat-

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ingsubordinateclauses,likethatone,whichtakeon a momentumoftheir own,sobythetimethereadershavelabouredto theendofa sentence, the

mainverb—a locomotive pulling a greattrainofcarriages alongtherailsof grammar—has beenquiteforgotten. It’sthekindofprosethatisalltooeasy to write,butpainfulto read.Oneofthetraditionalcorrectives forthisnasty literarycomplaintistoreadaloudwhatyou'vewritten.Whena sentencecan

onlybereadinasingle breathifyouhappentobeaskin-diver oranorchestralflautist, it’stoolong. Douglas Adams understood thisdeeply. Hefelttherhythmofwords, the liltofa well-tunedphrase.Hisearwasacute,andthisissomethingparticularlyimportantincomicwritingwhena clumsywordcandrainthehumour

fromasentence. P.G. Wodehouse (towhomDouglas’s workoftenpayshomage)hadthesamegift;hewouldpolishandpolishhisprose,pinninghis pagesoftexttothewallofhisstudyandediting themvertically sothatgraduallythepagesmovedhigherastheyimproved. Plum,asWodehouse was knowntohisfriends,onlypromotedhistexttohiseye-linewhenitwasperfect.UnlikeDouglas,however,he lovedcompositionand regardedlifeas a re-

grettable seriesofinterruptions towriting. WithDouglas itwastheotherway around: Douglas’s style—funny, fluid,conversational andfullofamusing tropes andinventiveimages—is clearlyinfluenced byPlum.IsthisAdamsorWodehouse,forinstance?

Heslidgracelessly offhisseatandpeeredupwards toseeifhe couldspottheownerofthisdiscourteous hand.Theownerwasnot hardto spot,on accountofhisbeingsomething oftheorderof sevenfeettallandnotslightlybuiltwithit.Infacthe wasbuiltthe wayonebuildsleathersofas,shiny,lumpyandwithlotsofstuffing.

Thesuitintowhichtheman’sbodyhadbeenstuffed lookedasifits onlypurposeinlifewastodemonstrate howdifficult itwastoget thissortofbodyintoa suit.Thefacehadthetextureofanorange andthe colourofan apple,but therethe resemblance to anything sweetended. * Douglas describes hisloveforWodehouse inhisintroduction tothePenguin edition ofSunset at Blandings.

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Thismonster isHotblack Desiato's bodyguard inThe Restaurant attheEndofthe Universe (Hotblack, you'llrecall, istakinga yearoff,dead,fortaxreasons) but there'sanaffectionate nodinthedirection ofWodehouse'’s description ofthe Reverend “Beefy” Bingham, themassiveOxfordrowerwhosonearlylostthe heart of Gertrude, Lord Emsworth’sniece, to the weedy but dangerous

crooner, OrloWatkins. Compare therhythmofDouglas's piece, forinstance, withthisaccount ofLordEmsworth beingsavedfromdrowning by“Beefy.” Iftherewasonethingthe Rev.RupertBingham, whoin hisday had swum for Oxford,knew,it was what to do when drowningmen

struggled.Somethingthat mighthavebeena veryhardandknob-

blylegofmuttonsmoteLordEmsworth violently behindtheear: thesunwasturnedoffat themain:thestarscameout,manyof themofa singularbrightness:therewasa soundofrushingwaters: andheknewno more*

Douglas described hisrediscovery ofWodehouse inanarticle intheGuardian.t I suddenly realized, withgoose-pimples risingalloverme,that

I wasin thepresenceofa greatmaster. SincethenI havedevouredhisworkrepeatedlyandvoraciously,

notmerely because heisagreatcomicwriter, butbecause heisarguablythegreatestmusician oftheEnglish language I haveever encountered. Hemaynothaveanything tosayaboutRealLife(he wouldhootat the veryidea)but art practisedat that leveldoesn't haveto be aboutanything.

Norman Mailer oncesaidthatHemingway wasasonofabitch,butthatasa writerhewasoneofthoserarepeople who“canwritesentences thatareimpossibleto change.” It’sa goodtest.Takeyourfavouritepiecefromoneof Douglas's novelsandtryto substituteyourownwordsfortheonesheused. * “Company forGertrude” fromThe Collected Blandings ShortStories byP.G. Wodehouse (Penguin Books, 1992). T Quoted byFrank Muir inhissmashing introduction toTheCollected Blandings ShortStories by P.G. Wodehouse.

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Nothingelseworkssowell.MailerwasspotonaboutHemingway, butofthe other“mainstream” writers,perhapsonlyNabokov, athismostexcruciatingly

lapidary, placedwordsonthepagewiththesameprecision asDouglas or Plumattheheightoftheirpowers. Inmanywayscomedy ismoredifficult towritethan“serious” literature. Theword“serious” aboveisininverted commas notbecause ofanydoubt about the qualityof authors likeA.S.Byattand IrisMurdoch,with their fine

observations ofthevelleities ofhumanrelations, butbecauseitispossibleto

beserious andfunny. Douglas's booksarewittyaboutbigquestions (theexistenceofGod,whatit isthatcanbe saidto be real,man’splaceintheuni-

verse...)butnotsohotontheexistential burdens ofbeinganunhappy civil servantwitha constipated lovelife.Thereadercanchooseofcourse... Douglas’s sensitivity to the rhythmsof a sentencewasintimatelyconnectedwithhisloveofmusic.Hisearswereopenedbackatschoolwherehe

sanginthechoirandhadpianolessons. Hedidnothavemanyopportunitiesforescaping fromBrentwood andgoingtoconcerts, butin1969hedid hearJacques Loussier andhisPlayBachbanddoingtheirsubtlejazzyversionsofBach,andhewascompletely wonover. Douglas wasadmirably strong-willed aboutmastering technique. Hehad

a finger-picking guitarstyleandwouldpractise relentlessly untilhe had

something offaccurately. Usually hechose tunesthatappealed tohisroman-

ticandcomplex nature, lyrical tunesyoucouldloseyourself in.Douglas was

no three-chordwonder;he wouldstudyallthe trickiestguitarparts—Paul SimonandMcCartney werefavourites—until he couldplaythemfluently, twiddlybitsandall.Whenhe heardProcolHarum’s AWhiter Shade ofPalein

1967 hepestered allhisrelatives tobuyhimthealbumforChristmas, andset aboutlearning manyofthetracks. SueAdams remembers that,asanadult,hetookhisbinoculars toaDire

StraitsgigattheBirmingham NECandspentmuchoftheconcert,indifferent to theoddlooksfromthosenearby,peeringcloselyat MarkKnopfler’s fin-

gers.Thenhehadtomentally adjustwhathesawtomakeitworkforalefthandedguitar, whichisstrungsothatthepitchofthestrings isinthereverse orderfroma guitartunedfora right-hander. Interestingly, as a musicianDouglassufferedfromthe samecomplaint thatmadeallthosecleverCambridge thespiansreluctantto actwithhimon

stage:forhimensemble playing wasdifficult. KenFollett, theauthor, whose wife,Barbara, isthehighlyeffective Labour MPforStevenage, isfamous for

HEARING THEMUSIC 151

bestsellers likeTheEyeoftheNeedle andThePillars oftheEarth. Heislesswell knownasafunkybassguitarist inthebandDamnRightIGottheBlues. He jammedwithDouglasa lot.Douglas’s agent,EdVictor(amanwhoseaddress bookmustencompass mostoftheknownmediaworld),hadsuggested that theymightenjoyplayingtogether—and theydid.

Kenisoneofthemostarticulate humanbeingsonEarth* Hesays: I'mnota virtuoso—quite thereverse. Thepleasure ofmusicis sharingit with other people,usuallyguys.Thebuzz is making somethingcollectively. So I like that, and I have—astonishing

thoughit willbeto myfriendsandfamily—not muchofanego whenitcomestomusic. I'mhappytobethebackground guyplayingthebassguitar. SowhenDouglas andIplayed together, Iwasreallyhisaccompanist. Hewasthevirtuoso. Hecouldcertainlyplayverycomplicatedthingson the guitar, and on his own he was fine, and with an accompanistwho was

willing tofollowhistempoandhispace,hewasfine.Itwaspartly a matterofskill,andpartlydetermination. Hewouldspendtime learningthings.Wonderful, wonderfulmusicianslikePaulMcCartneyandPaulSimonmakethemup,andifyouwantto copythem youhavefirstto figureoutwhattheyare,andpractisea lot.Doug-

laswaswilling todothat.Hecouldplayverynicely. Andhecould playwithoneotherperson,soheandI werequitegoodtogether. Weenjoyedourselves. Weperformed in Miamiat an American Booksellers’Associationconvention!to some applause,and we per-

formedin a clubin LondoncalledLEquipeFrancaise, onceagainto considerable applause.

Buthehadoneserious flawwhichprevented himfrombeinga reallygoodmusician, andthatisnosenseoftime...Whenyouper* Hisinterview forthisbookwastheeasiesttotranscribebecausehetalksinwell-rounded sentenceswithouthesitation, an“um”oran“er,”orchangesofdirection. Hisband,DamnRight| Got

theBlues, would struttheirstuffinasubterranean barattheFrankfurt Book Fair. Thegroup consistsofwriters andpublishers whodeepdownwanttoberock’n’roll heroes, andnotmedia fashionables. Theyarereally quiteloudandurgent, andtheyplaywithenormous attack. Allinall, pretty good. Douglas would occasionally perform withthemasaguestartist. t+ Theywerethesupportbandtothedangerously funkyRock-Bottom Remainders withstormin’

SteveKing onleadguitar.

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formwitha realbandwitha drummer,you haveto listento the drummer.Thedrummerin a rockbandis likethe conductorofan

orchestra whosetsthepaceandkeepsit.Youmustlistentohimand playonhisbeat.Douglas, blesshisheart,wasnotabletodothis.So whenhedidappearwithushewouldplay a brilliant guitarsolo, butwouldfinishit halfa beatbeforethe restoftheband. Beforereadingtoo muchinto the observationthat Douglaswas just a smidgenoutoftimewiththerestoftheworld,thisisa goodmomentfora

briefanecdote aboutPaulSimon. Douglasnearlyhada closeencounterwithPaulSimon,a musicianheadmiredwithoutequivocation. WhenDouglasbecamefamousandloaded,he

spenta lotoftimeinNewYork. During onesojourn inGodless Gotham he decided thathewouldliketomeetPaulSimon. Douglas couldbequitenononsense aboutapproaching celebrities, and,suchwashisownfameandhis infectious enthusiasm, heusually endedupmeeting them.Incaseyouimaginethiswasa severeattackofstatuschasing,hewasjustasassiduousabout trackingdownthe lessfamousas longas theyfulfilledthe onevitalcriterion—doing somethinginteresting. Hisjoyat otherpeople’sachievements

wasengaging, andhisgenerous admiration actedlikeamagnet. Initially throughPaulSimon’s recordlabel,andthenonwards viahis managementcompany,tentativecontactwasestablished. Therichand famoushave“people,” asin “haveyourpeoplecallmypeople.” Thesepeople havehardeyes,carefulhaircuts,andeasysmiles;theyarepaidto protectthe

privacy oftheirmasters. Phonenumbers areguarded bythosewhosejobs wouldnotbeworthamoment's purchase iftheydivulged themtothewrong sortofreptile. Soundings aretaken,bonafidesarechecked andthesupplicant’sstatusand/or desirabilityare calculated, yea unto severaldecimal places.Inshort,gettingaccesstotherichandfamousisa gavottewithmany

trickysteps. Thevetting process wasnearlycomplete. Douglas wasadequately famous andclearly anabjectfanofPaulSimon. Ameeting wasontheverypointof beingfixedwhenoneofthe aidesasked,in a tonethatdidnot appearto placethatmuchfreightonthequestion,“Bytheway,howtallareyou?” In allinnocenceDouglasreplied—probably withan amusingriffon the

subject (Mount Rushmore mayhavefeatured)—that hewasvery,verytall, quiteridiculously tallinfact.Therefollowed whatHollywood callsa beat.

HEARING THEMUSIC 153

Timestretchedlikechewinggum.“Umm,,” saidtheaidefinally,“I'msorry,but yourmeetingwithPaulwillhaveto be postponed...”Theencounterwas

neverrearranged. Itispossible, ofcourse, thattheyhadjustmissed themoment,orthatPaul'sassistants wereoverly alerttothedangers ofaphotoopportunity. PaulSimon isfivefootthree.

EdVictor, whoiswelloversixfeettallandalwayselegantlyturnedout, commentedon hearingthisstorythat it wasnaiveof meto be surprised.

“Nick,” hesaid,“surely youmusthavenoticed alongthewayhowmuchsmall menhateus.What'sgoingthroughtheirminds, whichyoucanalmostsee likeasubtitle onaFrench movie, is:whyhim,whynotme?Why him, whynot me?Whydoeshehavetheheight?Whywashegiventhisgift?” Douglas’s mumsayshisinterestinmusicstartedearly.Fromthetimehe

wasachorister atschool, hisloveofchoral musicwaslife-long. Mercifully he neversanginpublicafterhisvoicebroke. PaulWickens, akaWix,alsowenttoBrentwood, thougha couple ofyears behindDouglas.Althoughtheywerenot particularly closeas schoolboys, JamesThriftreckonsthattherelationship gaveDouglasaccesstoa lotofcontemporarymusic.Therewasa familyconnectiontoo;Wix'sfather,JohnWick-

ens,wasthevetwholooked afterGrandma Donovan's manyanimals sothe linksbetween thetwofamilies gobacktothe1950s. WixandDouglaswerereunitedin a waythatischaracteristically Douglas.Wix’spartner,MargoBuchanan, thesinger,describes itlikethis:

ImettheBigOne[anaffectionate nickname forDouglas usedby familyandclosefriends] aftera PaulMcCartney gig.Heactually wenttothesameschoolasWixandtheyshareda musicteacher. Douglasusedto sometimescomeroundto Wix’shouseand play

with Wix’solder brother, David,when he was a boy. They do go

backa longway,butIthinktherewasafour-year agedifference— something likethat—between them.Anyway, Douglas wentto a PaulMcCartney gigonenight—you knowwhathewaslike[about the Beatles].He’dgot hold of a ticket—hewas someone'sguest, RobbieMcIntosh’s I think.Andhewasreadingtheprogrammeand

hadgotto thepartaboutWix.AndWixactuallymentioned his musicteacherin thelittleblurbabouthim.SoDouglaswent,hang

ona minute,thatwasmymusicteacher. Thatcan’tbe thesame Wickens Iusedtogoandplaywithasa child...I mustfindout...

154 WISHYOUWEREHERE

Following thishappycoincidence, Douglas andWixbecame friends andwent ontocollaborate onavariety ofmusic. Wixendedupwriting muchofthe musicfortheStarship Titanic computergame. MargoBuchanan, aswellassingingwithheart-piercing clarity,bringsa

giftofintuition toherfriendship withDouglas andJane.Thisisherrecollectionofhow,aftertheMcCartney concert,theyallendedup in Sohoat the

Groucho Club. Douglaswasat ourtableat the Groucho.HewasextremelyexuberantaftertheMcCartney gig,sittingtalkingto McCartney...He

lovedtheBeatles andPaulMcCartney, hereallydid...Douglas was

oneofthenicest people I'veevermet,onceyougotthrough that

protective shellthathehad.Youknowthewaysomepeoplecould useintellectas a shield?I don’tthinkhe everdidthatbecausehis intellectwasjusttoomagnificent andinteresting. Buthe didhavea protectivefrontwhichcouldbe typicallyupper-middle-class Cam-

bridgegraduate, youknow... AndI thinkthereasonforthatwas becausehe hada verytenderside.Verytender,veryvulnerable. AndI thinkthat sometimesthe worldusedto bewilderDouglas.I thinkthat whenhe heardstoriesof crueltyand war he wasgenuinelyhurt and bewildered...Therewasan innocence—that's the

wordI'mlookingfor—there wasaninnocence abouthimthathe wasveryadeptatcamouflaging. Butifyouknewhimwell,yousaw it.Itwasaninnocence, andheneverlostit. In hischildhoodDouglaswasalsoexposedto thewondersofthe classical canon.JudithAdams,his stepmother,was musical;she had studied in Paris

andplayed thepianobeautifully, aswellassinging inaBachchoir. There was a grandpianoin“Derry” (thehouseinStondon Massey) onwhichDouglas messedaround.(Oneofthefirstthingshedidwhenhestartedmakingsome doshwastobuya gooduprightpiano.Bythetimehemovedtotheperma-

nentfamily home,inDuncan Terrace inIslington, thishadbecome aconcert grand.) , SueAdams alsorecalls Douglas spending a lotoftimeasa boywitha localblindman,DavidJames,whoplayedtheguitarwiththe passionofa manpossessed. Suesaysthathewasa biginfluence. “Davidwasreallyinto theguitar.HeandDouglasusedto playtogetherforhoursandhours.”

HEARING THEMUSIC 155

Theromantic possibilities ofmusichadnotescaped Douglas either. Sue alsorecalls:

|

Wehadayoungwomanatmystepmother’s house—I thinkshe wasAustrian andmighthavebeenanaupair.Douglas wascompletelyandutterlysmitten, andhewouldspendhoursatthebottomofthismassivegreatgardenwhichhadthesegreatbigcircular flowerbedsin it.Downthe bottomleft-handcornerwasthisgreat big tree—andDouglaswouldspendagesdownthereserenading

heronhisguitar... SuchwasDouglas’s passionformusicthatitwasaroundthistimethatheattendeda lectureinViennabythegreatHungariancomposer, GyorgyLigeti’ despitethe factthat he couldnot understanda word.Thisprobablyhap-

penedonthesamelegendary hitchhiking frolicthattookhimtothefieldin Innsbruck, butitispossible thatitwasduringoneofhishigh-speed holidays withhisfatherinoneoftheAstonMartins. Ligeti, oneofthemostinnovative modemcomposers whoextendedoursoundpalatein the mostextraordinaryway,isbestknownto thenon-specialist publicasthemanwhoseLux Aeterna wasdeployedto suchmind-mangling effectin thefilm2001:ASpace

Odyssey. Ligeti, thoughHungarian, gavehislecture inGerman, alanguage of whichDouglas knewlittlemorethanJa,Nein, andAchtung! Englander! fromhis Eaglecomicdays.Nevertheless, DouglascaughtsomethingofLigeti’s meaning,andcertainlyunderstoodthe musicallanguage.Afterwards Ligeti,who hadspottedthishugeyoungsterintheaudience, apologized tohimforbeing

unintelligible. (Fortontobuffs,Ligeti’s Volumina provides thefinaldramatic chordofthefirstepisode ofHitchhiker's, andtheKyrie fromhisRequiem plays quietly atfirst,butwithgathering urgency, asSlartibartfast takesArthurDent intotheheartofMagrathea inthethirdepisode.) Douglas's passionformusicandthesensitivity ofhisearweremanifestin

thewayheandGeoffrey Perkins, theproducer, puttogether thesoundscape oftheradioseriesofHitchhiker's. Fromthefirstseductive soundsoftheopeningtheme(theEagles’ superbtrack“Journey oftheSorcerer” fromthealbum * It’sdifficult toconfirm thetimeandplaceviaLigeti. Hewasaprofessor attheCollege ofMusic in Stockholm atthetime,buthadbeeninVienna (afterleaving Budapest in1956) before going to Darmstadt andhereturned toVienna quiteoften.

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WISHYOUWEREHERE

OneofThese Nights), thecarewithwhichthesoundeffectsandthemusicwere

married tothespoken voicewasclear. Thebrilliant execution owedmuchto PaddyKingsland (theboss), DickMillsandHarryParker oftheBBC Radio-

phonicWorkshop andthestudioteamledby AlickHale-Munro, whosejoy intheirworkisobvious.Theyalldeservea mention:MaxAlcock, LisaBraun, ColinDuff,PaulHawdon, MarthaKnight, JohnWhitehallandEricYoung. On

oneoccasion, recounted byGeoffrey Perkins inhisintroduction totheradio scripts, theyinsisted onkeeping goingwithout claiming overtime because the budgetwassolimited. (Intheindustrial climate ofthetime,BBC technicians waivingtheirrightto overtimeisratherlikesayingthatthespeedoflightis not constant.It showsa lovethat passethallunderstanding.) Everybit of

Hitchhiker's oftenirritating technology haditsowndistinctive acoustic signature,fromtheleakysteam-valve clankofMarvinto thewhoshofthose bloodySiriusCybernetics Corporation doorswiththeircentre-fold voices

andrelentless cheerfulness. Thesophistication ofthesoundpicturehadcome a longwaysince“DoorSlam,soundofrunningfeet,AAGH.”*

Douglas said:

I wantedHitchhiker's to soundlikea rockalbum.I wantedthe voicesandtheeffects andthemusicto be soseamlessly orchestratedastocreatea coherent pictureofanotherworld—and I said thisandmanysimilarsortsofthingsandwavedmyhandsaround a lot, while people nodded patiently and said “Yes,Douglas,but

what'sitactually about?” Hewascertainly awareofhowto createauniversein sound—how soundcan be usedto modeltheworld,andwhatit mustbe likeifthat modelbreaks down.Breaking downourmodeloftheworldisin a sensewhata lot ofhis

workisabout. Asaneasily disoriented mammal, Douglas himself hadanearlikeJodrell Bank. TheradioseriesofHitchhiker's created thesenseofinhabiting a three* Thehugely influential Goons werethefirsttounderstand howmuchhumour couldbewrung fromspecial effects. Remember thethunder oftheartillery barrage? “What ishappening?” asks Eccles. Reply: “They’re shelling peasinthekitchen. . .” T SeeDouglas's introduction toTheHitchhiker's Guide totheGalaxy: theComplete Radio Scripts (PanBooks,1985).

HEARING THEMUSIC 157

dimensional worldthrough theuseofsound.(Later eventheTVseries—despiteitsclunkyeffectsandthetensionbetweenDouglasandAlanBell,the producer—won severalBaftaawards,oneofwhichwasforbestsoundtrack.)

“ToomuchMozart,” Douglas wasfondofsaying,“isanoxymoron.” Butamong composers, Bach,he believed,wasa geniusalmostoffthe scale.Hisquote aboutseeingtheuniverseinBachisinteresting. Therearesomanyharmonies

andperiodicities inthecosmos atlarge(andatthemicroscopic scale) thatonce youseethem,youalsoseetheirbeauty. Everybitofinformation standsin somerelationship toeveryotherbit,andthiscanbeexpressed—as Pythago-

rasbelieved—in the divinedanceofnumbers.In DirkGently’s Holistic Detective Agency Douglassuggeststhat the erosionpatternsof the Himalayas might

makea flutequintet. Numbers candescribe themovement ofgalaxies, the replication ofcells,oreven—according tooneofDouglas's engagingly wild ideason thelecturecircuit—corporate accounts. Everycorporation could enjoyitsuniquetune. Aloveofmathematics andofmusicoftengotogether. InDouglas’s caseit

wasn’t somuchthemathsthatfascinated him,asthepatterns—patterns that hefoundbothintheliltofasentence andthefractal shapesoftheMandelbrotset.Hisenthusiasm forscientific connections knewnobounds, andthis relatedtothewayhethought. Somepeopleseemtohavebetterpatternrecognition abilitiesthanothers.EinsteinoncedescribedNielsBohr’sspeculationsaboutquantummechanics as“thehighestformofmusicality in the

sphereofthought.” Incidentally, haveyoueverwondered ifAlbertEinstein wasanygoodonthefiddle? “Perfectly correct, totallyuninteresting,” apparently. TheVoyager 1and2 spaceprobes,launchedin 1978, arebothcurrentlybeyondtheorbitofPluto.Theyarebyfarthemosttravelledartefacts evermade

bymankind—at distances nowmeasured inlighthours.Voyager 2 isalmost outoftheheliopause altogether. Foranyalienthatmaychance uponthem, welded tothesidesofbothcraftisagold-plated copperdatadiskthatcontainssoundsandimagesofourspecies anditsoutstanding achievements. * Quoted byCharles Flowers in/nstability Rules (Wiley, 2002). Itisthesamesource forEinstein’s anonymous accompanist.

158 WISHYOUWEREHERE Along with an eclecticcollectionof Africanpercussion,aboriginalchants,

ChuckBerry's “Johnny B.Goode,” a message fromKurtWaldheim ofthe UnitedNations(inadvertent truthfulness thereaboutmankind)and so on,

CarlSagan’s teamincluded someBach—the firstmovement oftheBrandenburg Concertono. 2 and the Preludeand Fugueno. 1 fromTheWellTempered Clavier. OnhearingabouttheBach,Douglasremarked, aproposof thepotentialextraterrestrial investigators: “Won'ttheythinkwe'reboastinga

bit?” J.S.Bachfascinated Douglas. Foronething,Bach’s prodigious outputof

musicwaslimitedonlybythephysicalprocessofgettingthenotationdown. It is scarcelyimaginable thatsomethingliketheAgnusDeifromBach'sBMinorMass(surelythemostexquisitenoiseevertopenetratetheearofman)

couldhavebeencomposed asfastasJohanncouldmovehisscratchy quill overtheparchment. Douglas, whocouldspenda dayinanguish overa singleline,wasinaweofsuchcreativity. Hisowngeniusonthepagewasmuch morehardwon.Forallhisskillon hisguitar,he couldnotimproviseeasily likethosetowhommusicalfluencyseemstocomelikethegiftofgrace—and

inthesamewayhecouldnotspontaneously inventtext. Withsuccess, attheimprobably earlyageoftwenty-six (justlikeDickens withwhomthereareseveral parallels)‘ camefame,andthisopened upanew dimensionto Douglas’s passionformusic.Themassiveandsuddensuccess ofthefirstbook(in1979) alsoprovidedlotsofmoney,andoneofthefirstappetitestobeindulgedwasmusic.ItwasatthispointthatDouglasembarked

upon a lifelong questfortheperfect guitar. KenFollett says: Don’tforgetthatguitarsareverybeautiful.Peoplebuythemfor theirlooksas wellas for whatthey soundlike,and the lastone Douglastold me about was a bass.BecauseI play the bass he

thoughtI'dbe interested, so he said:“I'veboughta left-handed Hohnerbass."AndItoldhimitdidn’thaveanysignificance forme atall—which wasofcoursestupidbecause thatwaswhatPaulMc-

Cartneyboughtin Hamburgin 1961...So0 Douglashadboughtone

* Douglas andCharles Dickens hadmuchincommon. Theybothloved performance, theyboth madeitbigwhentheywereonlytwenty-six, theybothtoured America getting knackered, they bothwrote women characters whoweredeeply soppy. Dickens, withhisprolixity andemotional manipulation, isbetterontellythanonthepage,whereas Douglas isthecomplete opposite.

HEARING THEMUSIC 159

ofthese—it can’thavebeenverylongbeforehediedandhewas verypleasedaboutit.Hewasgoingtolearntoplaythebass.I’m surehewouldhaveactually.

Douglas endedup withtwenty-four left-handed guitarsandonerighthandedoneforvisiting right-handed musicians likeDaveGilmour ofPink Floyd. Once,onalecturetourintheStates, hemadea special diversion to Austin,Texas,wherethereis a famousguitaremporium,solelyin orderto gawp,andthenbuyanother.Undoubtedly he knew a lot abouttheinstrument.HeeveninterruptstheslowmutualseductionofFenchurch andArthur

Dentforateasing, butaccurate, asideaboutDireStraits: “Mark Knopfler has anextraordinary abilitytomakea Schecter Custom Stratocaster hootand singlikeangelson Saturdaynight,exhaustedfrombeinggoodallweekand needingastiff beer...”*(Andhenamesoneofhischaracters, KateSchechter, in the DirkGentlynovels,aftera guitar)

Alltheseinstruments, manymountedin customframes,ledDouglas's

friend, JonCanter, todescribe thetopfloorofthefamily homeinIslington as GuitarHenge. Allhislife,Douglassuccumbed togadgets;forevertellinghimselfthatone moreSharpIQ,PDA,Casiodatabankor,aboveall,a laptopcomputerwould

reallygethimorganized. Objectively hewastoointelligent tobelieve this, andheknewthattherateofobsolescence wassuchthatifyoudropped the newtoyitwouldprobablybeoutofdatebythetimeithittheground.Nevertheless,a newelectronic gizmo,murmuring“buyme,buyme,bigboy”was hardto resist.Hehada specialweaknessforAppleMacs,andin fairnesshe

understood theimplications ofInformation Technology yearsbeforetherest ofus.There issomething child-like inmanymen,butmostofusdonothave themoneytobeputtothetest.Wetherefore pretend thatwhenwedonot buytoys,it isa signofmaturity. AnotherofDouglas’s indulgences wasallthemoreseductivebecauseit combinedhisloveofmusicwithhisloveofgadgets.Heboughtstereosys-

temsthewayRenaissance popesmadechapels—expertly commissioned, horrendously expensive, shoehorned precisely intotheavailable space.His soundsystemswerea thingofwonder,finallyachievingperfection in DuncanTerrace. * SoLong andThanks forAlltheFish(PanBooks, 1984).

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WISHYOUWEREHERE

Duncan Terrace isstrikingly lightandhandsome withsomespectacular roomsforparties. Onthefirstfloor(thesecond forAmericans) isarectangularroom,maybefortyfeetlong,withthreefloor-to-ceiling sashwindows at theendfacing thestreet.It’sanelegant spacewithexcellent acoustics. This roomwastobecomehometo squashysofasanda TVlargeenoughforone to expecta womansellingchoc-ices to appearin everycommercial break.It wasalsoto houseoneoftheworld’sgreatstereosystems.

WhenDouglas andJaneBelson finally hadthefamily homesorted, after yearsofbuilding andarchitectural tweaking, theyspecified thattheloudspeaker leadsmustbeintegral totheextentthattheyrununderthepolished woodfloor. Thefirstsystemtobeinstalled hadhalf-inch-thick, vacuum-sealed double-

insulated loudspeaker cables, gold-plugged ateachend,popping upfromthe floorboardsintothebackoftwoseven-foot-tall, austerely elegant Japanese screens.Onlytheyweren'tJapanesescreensatall,butlarge,flat,state-of-theartMagnaplanar electrostatic speakersthatproducedsoundbywarpingand vibratingtheirentiresurface,thusproducing,as anybuffknows,“aquasiomnisphere, figureofeight,bi-directional out-of-phasedispersionpattern.”

Douglas lovedthetechnical copy,butbeforespending a smallfortune, he thoughthe’dbetterlistento theactualspeakersfirst.He,JaneandRickPaxton,thecharmingarchitectofDuncanTerrace, wentoffto a houseinWim-

bledontoheartheMagnaplanars insitu.Thesecurity inthismansion wasso tightthat allegedlywildanimalsselectedfortheirunfriendlydispositions

roamedtheestate. Anyway, Rickissurethatitwassomething moreexotic thanyourusualAlsatian. Douglas andJanehada fiercespatoverthesespeakers. Douglas fancied themsomething wicked, butJane,burdenedassheiswithtaste,thoughtthey dominatedtheroom.Itwasnotquitea matterofchoosingbetweenJaneand thespeakers, butRickrecallsthattheatmosphere becamedistinctly gelidbe-

foreacompromise onlocation wasreached. Thesemonsters required a heftysignaltodrivethem.Douglas waspersuadedthatvalve-amplifiers produceda warmersoundthansolidstatemachines.Justpossiblyhisearwasacuteenoughto heara difference. Whenhe turnedthe systemon needlesflickeredin distantpowerstationsandthere

wasaslightwhoompf, likeafar-off mortar, fromoutside theroom.Thiswas theautomatic extractor fancoming ontoventtheheatfromtwothousandwattvalveamplifiers, oneper channel,thatlivedin the speciallydesigned

HEARINGTHE MUSIC 161

cupboard underthestairs. Thewholesystem cost—and thiswastheeighties— justatadover£30,000. Iremember wehadsomebadinage onthesubject: “Fucking hell,Douglas,” I saidwittily. “Thirty grandfora stereo. That's prettydecadent.OurhouseinHackneycostthat.” Douglasblushed,a prettyeffecton a surfacesolarge.“Actually,” he said, “honestly, thesystemwasa bitofa bargain.Youcanspendmuchmoreatthis

endofthemarket. Besides, thesuppliers threwin thephonocartridge— twenty-five hundred quidsworth—for free.” HowDouglasspenthismoneywashischoice,afterall.Hewasnota man forfloatingtupperwaregin-palaces orsharedlegsofrace-horses; nordidhe belongamongtheaffluentwhoinvestinartsothatitcanadvertise theirtaste

whileincreasing invalue.Itwasbecause hegenuinely lovedmusicthathe wanted thebestpossible reproduction ofit.Hepossessed anear(hisrightactually, ashewas atiny bitdeafinhisleft)educated enough toappreciate the nuances. But,youwillbewondering, whatdidthisthirtygrand’sworthofequip-

mentsound like?Doesthelawofdiminishing returnsapplywithavengeance here,asinotherareasofconspicuous consumption? A£20mealmaybetwice asgoodasa £10meal,butcana £100mealbetentimesasgood? Inthiscase,however, thesoundwasastonishing. Itmightnothavebeen as loud as the noise made by DisasterArea,the heavy metal band in The

Restaurant attheEndoftheUniverse, forwhichtheideallisteningpositionwasin

a concrete bunkerthirtymilesaway, butitapproached thepainthreshold if wounduptomaximum. Italsoboasted amazing definition andclarity. Beatlesalbums thatIthoughtIknewacquired newcolour. Nota scrapofinformationimprintedontheoriginalvinylorCDwaslost.Inclassical musicthe sheerphysicaleffortofplayingwasapparentevento themusically unedu-

cated.Thefriction ofthestrings, themovement ofthebodies, thescrapeof chairsmoving onconcert platforms, thesighoftheconductor making some athletic Guilini-type gesture—all theambience ofliveperformance somehow materialized aroundyou,onlybetter,forno concerthallboastsacousticsas brilliantasabsolutely top-endstereoequipment. Youwantedtolookbehind thesofatoseeifDouglasandJanehadcunninglyhiddenanorchestrasome-

whereintheroom. Douglas's recordcollection—both vinylandCD(thatsaviourofthe recordcompanies whichreissued thebackcatalogue attwicetheprice)—was stunningbothinnumberandthecatholiceclecticism ofhistaste.Itwaslarge

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WISHYOUWEREHERE

enoughtobehousedinbespokeCDcupboardsofblondwoodthelengthof thewallin thathalfofthedrawingroomnearestthestreet.Hecouldhave

stocked amedium-sized recordshop. Incidentally, hisnextgeneration stereowentsolidstate.Douglas gotirritatedbythefrequency withwhichhehadtoreplace valves, andthenearly ubiquitous useofa digitalsoundsourcehadcometo favouramplifiers specifically designedto copewithit.Thespeakerschangedto thelargeNautilusdesignwhoseintriguingtaperedrear-facingconesand snail-likeFibonaccicoilsmopup the reactionenergyfromthe speakersso completely

thatthesoundemerging fromthemsuffers almostnointerference, andis thusexceptionally unmuddied. Theamplifier, CDplayer, turntable andradio wereallhousedina largefree-standing cabinet ofconsiderable stylishness andincorporating everyimaginable technicalgoody.TheCDplayerlooked asifitwascarvedoutofa solidlumpofslateandtitanium.

Butnoneofthiskitcouldmatchthedelight ofliveperformance. Douglas wanted tohearlivemusicinhisownhouseandsosetaboutgetting toknow someworld-class musicians. OneofthemwasRobbieMcIntosh, knownin themusicworldastheguitarists’ guitarist. Histouchcombinesprecisionand passion.Here’swhatDouglassaidabouthim:

Robbie McIntosh isoneoftheworld’s bestguitarplayers, and alsooneofitsmostincompetent humanbeings, asanyonewhohas watchedhimtryingto buya shirtwilltellyou. Wefirstmetyearsagowhenhe walkedup to me in a bar and saidthat one ofhisbestfriendsknewmygrandmotherverywell.

Goodopening. ItwasWixhewastalkingabout,orPaulWickens as Iknewhimwhenwehadthesamepianoteacheratschool. Robbie andWixwerebothinPaulMcCartney’s bandatthistime(no,not thatone). Beforethat, Robbie had been lead guitarist in The Pretenders,

andhasalsoplayedforTalkTalk,TearsforFears,PaulYoung and evenCher. Whenhe’snotjettingroundtheworldplaying vaststadiums,hetendstositathomeinDorset looking afterhisgoatsand chickens,and tinkering.Actually,let me correctthat lastsentence. Whenhe’snot jettingroundthe worldplayingvast stadiumshe tendsto sitat homein Dorsetbeinglookedafterby hisgoatsand

chickens, andtinkering.

HEARING THEMUSIC 163

I askedhimwhathe’dbeentinkeringat,and he showedme.I

shouldmentionatthispointthatI ammyself a passionate, though notverygood,acoustic guitarist, so Robbiedecidedto playme someoftheacoustic guitarpieceshe'dbeentinkering withdownin Dorset.Iwastransfixed. Itwassomeofthemostmesmerizing music

I'dheardin years.Mostofthepieceswereoriginal, butsomeof

themwerearrangementsof old folktunes,ElvisPresley,Chopin,

blues...Whattheyallsharedwasan apparently simplemelodic surface withawonderfully richinternallifeofharmony andcounterpoint, whichmeantthateachpiecegrewandgrewinyourmind witheverylistening. It’stechnically complex, butthere’snoshowingoff.Allthetechniqueistherejusttoservethemusic.It’snotfolk, it’snotjazz,it’snotpop,it’snotclassical, it’sjustpure,puremusic.

Therealstuff.Complex. Simple. Breathtaking. IplayedthetapesRobbie gavemeincessantly, anditquickly becameoneofmyfavourite-ever albums. People wouldsitinmycar and say“Whatis this?”Overa periodofyearsI graduallycoaxed and nudgedRobbieintomakingan actualCDofit andlettingmy company, TheDigitalVillage, releaseit.Ittookanastonishingly long

time,but it is astonishingly good.Thereasonsforbothofthese thingsarecontained inmyopeningparagraph. There’s onemorethingIshouldadd.Robbie McIntosh isoneof

thenicestpeoplein theworld*

Another famous rockmusician thatDouglas befriended wasProcul Harum’s GaryBrooker, nowa drilyamusing silver-bearded chapinhisfifties. Margo Buchanan, whoknewhimwell,hadarranged anintroduction following a mealduringwhichDouglas hadbangedonabouthowmuchhelovedGary’s music.DouglashadplayedProculHarum’s Grand Hotelagainandagainwhile writingTheRestaurant attheEndoftheUniverse. Thiswasa patternwithhim:

whenever hewaschained tohiskeyboard withabook,Douglas wouldplay certain pieces withdemented repetitiveness, almost asifheweredeliberately tryingtoinducesomestateoffugueortranceinwhichhewouldbeexulted enough—or madenough—to writewithoutpain. Forthoseofyouundera certainage,ProcolHarumwasa bandfamous

* Douglas’s noteonRobbie Mcintosh, written inSantaBarbara 1999,fromtheWholeNote website.

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fora songcalledAWhiter Shade ofPalewhichdominated thesingles charts(a DeramlabelEP—remember those?) inthesummer of1967. Itwasmusicto _getstonedto;itwasslowenoughtosmooch toifyouwerelucky. It’sagreat song,withstrange,poetic,slightlyanxiety-inducing lyricsbyKeithReidand a piercingly atmospheric, almosthymnalmelodythatGaryBrookeradmitsto

having beeninspired byBach's AironaG-String. Thesongissoevocative, so arcane, sodownright enigmatic, thatthereisaminorscholarship industry, activeon the net,dedicatedto workingout whatthe hellit means.Procol Harum,thoughsomeofitspersonnelchanged,wenton to produce alot of goodmusic,butAWhiter Shade ofPalejustcaughta moment.(Once,indeed,it

wasusedina Dr.Whoepisode, butnotonewrittenbyDouglas.) AWSoP, as it'sknowntothebuffs,isa classic thatwillalways hauntthem,andbyand largethereareworsethingstobehaunted bythanasong. Fromtimeto timeGaryBrookerreformedtheband,andhe alsohadhis owngroup,TheGaryBrookerEnsemble, thatplayedwithmanyofthebiggest namesin the business(StevieWinwood,EricClaptonand so on).Ratherthan

attemptto encapsulate hiscareer, hereareDouglas's ownwordsfroma speechhemadeintroducing thesell-outProcolHarumandLondon SymphonyOrchestra concertthattookplaceintheBarbican on8February1996: I havelovedGaryBrookerand ProcolHarumeversincenearly

thirtyyearsagowhentheysuddenly surprised theworldbyleaping absolutely outofnowhere withoneofthebiggesthitrecordsever donebyanybodyat alleverunderanycircumstances. Theythen surprisedtheworldevenmorebysuddenlyturningoutto be from SouthendandnotfromDetroitaseverybodythought. Theythensurprisedtheworldevenmorebytheircompletefail-

uretobringoutanalbumwithinfourmonthsofthesingle, onthe groundsthattheyhadn'twrittenityet.Andthenina moveofunparalleled marketing shrewdness andingenuity theyalsoactually leftA Whiter ShadeofPaleoffthe album.Theyneverdid anything straightforwardly at all as anyonewho'severtried to followthe

chordsofARumTale willknow. Nowtheyhadoneveryveryparticular effectonmylife.Itwasa songtheydid,whichI expectsomeofyouherewillknow,called GrandHotel.WheneverI'mwritingI tend to havemusicon in the background, andonthisparticularoccasionI hadGrand Hotelonthe

DouglasAdamsat sevenmonths.

Christopher DouglasAdams in hismid-forties.

JanetThrift,Douglas's mother,at home in Dorset in 1991.

Eckardt H.

Douglas,already six feet tall at twelve,

Douglas,age thirteen, in the chemistry

pointingoutthedangersofmoneyat thevillagefetein Dorset.

laboratoryin Brentwood School.

ie

z

a

SchoolHouse,Brentwood. Douglas, to theleftofhishousemaster,wasconspicuous dueto hisheight.

Douglas's studentidentification card,showinghim sportinga classicseventieshaircut.

LadyMargaretPlayers/JT./Adams, Smith,Adams

sentsa RevueintheSchoolofPythagoras

sever

Sa Smith Martin

e

th,16th, Tickets 30p|

Fromof. John’sCollegePortersLodge and Courtesy af door. Cheapdayrefurn 50 of

PRINTES BYCAMBRIDGE INSTANTPAINT LTB: 64017

Douglas's Footlights membership card.

Struttingand Frettingin a studentrevue.

Douglas, lookingbashful,withJonCanterandLucy Parkerin Cambridge, 1971.

.

*

canes

Douglas's unemployment benefitcard.

DouglaswiththecastoftheHitchhiker's radioseriesin November1978. Lefttoright:DavidTate(variousroles),AlanFord(Roosta), Geoffrey McGivern (FordPrefect),

Douglas, MarkWing-Davey (Zaphod Beeblebrox) andSimon Jones(Arthur Dent).

Takingsometimeoutfromrecording. Lefttoright:Douglas, Geoffrey Perkins, DavidTate,GeoffreyMcGivern,Mark Wing-Davey,SimonJones and Alan Ford.

Marvintheparanoidandroid.

MarkWing-Davey wearing hisextraheadwithpanache asZaphodBeeblebrox.

DavidDixon and SimonJones as FordPrefectand Arthur Dent.

Douglas onthesetoftheTVseriesofHitchhiker's, whichwasfirstbroadcast inJanuary 1981.

Books Pan

Douglas's firstGoldenPan,presentedinJanuary1984foronemillioncopiessoldof TheHitchhiker's Guide totheGalaxy.

JaneBelsonintheearlyeighties whenshefirstmetDouglas.

Allen Mary

Douglas, JaneandPolly.

Belso Jane

DouglasandPolly. JaneThrift,akaLittleJane, andJamesThriftat an Unplugged party.

Facing page,top:The“Guitar

Henge” atthetopofthe

housein DuncanTerrace. Douglashadtwenty-four left-handed guitars. Facing page,bottom: Douglas andDaveGilmourof PinkFloydpracticing at Earl's

CourtforDouglas's forty-

secondbirthdayappearance.

JaneBelson

Belson Jane

Theauthor,Catherine Webbat ageeight, PollyAdamsat a fewweeksoldand Douglasin DuncanTerraceinJune1994.

Furmanovsky

Jill

Douglas, ecstatic, at an Unplugged party,with MargotBuchananand RobbieMcIntoshin thebackground.

DouglasandJanein partymodeinNovember 1996.

Someofthe Unplugged audienceenjoyingthemselves. MarkWing-Davey andRichardHarrisare visiblein theforeground. RichardCreasey, SalmanRushdieandtheauthorcanbe spottedtowards theback. JillFurmanovsky

| I I

Belson Jane

ThedirectorsofTheDigitalVillagein EdVictor'sofficein thespringof1996.Standing (lefttoright): RichardHarris,Mary Glanville,lan Stewart,RichardCreasey,and EdVictor.Sitting:Douglasand

RobbieStamp.

TerryJonesandDouglasin a promopictureforStarship Titanic in 1998.

Above: Douglas's lectures andreadings weretheatrical performances. Intypical thespian modeat the AlmeidaTheatre,Islington,in 1996.Below:Jane, Pollyand Douglaslived here, their second and favoritehouse in Santa Barbara.

PollV

andherproudfatherinJuly1994.

HEARINGTHE MUSIC 165

recordplayer.Thissongalwaysusedto interestmebecausewhile

KeithReid’s lyricswereallaboutthissortofbeautiful hotel—the silver,the chandeliers,all thosekind of things—suddenly in the

middleofthesongtherewasthishugeorchestral climax thatcame outofnowhereanddidn’tseemto be aboutanything.I keptwonderingwhatwasthis hugethinghappeningin the background? AndI eventuallythought,itsoundsasifthereoughttobesomesort

offloorshow goingon.Something hugeandextraordinary, like, well,likethe endofthe universe.Andso thatwaswherethe idea for TheRestaurant at theEndoftheUniverse camefrom—from Grand Hotel...

Given a choice ofvenues, Margo saysthatmusicians lovesmall, intimate ones likepubs;youcanseethewhitesoftheaudience's eyesandgetinstantand gratifying feedback. There's nothing likeit.Butpubsdon’tpayanything, and

hiringa vanto movetheequipmentmeansthatthemusosareoftenoutof pocket.It’snotworththehassle.Shewaslamenting thisonedayinDouglas's

company, andhejustwentquieter andquieter whilethecogsturned. “Well,” hesaideventually, “I'vegotthisgreatidea.Youshouldcomeandplayinmy house. It’sagoodroom,andquitefeasible...” Andsobeganalegendary run

ofparties. Allthroughthenineties,untiltheirdepartureto California, Douglasand Janethrewsomewonderfulpartiesin DuncanTerrace. Onceortwicea year

they'dorganize theaddeddrawoflivemusic, andthesewerecalled Douglas andJane'sPartially Unplugged evenings (areference toPaulMcCartney's “OfficialBootleg” Unplugged album): Theseeveningsweremagical. Firsttherewouldbechampagne—lots ofit, gallonsandgallonsinfact.JaneBelsonhasa ruletoserveonlychampagne or

whitewine.Though theywreakhavocwiththehighercognitive functions, theydolessmischief tothesurroundings thanredwine.Asuavelocalcaterer wouldprovide delicious littlenibblythingsonsticks; thiscompany madesuperiorpartyfoodandseemedtohaveapolicyofonlyemploying sexyyoung

* There wasoneforPolly Adams’s birthday, anearSaturday anyway, on24June1995,another on 30March 1996, and16November 1996and,ofcourse, oneforDouglas’s forty-second birthday on12March 1994. Atrulyamazing partyalso—a Farewell toBritain, offtoHollywood debauch— on10July1999.Thislist,notexhaustive, courtesyofSueWebb’s addiction todiaries.

166 WISHYOUWEREHERE

thingswholooked goodinblack. Douglas andJanewereexceedingly generoushosts;thatkindofentertaining isexpensive. Theguestswerethebrightestandthebestfromthemediaandthelaw. Theterm“élite”isfrowneduponthesedays.Somepeoplefindit to be tri-

umphalist andimplicitly snotty, butthisusefullittlewordundoubtedly describes theguestsatthePartially Unplugged parties. Youcouldn’t movefor actors, filmpeople, writers, stand-up comedians, barristers, tellypresenters, scientists, technology billionaires, evenapublisherortwo...Youfoundyourselfforeveron thepointofgreetingsomeoneasa long-lostoldfriend,one

whosenamehadjustslipped througha lacunainyourbrain,until,waking up,you'drealize thatthefamiliarity ofthephizzog wasnotfriendship blurred bytimebutthespurious intimacy oftelly. Jonathan Porritwouldbechatting to StephenFry,RichardDawkinsto CliveAnderson, ClareFrancisto Lenny Henry,KathyLetteto TerryGilliam, MelvynBraggwithBenElton.Salman Rushdiewasoftenthere,radiatingintelligence andlookingverydapperfora

manundersiegefromafatwah. HisSpecial Branch minder wouldblendinalmostinvisibly. There wastheodd,veryrarespliff, butdopewasnotafeature ofDouglas's parties. Douglas saidthathe’dtrieditonceanddidn’t likeitvery muchandJanewouldnotcountenance thehousebeingusedforanythingillegal.Whentheguestsweretrulywarmedup,thelightswoulddimandthe musicwouldbegin.

Ofcourse, therewerepeoplepresent whowouldnothavestopped flirting,ortalking shop,evenifHorowitz hadbeenplaying aduetwithGodhimself.Thiswasa crowdofpeoplequitepleasedtobeineachother'scompany. Fortunately thehousewasquitebigenoughforthepartytocontinueondifferentfloorswithpeopledriftinginandoutasthemoodtookthem.

Forthosewhofavoured themusictheevenings werebliss.Itwasaprivilegetohearmusicians ofthecalibre ofRobbie McIntosh, Wix,Margo, and GaryBrooker doingtheirstuffin a settingofsuchwarmthandintimacy. Sometimes MichaelBywater wouldshowoffhisvirtuosityatmusicalparody onthebigpiano.DaveGilmourofPinkFloydwouldoccasionally joinin,im-

provising withRobbieMcIntosh withtheensemble precision ofCharlie ParkerandDizzyGillespie ona goodday.(Douglas knewDaveGilmour through twoconnections: NickMason's wife,anactress, whowasworking on a showproducedbya friendofDouglas's, andDave'swife,thewriterPolly Samson,knewJane.)

Hearingsuchmusicians enjoyingthemselves ina friend'sfrontroomwas

HEARING THEMUSIC 167

likebeingallowedtoeavesdrop onsomething veryspecial. Themusicwasin-

timateandlyrical; thesortofmusictoliberate theimagination. Themusicians performing inDuncan Terrace werenotjusta bunchofmateshavingfun; theyweretherockaristocracy havingfun.Youhadtopinchyourself some-

timestorememberthatthesewerethefinestinthebusiness. Itwasasincongruousas havingsomeviolinistbear downupon you in a Hungarian restaurant—and realizingitwasNigelKennedy.

DaveGilmour wasfamously abletoreturnthefavour. Douglas andJane helda particularly extravagant partyforDouglas's forty-second birthday in March1994.Thishad a specialsignificance—though Douglas'stonguewas lodgedfirmlyinhischeekontheissue—because ofthecultishpreoccupation

withthenumberforty-two. DaveGilmour's imaginative present toDouglas wasintheformofapermitthat,withsuitableflourishes andcalligraphy (istherea fontcalled SchoolDiploma?), empoweredDouglasto appearin concertwiththeFloyd andplayoneguitarsolo.AsthePinkFloydhada gigcomingup inthegiant Earl’sCourtvenueintheautumn,thiswasa giftofmorethanacademicrel-

evance. Douglas wasthrilled beyondmeasure. Whenthetimecame(28October1994), DaveGilmour invited himontothestagetowarmapplause, and Douglas playeda soloatEarl'sCourtwithPinkFloydbacking himartfully andatmospherically asonlytheycan.Byallaccountshe hadpractisedand practisedthisnumberuntilthe householdcouldscarcelybearto hearit

again.Onthedayitselfhedidnotparticipate inanyofthehigh-spirited backstage messing aboutbeforehand, butholedupratheranxiously in a corner, andpractised again.Hewasgood,andplayedthepiecewithgreat skill.Hefinished—not that anyoneminded—just halfa beat behindthe band. Thefollowing yearDouglasgavean interviewinwhichhe reportedthat

he’dheardthatsomeone intheaudience hadasked: “Which oneisDouglas Adams?” Hiscompanion hadreplied: “The old,fat,balding one.” Andthefirst blokesaid:“Butwhich old,fat,baldingone?”* AtthistimetheFloydhadjustrecordedwhatwasto be TheDivision Bell, one oftheir most subtlealbums;as yet,however,they had not decidedwhat

tocallit.DaveGilmour wasagonising overthis;nothingstruckthemusiciansasquiteright.EvenwhenyouareasbigasPinkFloyd, sothenameof * Interview withDuncanFallowell, 1995.

168 WISHYOUWEREHERE

thebandratherthanthealbumisthebrand,youstillwantanengaging title*According to legend,DouglastoldDaveGilmourthathe hadthetitle, but that Davehad to write a chequefor £25,000on the spot made out to the

SavetheRhinoFoundation beforeDouglaswouldtellhim.Aftersomemut-

tering, Daveagreed. “The title’s rightthereinthelyrics,” saidDouglas—hence TheDivision Bell. Thosemusical evenings inIslington, surrounded byfamily, friendsand celebrities, gaveDouglasenormousjoy.He'dsitcloseto themusicians with an ecstaticgrin,movingonlyto fetchsomeonewhohefeltshouldsharethe pleasure.Healwaysfeltbereftifsomeonehelovedwasmissingoutonsome-

thingwonderful. SueAdams tellsa storyofstaying inthehouseinSantaBarbarawhenDouglas andJanehaddrivendownto LosAngeles fora Paul McCartney andDaveGilmourconcert.Inhighexcitement, Douglasphoned herfromtheauditorium. “Listen to this,”he said,holdinghismobilephone abovehis head.“Justlisten.”AndSuelistenedto a wallof soundrelayed

throughthetinymicrophone ofamobile. Ofcourse, itwasgratifying toDouglas's egothathecouldpersuade such artiststocometoIslington. Hewouldhavetohavebeenexceptionally free fromvanity(hewasn’t)nottohavefeltatsuchtimeslikea patronofthearts, theCosimodiMediciofIslington. Butanyonewhosawhimcouldnotdoubt

thathiswasthejoyofgenuine musical appreciation. Hefeltmusicdeepintheheartofhim,andhissensitivity toitwasinextricably linkedwithhissensitivity tothecadences oflanguage. Music wasa passionthatlastedallhislife.

* Oddly much thesameapplies tobooks. Bestselling authors, whose namesontheirbooks are hugeandembossed (andwhose titlesaremerefootnotes), stilltwitch incasetheycomeupwith something sodoggy thatitinhibits potential buyers atthepointofsale.

“Farnham (n) Thatfeeling yougetaboutfouro’clock intheafternoon whenyouhaven'tgot enough done.”

EIGHT Hoos Ee as

TheDeeper Meaning ofLiff Himnc

“Youwritewitheaseto showyour breeding, Buteasywriting’s vilehard

reading.” SHERIDAN, Clio’s Protest

[Ls

henThe Hitchhiker's Guide totheGalaxy wentstraight inatnumber

one in the charts(number one with a bullet,as they say in the music world) and stayed there, two things happened. Firstof all Douglas,

laughing hugelyathisownself-indulgence, wentoutandboughthisshortlivedPorsche 911.Thesecond wasthat,unsurprisingly, Caroline Upcher and SonnyMehtaat Panwanteda sequel,andsoonagreedterms,formuch, muchmoremoney,withJillFosterandDouglasforTheRestaurant attheEndof theUniverse.”

Meanwhile thesuccess ofHitchhiker's hadattracted theattention ofpublishers aroundtheworld. Theyallkeepaneyeonthechartsandalotofthem inmajormarkets, especially London andNewYork, employ scouts whoseliterarynosesaretrainedto sniffoutgoodiesfortheirclients.Youcanbe sure that the phoneswerehumming,and dearold postiewasburdenedwith

muchexcited correspondence. (Thefaxmachine wasnotingeneralusein * Inmanywaysthisisthemostsatisfying oftheHitchhiker's books.

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WISHYOUWEREHERE

1979eventhoughit is quiteold-fashioned technology.) Germany;France,

Italy,Scandinavia, Japan,Spain, Greece... allthemajormarkets oftheworld boughttranslation rights, followed smartly bythesmaller ones.Estonia, Bulgaria,Czechoslovakia (asitwasthen),Hungary, Israel,Poland,Serbia...Pretty soontherewasscarcely a countryintheworldwitha localpublishing industryinwhichDouglasdidn’tappear.

Ablessed by-product ofallthesedealswas,ofcourse, a trickle, thena stream ofmoney. Yen, Deutschmarks, francs, drachma, zlotys andwhatnot, all camesloshing throughthesystem inDouglas's direction—but quiteslowly. (Actually thesmallermarketsusuallyhavetobuyinUSdollars.) Thoseofyou unfamiliarwithpublishingmightimaginethat if,say,a Germanpublisher

buystherightstoaworkfor100,000 Euros, thentheauthorfairlypromptly receives 100,000 Euros, perhaps minustheagent'sfeeof10%. Nota bitofit. Firstofalltheacquiring publisher willdisburse theadvance usingaschedule ofpaymentthatusuallydividesthetotalintoatleasttwostages(signature of thecontractandpublication). Thena sub-agentintherelevantterritorywill

takea 10%commission forexecuting thedealanddeploying hisorherlocal knowledge. Sometimes tax-exemption procedures canbe glacialwithout someone onthespot.Thentheproprietor—in Douglas's caseitwasPanhandlingforeign rightssales—will taketheagreedpercentage fromthesaleof thoserights(typically 25%). Onlyiftheoriginaladvancehasbeenearnedout willthebalancethenbe passedon to theauthor'sagent,andprobablynot

untilthenextroyalty accounting dateofwhichtherearetwoperannum. The agentwilldeductthe10%orsometimes thesedays15%forhisorherservices.Onlyafterthemoneyhasbeentransmitted downthislongchain(no

singlelinkofwhichismotivatedtobe veryspeedy)doestheauthorreceive a share.Itcantakemanymonths. YoucanseethatDouglaswouldnothavebeenoverwhelmed by spon-

dulix,andthisisjustaswellashewouldonlyhavespentitinstantly. However,henowhad asignificantincome fromforeign sales,andinMarch1980 he wouldalsohavereceivedhisfirst,and ratherawesome,royaltycheque fromPan. Douglas, frankly,lovedthemoneywhen,in theeighties,it finallystarted * Douglas wasalways hugeinGermany which, despite thestereotype, seemstohavea weakness forsurreal British humour. Theyevenmadea German version ofMonty Python’s Fliegender Zirkusonce,withallthePythonslearningtheirlinesphonetically.

WHOOSHING BY 171

rollingin likePacificbreakers.He'dtriednothavingmoney;notunreasonably,havingmoneyhadtheedge.Hisapproachwasinnocentlysimple.He dividedhisincomeintothree.OnethirdwasMonopolymoneyforplayand

pleasure. Onethirdheputasideforapension oratimewhenthewellsprings ofcreativity mightdryup.Onethird,destined—as hebelieved—for thetaxman,hegaveto hisaccountant(aboutwhomthereisa macabrestoryto be

toldinalaterchapter).

Douglas's accommodation wasstillprettycheap.JonCanterwasworking as a copywriterin advertising, thoughhis heartwas in screenplays and

sketches, andDouglas wasbringing homeveritable sidesofbacon,sothey decided toescapefromtheHolloway Road. Theflattheremayhavehada kindof romanceof the bleak,but by comparisontheirnewdigsnearSt. Mary’sChurchinleafyHighburyNewParkwereheaven.Thoseversedinthe geographyofLondonwillnoticethateachmovewastakingDouglascloser

toIslington, thoughhedidnotbuyanyproperty thereuntil1981. Jonsaysit wasstrange tocomehomeaftera harddaywriting fizzyselling copytofind Douglas beinginterviewed bysomebright-eyed journalist. Twosnapshotsoftheirlifethere:thefirstcordlessphones,aboutthesize andweightofa brick,hadjustbeenmanufactured. Douglasjusthadto have one,and took to wanderingabout the flatwith it makingcalls,eventakingit

totheloo.“Blimey,” orwordstothateffect, saidonecaller, “reception isnotso greatonthosegadgets. Theinterference soundslikesomeone having apiss fromagreatheight.” AnotherdetailJonremembers wasgivinga dinnerparty whenDouglaswanderedin and rathercommandeered it by decidingthe themefortheeveningwouldbethegreatnessofRingoStarr'sdrumming. Jon

wasnotangryabouthispartybeinghijacked. “Itwasn’t anarchic,” hesays, “anditwasn’t intended todisrupt. Itwasjustingenuous toafault...” Butmoreoftenthannot,Douglaswouldeatout.Therestauranttradein Londonintheearlyeightieshasa lottobegratefulfor:Douglasdidmuchto sustainit.Hewaswildlyhospitableabouttakingfriendsoutforexoticmeals;

sometimes, though,hismatesresented it.Douglas hadneverintended his wealthtobeseenastriumphalist and,whenhewasaccused ofalackofsensitivity, hewasmortified* * JonnyBrocktellsa storyofbeinga houseguestwitha largepartywhenDouglas hadhisplace

inProvence. Towards theendoftheholiday, Douglas suggested thattheyallgotooneofthe world’s mostfamous andexpensive restaurants ontheSwissborder. There wasmuchgulping

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Douglas himself hadlittleenvyinhismake-up andlikedtoseehisfriends succeed, andthiscouldleadtoa certain naiveté aboutmoney. Hewasrecklesslyextravagant. Itdidnotoccurtohimtofeeljealous ofthosewithmore (though much later,in California,he came to lose his innocencein that re-

gard)andhe couldbe takenbysurprisebythosewhowerejealousofhim. OtherwriterswhoknewDouglasat theBBCcouldbea littlesatirical. There

isawriters’ roomattheBBC, inagrimoffice blockinLangham Street justbehindBroadcasting House, wherethewriters oftopical comedy arehousedin uncomfortable chairsandfedallthedailypapers.OnceDouglaswasspotted on the pavementfromthe windowof this retreat.Severalscriptwriters yankedopenthe window,and one of them,believedto be a witty,short,

scruffy gitwithabeard,yelledout:“Oi,Douglas, tossusupsomedosh!” Douglas's loveofcomputers, hesaid“gave a wholenewmeaning tothe termdisposable income.” Oncehewasextolling thevirtues ofthenewApple laptopto me,andurgedmenotto delay.“Nick,” he said,aftera brilliantexpositionaboutthe superiorityof itsoperatingsystemoverthat ofthe PC, “Yousimplymustgetoneimmediately.” Itwasabout£2,000. I pointedoutto

Douglas thathehadsimply forgotten whatitwasnottobewealthy. Hewent quitepink. Buthe wasnot unawareofthe apparentcontradictions ofhavingpassionateviewsaboutthestateoftheworldwhilenotbeingputto thetestby his privilegedlifein hisbelovedIslington—famously the homeof “champagnesocialism” and,atonetime,TonyBlair.“Apparent” shouldbeinquota-

tionmarksbecause itishardtoseewhyhavingmoneyinthebankipso facto disqualifies youfromcaringabouttheplanet, especially ifyouropinions are supportedbywell-informed andrationalargument.LaterDouglasgaveunstintingly to suchcausesastheSavetheRhinofund.InSoLong, andThanks for AlltheFish,Douglasteasesthosesuffering fromsubtleliberalguiltbyinvent-

inga prostitute whoprovides anintimate andspecialized service: shetells wealthy peoplethatit’sallrighttoberich. Initially, though,amidthewelterofforeignrightsbeingsold,thebiggest Englishlanguagemarketofthemall,the UnitedStates,didnot go forthe andsurreptitious wincing, untilJonny tookDouglas asideandexplained thatmostofthemcould notafford itandwould feeluncomfortable aboutbeing feasted soextravagantly. Thesolution wasforeverybody tobuytheirownfood,butDouglas would treatthepartytothefearsomely costlycomponent—the wine.

WHOOSHING BY 173 book at all. Within five years,however,the US was to become Douglas's

biggestsourceofincome. ThepublishingindustryinAmericaislargelybasedinNewYork,though

therearepockets ofpublishers inCalifornia andBoston. NewYorkisanexcitingcity,buttheproblem isthatitknows it.NewYorkers areconvinced that theyarethepivotaroundwhichtheworldturns;inmanyways,theyare right.ThinkofthatfamouscartoonbySteinberg onthefrontoftheNewYorker magazine. Itwascaptioned“TheviewfromFifthAvenue” andthree-quarters of the imagewent as far as EighthAvenue.Almostout of the frame,on the

horizon itsaidCalifornia andJapan. Certainly inpublishing itisNewYorkandnotLondon wherethemajor dealsareexecuted, andthereisa vitalityandbuzzaboutthebusinessthere _thatishugelyexhilarating. Thenativewitiswonderful, but it’sthehumour of peopleunderfire.Evenbuyinga sandwichis combat.“We'vegot the

money, we'vegotthesmarts, we'vegotthestyle,andyou'rea bunchofBrits whoare,byandlarge,charming butuseless—and notinvariably charming either” isanattitude oftenencountered whendoingbusiness overthere. Backin 1979,publishingin NewYorkwasmadlyfashionable (andstillis, despitehavingbecomemuchmorecorporate). Atthetimeitwassetmainly

inmid-town Manhattan; allthepublishers kneweachother,manyofthem socially, quiteafewhadsleptwitheachother,andafairnumberhadplaces onLongIslandin theHamptons (therightHamptons asopposed to the wrongHamptons), wherethehierarchies ofofficelifewouldcontinuein different form.God help us, NewYorkersuse expressionslike “restaurantcul-

ture”withoutlaughingandworryaboutgettinga tablebythepoolattheFour

Seasons. Inthattoughcityitmatters ifthesneakers donotquitegowiththe jeans.Itwasa hothouse fullofcleverpeopleworking ina debauch ofselfregard. Yetforallitsgloss, NewYorkcanbeveryparochial. “It'sfartoo British... Britishhumourdoesnot travel.Wecisaliailitins cityslickersfromGothamCityunderstandit,but howwillit go downin Oshkosh, Wisconsin?” Suchwerethesentiments employed byAmerican edi-

torstokeeptheirchequebooks inviolate whenfacedwithThe Hitchhiker's Guide totheGalaxy. Infairness, Americaisthedominantcultureoftheworldandit exportsitsentertainment in suchextraordinary volumethatthe industryis uptherewitharmaments andagriculture asoneoftheirbigthreeforeignexchangeearners.Theremustbe kidsinvillagesin NorthWalesor ruralJapan

whoaremorefamiliar withLosAngeles police procedural slangthantheyare

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withtheirownculture.Innumerable TVseriesand movieshavemadethe

American landscape knowntous,butthereverse isnottrue.Whyshouldit bewhentheUnited States manufactures ahome-grown product thatissoseductivethatit sellsallovertheplanet? Douglaswasbesidehimself.Hesowantedtobe a successintheUSA. “Bloody, bloodypublishers,” hewouldsnarl,“theyalwayssaythatstuffis

tooBritish. TheysaidthataboutMonty Python. Thesophisticated mediapeoplesayit.Theyallbloodysayit.Theonlypeoplewhodon’tsayitaretheaudience.Youknow,the readers,the actualpublic.I'vemetsomeof my

Americanfans,lotsofthem,and theygetit.Theyareverymuchlikemy Britishones.”Youhadto teasehimto nudgehimoutofhisTourette-ish riff.

And,ofcourse, eventually therightsweresold. SonnyMehtaremembers theprocess: Iwasonatrip toNewYork[thewinterof1979], rightafterwe'd

publishedHitchhiker's anditwasnumberoneinthecharts.I wasactuallyratherhookedon WorkmanPublishingin thosedays.They

onlydidnon-fiction ofaveryspecific sort.Theywerea small,very focused publishing house,andI justlovedthetypeofthingsthey didandtheenergy withwhichtheydidthem.ThenBruce[Harris, of Crown], whowasa friend,happenedto comebyandtakemeoutto lunchorsomething.IsaidI hadthisextremelyoddnovel...It’s not exactlysciencefiction;it’sveryeccentric.Sohe said:“Letmeseeit,”

andI said,“Well, actually anotherpublisher hasit.”I keptwaiting but[namedeletedtosaveembarrassment] hashaditfora weekor tendays,andhasn'tcomebackto me.SoBrucesaid:“I'llsendsomeone to pickit up.”Andthe verynextmorningthe phoneringsat about 7:30and I'dbeengettingwastedthe nightbefore.It’sBruce

Harris.Isaid:“Bruce, doyouknowwhattimeit is?”Andhesaid: “Now listen,IjustwanttotellyouthatlastnightI readthatmanuscriptyougaveme,andI reallywanttodoit.”AndI said:“You call me at 7:30to buy a manuscript?—forget it."*Brucemust have thoughtit wasa negotiatingploy,becausehe rangfivetimes. * Sonny isasupremely civilized man,butheisnota person inwhom theblood reaches thehigher cognitive functions before around 10:30a.m.

WHOOSHING BY 175

Anyway, theydidseeitimmediately, andactually Bruce wasthe otherpersonIwantedtoreadit,soheboughtitstraightaway. BruceHarrisis an affable,civilizededitorofthe old school.Nowthe Publisher

at Workman, he wasthenthe Publisherat HarmonyBooksandMarketing

Director ofCrown, a feistyindependent house,withthememorable address of1ParkAvenue. Crown haslongsincebeenabsorbed byapseudopod from oneoftheindustry’s giantcartels.BrucesaysthatwhenhereadHitchhiker's he laughedoutloud.(Youshouldappreciate thatittakesalottoproducethisresponsein a publisherforwhomthejoysofreadinghaveoftenbeencrushed

byroutine.) Itwas,hesays,theproverbial lightbulbgoingoffinhishead... AndthefactthatI couldpickuptwobooksfora sensible ad-

vanceofonly$15,000 in total,whensmarterpublishersthan I had passed,washelpful.I hadto clearitwithmyboss,forCrowndidnot publishmuchfiction.Wealwaystriedto do goodstuff,andDoug-

lasAdams provedtobehelpfulfortheimprint. I remember Douglas withgreatwarmth.Whenhe firstcame overto do promotion,we went out to lunchand we got on famously.ThenI took him to a bookstore,ColosseumBooks,and said:

“Goahead,buywhatyouwant.I'llpay.” I always founditinterestingtoseewhatauthorschoose, andit’sa gesturetheyappreciate. WeoncedidadealwithMaurice Sendak aftergivinghimtherunof our warehouse.Anyway,Douglaswasmodestat first,but eventuallyboughtabout$200worthofbooks.Rightontopofthepilewas a titleon howto overcomewriter'sblock.

OurfirsteditionofHitchhiker's wasa neatlittlehardback priced at$9.95. Ithadanillustrated jacketoftheringsofSaturnmakinga rudegesture,and largelyon the strengthofthatwe gotfloordisplaysfromWaldenBooks[alarge,powerfulchain].Douglasenjoyed thepromotiontours,too.Alotofauthorsfindthemarduous,buthe

seemed tolikethetravel,thehotels,theprettygirls,anddoingthe signings. Hegota kickoutofreadinghisworkandlikedmeeting theaudience. I'llmisshim.Hewasalwaysjolly,a gustoffreshair.HewasterriblyprescientaboutInformationTechnology and allthat stuff.He

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foresawitsimplications yearsbeforetherestofus.OnceI wason a panelwithhimin Cannesto discussthe impactofthe CD-Romon

publishing, something aboutwhichIknewlittle.Douglas rehearsed someofitwithmebeforewewenton,andthenhegaveadazzling performance himself. I stillrecallhimdescribing howitwouldbe possibletoviewtheceilingoftheSistineChapelasifwalkingalong justa fewfeetbeneathit.

Itisinteresting thatBruce mentions Douglas's loveoftravel, because laterin hislife,whenhefounditexcruciatingly difficult towrite,hewouldusetravel

asananaesthetic. Thesuccession ofairports andendless lonelyhotelrooms, withtheiridenticallay-out,mini-barsand anxiouslypolythene-wrapped plasticmugs,thejetlag,the permanenthumin theears,the homogeneous malls,hispolishedproductionofthe samespeech—all thiscouldinducea

kindofhypnagogic trance,likeluciddreaming. It wasflight—flight from deadlines andsomeoftheresponsibilities ofhome. Brucewasn’ttheonlyAmerican publishertoadorethebook.BackinLondon,MartyAsher,Editor-in-Chiefof PocketBooks,alsolovedit.PocketBooks

wasa largepaperbackhouse,partofSimon&Schuster(itselfthenownedby

Paramount, andnowpartoftheevenmoreunlikely mediacartel, Viacom). Martyisa modestly sizedmanwitha quickwitandengaging manner. He wasinLondonona missionthatwasthereciprocal versionofSonny'sonthe othersideoftheAtlantic. MartywassearchingtheBritishmarketforgoodies;andhadseena copyofHitchhiker's in Pan'sofficeandscroungedonefor

consideration ofitsUSpotential. Ithadbeen a wintryday.MartyhadjustgotbacktohisroomattheSavoy Hotel,suffusedwiththehonourablefatiguethatcomesaftertrawlingpublishersallacrossLondon,andfrombeingpolitelynoncommittal whenofferedcompletedogs.Hedecidedto takea bath.Thebathsat the Savoyare

verycomfortable fortheyareconstructed onsucha heroicscalethatyou havetoswimtoreachtheplughole. Alsotheycomeequipped withstainless * Thesetripsarefun.Youchargearoundtheindustry seeingoldmatesandusuallybeingtreated

toagreatdealoflunch, butaftera weekofthreeorfourmeetings inthemorning, lunchinthe lineofduty, fourmeetings intheafternoon, earlyevening drinks andsometimes dinner, your hotelroomisankledeepinmanuscripts andyou'reinsuchastateoffuguethatyouwould not recognize a bestseller ifitbityouonthebum.

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steelart-decoaccessories forholdingloofahs,sponges, soapandrecentBritish

bestsellers. MartyAsher(nothing ifnotprofessional) relaxed inthehotbath, readingDouglasAdamsandlaughinglikea drain.

Thisbook,hethought, isamust-have. Hewasdisappointed tolearnthat hehadjustbeenbeatentothepostbyBruceHarris, butasPocket wasa mass-market paperback housewithconsiderable clout,Martywasableto buytheUSpaperback rightsfromCrown. Inmanywaysthiswasanideal combination. Crownwasquirky,independentandtryinghard,andstillsmall enoughto havethe personaltouch,whilePocketwasa bigmarketingma-

chinewithpowerful distribution across theUS. Crown's Harmony hardcover soldout,butHitchhiker's didnotbecome the hugebestseller thatithadbeenintheUK.Theradioserieshadbeenpicked upbysomeofthecoolerstationsintheAmerican NationalPublicRadionetwork,butitwasn’tuntilMarch1981thatallthestationstookitandgaveit a

national airing.Pocket’s promotion forthepaperback wasquiteinventive. Theypitched thebooksquarely atthecollege crowdwithlotsofadvanced reading copies givenawayatuniversity andcollege bookshops. Douglas was embarrassed thatmorewasmadeofhisconnection withMonty Python than wasreallythe case,but he partlyhadhimselfto blameas he had solicited spoofquotesfrom all the Pythons.(‘AlotfunnierthananythingJohnCleese

haseverwritten’—Terry Jones—gives aflavour). Besides, fromthepublisher's pointofview, Monty Python wasexactly therightbuttontopress,something quintessentially Englishthatworkedcommercially inAmerica. Pocketrana largeadintheRolling Stone, a magazinewithsomeexcellent journalismand impeccablestreetcred.Thefirst3,000respondentswho could

beartowritetotheHyperspace Hitchhiking Club(c/oPocket Books) would receive afreebie copy. | Martyrecalls thatwhentheypublished thepaperback inAugust 1981, the initialimpactwasnothugebutthatthepatternofsaleswasveryencouraging.Herecalls:

It wentoutin thehipperindependent bookshops, especially wheretherewasa bigstudentmarket. Itwasculty.Wesold50,000 andthenreprinted,andkeptongoingbackto press.Bythetimehis secondhardcoverwaspublishedweknewwehad something.The serieskepton loopingroundon NationalRadiotoo.

I metDouglas attheABA[theAmerican Booksellers’ Associa-

178 WISHYOUWEREHERE

tion,a hugetradeconvention]in LosAngelesthat year.Wehad a

large,amusing lunch.Hewaswonderfully lunatic,andI wassurprisedathowmuchhelovedCalifornia. Hewaslikea kidina gigantictoy store.He loved it even though there was another deadlineimminent.

Meanwhile, backatPan,publishing Douglas wasbothpleasurable andirritating. Publishers’ editors, forexample, willoftenbuytheirauthors lunch.It’s oneoftheperksinanindustry thatisnotwellpaid.Itiseasiertoestablish a rapportwithsomeonewhilesharingsucha basichumanappetiteasfood. Fromtheprofessional pointofviewit alsohasthevirtueofputtinga frame aroundtheencounter;evena reallylonglunchisnotasdangerousasinvit-

inganauthortotheoffice whereheorshecanhangaboutalldaypeering resentfully atotherauthors’ point-of-sale material. Butthemarginsinpublishingareasthinasthepaintona Frenchcar,and editorsdonothaveunlimitedexpenses. Inevitably theexesgetscrutinized— sometimes withappallingrigour—by aclerk intheaccountsdepartment who cannotgraspwhysomespoiltmedia-trendy shouldbe entitledto somuch

freelunch. Sothedeal,thoughinexplicit, withauthors isthattheydonottrespasstoomuchontheeditor’s privileges. It’sjustbadformalways toorderthe mostexpensive thingonthemenuandwashitdownwithwinethatmaycost a week'swages.DearoldDouglashadnosuchinhibitions. Itwaspartlythat he inheritedhisfather’sappetiteforluxury.Also,thoughin manywayshe

lovedfame,hecouldneverquitebelieve it.Insecurity gnawed athimallthe time:amIreallyastar?Perhaps if]actlikeone,andpeople clearly treatmelike one,itwillbysomeprocessofmagicalthinkingbecomeanunassailable truth. But,onehastoconcede,sometimes hewasjustthoughtless. Hiseditor,CarolineUpcher,whocombinesemotionalsensitivity* withan uncompromising

determination nevertobeacorporate drone,wasnotamused whenheordered,notchecking withherfirst,a bottleofchampagne inasmartrestaurant

withbreathtaking smartrestaurant-type mark-ups. Thereisa legend, still whisperedinlunchingcircles, thatshetoldhimhecouldpayforithimself. Asanybodywhohasworkedinanofficeformorethana minutewillappreciate, internalmemoranda aremoreoftenavehicleforpoliticsthanforin* Much later, whenshehadturned into afine writer herself, shewrote forGQmagazine oneofthe mostinsightful pieces aboutDouglas everpublished.

WHOOSHING BY 179

formation. Theeaseofemailhasonlyexacerbated theproblem. Caroline isa fineeditor, nota tactician; itishugelytohercreditthatshecouldneverbe botheredwiththe nuancesofthe blindcopyto the CEO;lifeis too short. Companies havetheirownstyle,andPan’sidiomwasracyandno-nonsense.

Here’s amemofromthePanfilesthatspeaks ofDouglas’s sometimes exasperating needforattention. To:Sonny cc:Jacqui[Graham] Re:DOUGLAS ADAMS

From: Caroline 29 October1979

Douglasisundertheimpression heishavingdinnerwithyouand Jacquion Wednesday, 31 October(Halloween). He had assumed|

wouldbetherebutItoldhim(quitetruthfully) thatI hada datefor dinnerthatnightbut,ifasked, Iwouldbehappytobearoundherefor a drinkearlieron.I wasactuallyintendingto waituntilwehadtied up termsforthesecondbookbeforegettinghimin fora drinkwith you,butnowhe hashookedontoyouviaJacquiI guessit makesno

difference. BUT heisnowPESTERING meaboutthefucking evening. Approximately threetimesonFriday andtwicealready today. Ican’tdinewith

himonWednesday andI’msurepoorJacquihashadherfillofhimfor awhile,butmaybeI'mwrong.DoyouorJacquiwanttofinalizewhat youwanttodowiththefuckeronWednesday andlethimknow—or

letmeknowsoIcangivehimananswer nexttimehecalls...? Thanks.

Underneath Caroline wroteinlonghand:“Betyoutenquidhegetsonto ei-

theroneofusbynoontoday! C.” However, coping withDouglas's stupendous talentforrestaurants wasthe leastofanypublisher's problems withhim.Theshatteringly stressful vexationwasgettingthe textout ofhimin the firstplace,forDouglasenjoyed beinga famouswriter,butheloathedtheprocessofbecomingone.Thatentailedwriting.

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Thestoriesof his delinquency aboutdeadlinesare,sadly,alltrue.Famouslyhe saidhe loveddeadlinesbecausehe lovedthe soundof them

whooshing by.Therealitywasthathisdilatoriness wasjustnotfunny.It causeda dealofgriefforhispublishers, butforthemitwasjusta matterof professional inconvenience andcommercial pain.PoorDouglassufferedagonizingdespairwhenhefelthejustcouldnotdoit.Hewasknownto fallto thecarpetandweep. Publishersare usedto authorsrunninglate;overthe yearstheyhave

evolved anicely judged scaleofresponses. Whenanauthorconfesses tolateness,asapublisher youcannotafford tobetoourbane(“Don't worry...par forthe course...getit rightratherthando it now...”),evenifyouhaven't scheduled thebookinquestionandit’snotparticularly time-sensitive. Many authorsaresochronically insecurethattheyinterpreta forgiving responseas

indifference (“Ohno,”theythink,“mypublisher doesn'tappeartowantit’). Thismaylegitimize furtherdilatoriness ontheirpart.No,youhavetobedistinctlydisappointed, butnotsonarkedthatyouinducea paralysing degree ofanxietyinyourwaywardauthor.Ontheotherhand,iftheworkin questionisa majorchunkofturnover,theabsenceofwhichwillmakea notice-

abledentintheannualaccounts, andtheentiretradeisgearedupforits arrivalona particular date,yourneedtogettheworkontimeacquires an unusual sincerity. Evenmoresoifyouhavepaidalargeadvance forit. Withhisthirdbook,Life, theUniverse andEverything, Douglashaddecided to changeagents.JillFosterissmart,butDouglasfeltthatheneededrepresentationfroma high-profile heavy.EdVictorissucha man;withhismel-

lifluousmid-Atlantic voice,he is oneof nature’sgreatsalesmen. Heis celebrated inthemediaworldandwasoncelistedasthemanwho,withhis wife,Carol,a lawyer, wenttomorepartiesinLondoninoneseasonthanany otherhumanbeing.(HenryJamesis supposedto be the all-timerecordholder,havingattendedmoredinnerpartiesinoneyearthantherearedays

intheyear)ForDouglas's thirdandfourthbooks, Edhadnegotiated alorryloadofmoney. NowDouglas lovedserious moneyandalltheoptions thatitcouldbuy,

butatthesametimehetoldhisfriendsthathefelttrappedbythehugeadvancesthatimposed a pressurealloftheirown.Ifsomeoneis paying£5a word,theyhadbetterbebloodywell-chosen words.Hefounditterriblydif-

ficulttogetdowntoanywork.Being preternaturally smart,heunderstood whathewasdoingandthendespised himself forbeingsoweak-willed. His

WHOOSHINGBY

181

crudesubterfuges fornotwriting wereneverconvincing, leastofalltoDouglashimself. ItwaswithSoLong, andThanks forAlltheFish,* Douglas's fourthbook(and thefirstnottobebasedonhisradioscripts)thatmatterstooka drasticturn. SonnyMehtarecallswhathappened:

Therewasalwaystheproblemofwhenthemanuscripts were goingtobedelivered. Idon’tthinkitwaswriter'sblocksomuchas he hateddoingit.I'msurehe alwaysmeantto write,it’sjustthat moreinterestingthingscameup. Eitherthinking,or goingto the pubfora drink,or meetingsomemateforlunch,or somethinglike

that.I canunderstand itentirely—I'm muchlikeitmyself whenyou comedowntoit.Ididhaveagreatdealofsympathy forhim. ButI didlockhimup in thehotelroom—thatisabsolutelytrue. Wewerereallyup againstthewire.Wehadthejacketdoneandall the restof that kindof crap.Then,of course,I speakto Douglas.

“How’s it going?” I say,andhe says,“Oh,prettywell.Youshould haveitina coupleofmonths.” Thisusedtogoonandonandon. ThenI'dphoneEd,andEdwouldsay,“Listen, I thinkDouglas is working.Hesaidyoushouldhaveit in a coupleofmonths.”Andas I recollect, Edfinallysaid,“Ithinkweoughttohavea meetingabout

this.”SoweallturnedupatUpperStreet, whereDouglas andJane were,andwesatdownandhad along talk,anditbecame clear,actually,thatDouglas hadonlywrittenabouttwenty-five pages.So thenI wentbackto the office,andI spoketo Simon[Master] andI said,“Look,you'renotgoingto havethemanuscript.” Thiswasimportant,becausewe'dmadea bigfussaboutthefact

wewerepublishing it in hardcover' andalltherestofit—apart andreSFexpert theacademic TomShippey, wereharshaboutthisone.Forinstance, * Thecritics viewer, foundit“toocool,asAdamsisnowedgingdownfromVogon poetrytomeresatireof BritishRailsandwiches . . .”

liTheyhadbeenlicensing edition. firsthardcover forAlltheFishwasPan’s andThanks + SoLong, atrick.Itwasaveryelegant theyweremissing buttheyrealized Barker, toArthur braryeditions onthefrontthatalterimage withanoddlenticular DayEllison byGary designed allblack, book, theirProducBleasdale, David ontheangle. depending andaplesiosaur awalrus natedbetween hadpickedupa joblotoftheseimagesinHongKong.Itdidn’thavemuchtodo tionDirector,

withthetext,butsomehow itworked andthebookisnow acollector'sitem.

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fromthefactthatwewerecountingon it,justin financialterms.So I hada longtalkwithEdthenextmorningandI said,“Look, Douglashasgotto finishthisbook,andifwejustwait,wemaybe wait-

ing eighteenmonths,twoyears...”ClearlyI wasenormously concerned, andI'msureEdwastoo,because therewasmoneyinit forhimtoo.SoI said,“Whydon’tI put Douglasin an environment wherehe’sreallygotto work?”Edsaid,“It’san interestingidea.” SoI cameup withthe wheezeof puttinghimin a hotelroom someplace.Butit wasno goodputtinghimin a hotelroomif he

wasn'tgoingtobesupervised. SoI said,“Look, I'mgoingtodothis: I'mgoingto geta hotelsuiteand I'llmovein myselfandmake

Douglaschurnoutpages.”Everyonethoughtit wasa goodideaifI waspreparedto doit.WefoundtheBerkeley—fucking greatterrace outside,I mightadd... It didcosta fewbob.I phonedBruceHarris

at Crown,andsaid,“Listen, thisis whatI'mgoingto do,”andit turnedout thoseguyswereevenmoreanxiousthan we wereat Pan,so I said,“Butyou'regoingto haveto pickup halfthe tab for thehotel.”Therewasa bigsilenceandthentheyagreed. AndsoI wentto lookat thesuite,andI toldDouglasthatwe’d

betterbethereat3 o'clocktomorrow, andheagreed. HeandJane talkedaboutit.I said,“Bring clothesandwhatever else—there is goingtobea routine,I'llspellit outtoyouwhenyouturnup.”And wesenta cabaroundto pickhimup. Sohe turnedupwitha typewriter, hisclothes,a guitarortwo—

I didn’tmindat all.[Douglas wasina DireStraits modeatthetime] Iwasjustsorelieved thefucker turnedup.Theoffice shippedacross a caseofwineformeandboxesofmanuscripts, sothatIwouldbe abletowork.AndI movedin.Thereweretwobedrooms—I remember puttingDouglasin the smallerone becauseI was extremely pissedoff.

ThereasonwehittheBerkeley washewantedto swim,and therewasa poolupstairs. Theotherreasonwasthatitwascloseto myhouse,so I couldnipoutfromtimeto timeandsayhelloto my

wife.SoI explainedthe routine was that I'd get him out of bed; he’d

go up for a swim;we'd havebreakfast;finishby 8:30a.m.Then

Douglas wouldsitdownatthissmalldeskwitha typewriter, andI wouldsitinan armchair atforty-five degreesfromthat,myback

WHOOSHINGBY 183

facinghim,andI'dreada manuscript. I'dwaitforthesoundofthose

fingersonhistypewriter keys—which sometimes wouldhappen, sporadically, andthenthere'dbe longperiodsofsilence, andI'd turnaroundtocheckhimoutandseethathehadn'tcroaked onme orsomething. He’dbesittingup,staringoutthewindowatthisroof terrace.EverynowandthenI'dsay,“How’s it going?”Andhe’dsay, “Fine,fine.”Andyou'dhearpaperbeingcrumpledandthrowninto

abin. Itwasquitemacabre, lookingbackonit.Gradually thepileof manuscripts thatI wasreadingwouldgrowonthefloorasI went

throughyet anothersubmission.At the end of the day I would gathertogetherwhateverpagesDouglashadwritten,andwe’dtalk

aboutit andthenI wouldphonetheoffice. Myassistant, Jenny [Gregorian] wouldturnupandcollect thepagesandtakethemto theoffice. Roomservicewouldcomedownforlunch,andinthe eveningwewouldgoouttosomerestaurantroundthecorner,have

dinner, and then I'd bring Douglasback, and say,“OkayDouglas, you'd better get some sleep,”and he would be sent to his room.

Thatisroughlywhattheroutinewas.Everynowandthenhe wouldgetupandplaytheguitar.Andwe’dtalka littlebit...you know.Thatwasaboutit.Occasionally I'dgothroughthebinto see whathe'dchuckedaway—you know,discreetly, whenhewasgone

tohaveapissorsomething—and itwouldsaythingslike,“Who the fuckdoeshethinkheis?”Therewasonepage,I remember, ofvery choiceabuse,whichIactually keptandhadonmynoticeboardfor quitea while—even in NewYork,actually.Duringoneoftherefurbishmentsit kindofvanished,alongwithothermemorabilia.

Thiskidnapping ofDouglas hasentered publishing legend. Sonny andDouglasaresounlikeeachotherthatattimesitmusthavebeenlikesomedodgy hostagesiege*Sonnywasextraordinarily patient,buthehasalwayshadthe capacityto concentrate on a manuscriptand,beingincarcerated in a hotel withcoffeeandroomservice,he probablygotthroughanunusualamount

ofwork. It saysa lotforSonny'ssympathy, andthegeneralaffection inwhich * Would makea two-hander play?

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Douglas washeld,thatthisdesperate expedient wasresorted to at all.Of course, Panneededthebookandyoujustcannotterrorize anauthorinto

creativebrilliance.Buttherearenot manyindustriesin whicha partyin

breachofcontract wouldreceive suchsuccour. Every evening intheBerkeley, Sonny wouldsitandreadtheday’soutput underthecloseinspection ofDouglas. Allauthors needapproval. Inmyexperience thebestwriters areactually orincipiently alittlenuts;youhaveto

be slightlymadto pursuesuch asolitary craftinthefirstplace.Readingan author'sworkinhisorherpresenceisa kindofagony.Nostudyofyourface

haseverbeensocloseorunremitting. Wasthatatwitch? Didyousmile? In whichcase,atwhichbitoftext?Didyougetthatjoke?ForChrist's sake,say something. Mostauthors arecontent—no, “content” isnotawordthatcanbe appliedtowriters—are prepared towaituntilthey'vefinishedthebookbefore demandingadmirationfromtheireditor.Withhis laterbookstherewere timeswhenDouglasneededlovealmostpagebypage.

Sonny, whoisnota naturalthespian, nevertheless hasauthority. “This is fine,Douglas,” wouldcarryasmuchweightfromhimasvolumes ofgush froma lesserfigure. Despite theirsolitary confinement, SonnyandDouglas remainedongoodterms.Whenthefinalpagewasdelivered, theywentout fora dinnerthatwassolargeandalcoholic thatitwaserasedfromboththeir memories.

Sonny neverhadtolockupDouglas again. Later, SueFreestone, firstona freelance basisandthenashiseditorat Heinemann, tookovertherole,and discharged itwithempathyandcompassion. Whatofthebookitself?ItisregardedbyhardcoreDouglasfansasrather thin.Butitisveryfunnyandmoreemotional thanmanyofhisotherswhich

tendto be sparkling withintellect, butlesssureon characterization and humaninteraction. SoLong isinmanyways a tenderlovestory, anditsconstruction—which isveryepisodic—is fulloflittlescenes thatarealmost self-

containedandthat showoffDouglas’s talentas a sketchwriter.In Sputnik Sweetheart, HarukiMurakami,the wonderfulJapanesewriter whose work in

somewayshasbeeninfluenced byDouglas, described thestorywithinthe storyforever beingwrittenbyoneofhischaracters as“thebestpatchwork quiltofanovelsewnbygrumpy oldladies.”* SoLong, andThanks forAlltheFish isalsoratherquilt-like; it’senveloping, warm,a bitsoppy,andthesquaresof * Haruki Murakami, Sputnik Sweetheart, translated byPhilip Gabriel (Vintage Books, 1999).

WHOOSHING BY 185

the patchworkalternatebetweenthe surrealandthe everyday. In placesit reads almostas if he didn’twant to write the fantasticalbits,but could not

short-change hisreaders withtheirexpectations oftheweird. Douglas endsthebookonanotethatseems bothtoworkwithinthecontextofthenarrative andtostandoutsideasa commentary uponit:“There

was a pointto this story,but it has temporarilyescapedthe chronicler’s mind...”Thetruthisthathereallydidnotwanttowriteanymoreifhecould

avoidit.Hewasdetermined tomakeanotherHitchhiker's sequelimpossible. Unfortunately, hewassoinventive thathecouldescape fromanydead-end ofplot,ashehadproved already bywriting aroundthesmashing intoatoms ofthe planetEarth.LikeConanDoyle,forcedby publicdemandto revive SherlockHolmesafterhis headlongdropwiththe evilMoriartyintothe Reichenbach Falls,Douglas hadbeenpushedbyhislegionsoffans—and, let's

notbeingenuous, bythehugeadvances—into carrying onhitchhiking. Heartbreakingly formanyofhisfans,hekilledoffMarvin theParanoid Android, who,afterbillions ofyearsofboredom anddepression mostly spent in a carparkwaitingto be patronizedbydimprimates,isallowedblissfully, finallyandirrevocably to stop.

“Ithink,” hemurmured atlast,fromdeepwithinhiscorroding, rattlingthorax.“Ifeelgoodaboutit.” It’sa messagefromDouglas: nomore.Heyearnedto moveon.

“Nobody knowsanything.” Wittiam GOLDMAN,

Adventures intheScreenTrade “California isa greatplacetoliveifyouhappentobe

NINE

anorange.” FRED ALLEN

HiPPopuUsY. Cmms eanp TH [email protected] se2ce2

alifornianevenings...Asfilmpeoplesit roundtheirgreatoakote

effectfires,and chronicletheir adventuresin the moviebusiness,

manyarethetalestoldoftheagentkings,borneontheheroicbodiesofstar-

letsfromthefieldofbattletotheirValhalla inthePoloLounge. Therethey holdcourt,enthroned inbarfurniture ofthedeepest plush,toying withtheir icedmineralwaterastheytalkoffortuneswonandlost,anddealsthatmade orbrokethenamesofmortalmen.Andofallthesagas,sungfromrooftops, whisperedin corners,few have been so terrible,so extended,so downright

capricious astheGreatNon-making ofHitchhiker, theMovie.

Shortly before hedied,Douglas, withhistalentforthetelling analogy, said thatmakinga filmwasliketryingtogrilla steakbyhavinga seriesofpeople comeinto the room and breatheon it.In a moment'sdespair,he told EdVic-

torhowhecalculated thathe’dwastedfiveanda halfyearsofhislifetrying

togetthemoviemade,andthat,“I'mnotgoingtospendanotherfucking minuteonit.”

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“Ofcourse,” Edrecalled, “amonthlaterhewasbackdevotinghimselfto thefilm.Hejustwantedthatfilmsomuch.”

There's eventhisbitterdefinition inThe Deeper Meaning ofLif: Spiddle(vb) Tofritter away aperfectly good lifepretending todevelop afilmproject. In partit isthehorrificexpenseofmakinga moviethatpervadesthebusinesswithanxiety. Itmaybetruethatmanypeopleinthefilmworldareunsureabouttheirownjudgementandfrightenedoflookinglikeidiots,butin

fairness therisksarehuge.Inpublishing, forinstance, ifaneditorbuysabook thatdoesn’tsell,totallosswillbetheadvance,theexpenditure onmanufac-

tureanddistribution, andtheburdenonoverheads—tieing upcostlymachinerywitha dog.Unlessitwerea hugepuntonsomethingdisastrous, the totallossisunlikelytobe morethantensofthousandsofpoundsordollars. Amovie,on the other hand, canburn up $100millionand recoveronlya few

million intheatrical release andvideosales.InatoughtownlikeHollywood youcannothavemanydisasters onthatscale. Fearstalksthestudiocorridors likea Psycho-killer inResidence. Fromthe momentHitchhiker's waspublishedin 1979,therewastalkofa film.Therehad been mention of GeorgeLucas,whose IndustrialLightand

Magic hadstunned theworldtheyearbeforewiththespecial effects inClose Encounters oftheThird Kind.However, thereis no recordofanyflirtationwith

Lucas. Given thatDouglas squirreled awayeverything (though innokindof

order),sucha rumourwasprobablyjustwishfulthinking. Butbeforethefilmsagacouldbegin,thetellymini-series ofTheHitchhiker's Guide totheGalaxy hadto come,andgo.

Theseries wasmadeattheendof1980 andbroadcast insixepisodes from 5January1981to9February 1981, aboutthreemonthsafterpublication of TheRestaurant attheEndoftheUniverse, whichwasstillridinghighin thebestsellerlists.Thesedays,TVandfilmrightsareusuallysoldtogetheron the groundsthatifbothweretobeexploited simultaneously theycouldinterfere witheachotherBesides, theirmarketsaresointertwined thatitmakessense

tokeepthemlinked. Forinstance, evenwereitpossible tonegotiate a nonexclusive contract,whosevideowouldbe releasedfirstifbotha filmanda tellycompanymakea versionof a particularwork?Filmsconsumesuch prodigious quantitiesofmoneythateveryrightwithanycommercial poten-

HIPPODUST, FILMSANDTHETELLYSAGA 189

tialknowntoman,notexcluding stained-glass dramatization andmicrodots, hasto be partofthe dealandis factoredintothe originaldecision.Atthe

time,however, EdVictor wasabletoputthefilmrightsintoplaywithout the TVseriesrepresenting toomuchofanencumbrance. TheTVversion wasfirmlyinthehandsoftheBBC. TheBeebhadbeen thrilledbyitssuccesswiththetworadioseries.Beingjealousofitsproperty, itwasirritatedthattherunawaysalesofthebookswerebeingenjoyedbyan externalpublisher. Duringthisperiodtheinstitutionwasemergingfromits

noblemantleofpublicservice intoaharsher worldofcommerce anditwas coming undera lotofpressure fromtheConservative government ofMargaretThatcher, awoman suffused withthefrightening certainty ofonewhose electoralprospectshadbeenincalculably enhancedbythebloodywarover the FalklandIslands*Sheseemedto havean almostvisceraldislikeof a broadcasting corporation thatmanyofusregardedasa nationaltreasure.In

thedemonology oftherightwing,theBBC wasstaffed byleft-leaning, overprivileged, disrespectful publicschoolboys whowereinsulated fromthereal world!bythepublic’smoneyintheformoflicencefees. Thiswasthebackground thatpredisposed theBBCtokeepitsgoodiesinhouse.Thehuge,cultishsuccessofthetworadioserieswouldsurelytranslate

totheTV.ItwasJohnLloyd whostartedoffthewholeprocess withamemo backinSeptember 1979 totheHeadofLightEntertainment. Init,Johnpersuasively listedallthecredentials thatHitchhiker's hadacquiredbythen:radio seriesthatwererepeatedoverandoveragainbypublicdemand,bestselling books,theatricalproductions, evena nominationfora HugoAward.” John

hadbythenmovedovertotelevision wherehewasridinghighonthesuccessofNottheNine O'Clock News, andwaslooking foranother project. Evidently hehadforgiven Douglas forfiringhimoffthebook,oratleastbothparties tacitlyconspirednotto talkaboutit.Intheircomplicated danceofadvance * Forthoseofyoutooyoung toremember, inMarch 1982theArgentine military dictator, Colonel Leopoldo Galtieri, facing economic crisisandunrest athome, invaded theFalkland Islands, some 300milesoffthecoastofArgentina, towhich theArgentines hadlonglaidclaim. Bytheendof June,aftera bitter72-day campaign, Britain hadretaken theislands byforce. Nearly athousand menfrombothsideshaddied.Galtieri wasdeposed;Margaret Thatcherlasteduntiltheendof

thedecade. T Politicians ofteninvoke thisphilosophically hazyconcept whentheyarearguing somespiteful spasmofpolicy isanecessity. coNamed afterthelegendary editor, Hugo Gernsback, thisisSF’shighest annual accolade.

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and retreat, they were again best friends. Eventually,however,John did

notproduce theshow. Having startedasco-producer onthefirstepisode, he thenbecame—in thatexquisitely precise codeknownonlytotheinitiated— Associate Producer. Severalsuggestions fromhimabouthowtoproceedwere disregarded, butinfairnesscreativeendeavours likethisdooftenneeda sin-

gle,strongvoice. Eventually thedemands ofJohn’s ownextraordinarily successful careertookhimawayfromtheseriesaltogether. BythistimeDouglas hadgivenuphisjobattheBBC. Hehadbeendoing

it forfifteenmonthsandwasverytired.Itwas,asNeilGaimanpointsoutin Don'tPanic, theonlyproperjobheeverhad—andhe'dworkedatitlikea man

possessed. Hehadscript-edited manyepisodes ofDr.Who, fourofwhichhe hadalsowritten(threeofthese,buffswillnote,featured adisturbed Captain who,Vogon-like, destroyed worlds). Douglas hadalsowritten theentiresecondHitchhiker's radioseries, andcreated andproduced apantomime, acharacteristically oddandparodicworkcalledBlack Cinderella IIGoes East.Hehad madeenoughmoneyto declareindependence; he wasundercontractto

write more books; and his private life—ofwhich there’smore in the next

chapter—had acquired ashattering degree ofintensity. Thedayjobhadtogo. Allthroughhiscreativelife,Douglaslikedtohaveifnottotalcontrolthen considerable influenceonhowthedifferentformsofhisworkwouldappear. Thisdesirewaslaterto provea handicapwithHollywood whichregardsits writersaskrill,a speciesdestinedtoremaina longwaydownthefoodchain.

Itwasn'tjustthevanitythatdeclares “nobody candothisaswellasI can!” Hiswishforcontrol overhisownmaterial wasmorearesponse tothequirkinessofwhatheproduced. There's anintegrity toitthatcouldeasilyhave

beenlostifitwereemulsified andthenpouredintothestandardformatsthat the mavensof mass-marketentertainmentpatronizingly misperceiveas

beingwhatthepublicwants. Tohiscredit, Douglas had,aftersomenegotiation, turneddownaTVoffer fromABC inAmerica, whereThe Restaurant attheEndoftheUniverse hadmade theNewYork Times bestsellerlist.ABChadoffereda tempting$50,000 forthe rightswithmoreto come.Butfollowing discussionwiththe menin suits, Douglasrealizedthat justabouteverythingthat madeHitchhiker's unusual

wouldnotsurvive theprocess ofrendering itdownfortheUSmarket. He wasproudofhisdecision (“though Ihadtogetdrunktomakeit,”hetoldNeil Gaiman): itshoweda respectfortheintegrityoftheworkanda refusalnotto followthemoneyslavishly. ABCwas,according to Douglas, moreinterested

HIPPODUST,FILMSANDTHETELLYSAGA 191

in specialeffectsthanin thescript,whichwasapparentlydire*In anycase, thecostofthefirstepisodewasestimatedatanunacceptable $2millionplus.

Perhaps itwasthisexperience thatprompted Douglas tosaytohisguitarplaying pal,KenFollett: “The thingittookmesometimetograsp, Ken,isthat Hollywood isdeeply shallow." EdVictorrecalls:

Therewasan American guycalledDonTaffner wholivedin England andmadeaverydecentlivingbyspotting showsinwhich hecouldbuyformatrightsandthenselltheminAmerica. I think he did‘TilDeathDoUsPart,andhe mayhavedoneSteptoe andSon.He wantedto makeTheHitchhiker's Guide totheGalaxy as a televisionseries.Heplannedto pilotninetyminutesforABC.Imadea dealwith

him,butitneverhappened. Oneside-effect oftheflirtation withABC wasthatinlate1980Douglas was

flownouttoLosAngeles where,ona colossal dailyrate,earninghimmorein aweekthanhehadbeenpaidtowritetheseries,hehungabouttheproduc-

tionoffice doingverylittle.Thisgavehimanunfortunate appetite fordoing verylittleinCalifornia, aplacewheretherewards froma dealaresomindboggling thattheinvestment ofyearsofdoingverylittle(camouflaged, of course,asnetworking orcontractual foreplay) mayseemperversely rational. Butbackintherealworld,Douglashada BBCtelevision scripttowrite.Inhis books,he had beensolemaster.Therewereno imaginative or budgetary

constraints; ifhewanteda scenewitha million singing robotsortocrasha starship intoasun,hecoulddoso—several timesifhefancied. Suchfreedom doesnotapplytoavisualmedium. SoDouglas couldn't justadapttheradio scripts;hehadto re-imagine thewholeadventurevisually. Thereweresomedelicious bitsofinventionthatwerenotintheradioseries.Forinstance, thetravellers’ finalmealinMilliways, therestaurantatthe

endoftheuniverse (andincidentally thebiggest setevermadebytheBBC at thetime), features oneofhismostdisconcerting comic flights offancy, vizthe

Dishof the Day,a bovine,philosophical animalthat actuallywantsto be eaten.Douglashadoriginally writtenthissceneforKenCampbell’s theatrical

production, anditplayed sowellthathekeptit.TheDish,anoff-beat crea* Seehisinterview withNeilGaiman inDon’t Panic.

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ture,wasactedbyPeterDavison, thefifthDr.Whoandhusband ofSandra Dickinson whoplayed Trillian. Hewaskeentojoininforlessthanhisusual rate,performing anyrole,nomatterhowheavythedisguise(whichwasnecessaryfortheDr.Whoofficewouldnothavebeenamusedto seehimin an-

otherSFrole). During theproduction thecasthada lotoffun.Douglas wasbythen something ofanexpertonrestaurants andhehadjustdiscovered theGood Food Guide. Withcharacteristic extravagance, at thecloseoftheday’sfilming hewaswonttotakepeopleouttosomeamusingrestauranthehadfoundin theguide.Inhisconvertible GolfGti,withitsfrontseatspushedbackasfar

astheycouldgoandtherearpassengers squeezed likemidget contortionists intoa near-natal position, hewouldleada convoy. Ifitwaswarm,Douglas wouldhavethehooddownand,hisheadalmostabovetheroofline,he’d driveat fullspeedthroughthenightto thesoundofthecar’sspeciallyinstalledbowel-vibrating soundsystem. Incidentally, inthecourseofresearching thisbook,I interviewed Profes-

sorRichard Dawkins, notonly a greatfriendofDouglas’s butalsoaworldauthorityonevolution. Iaskedhimaboutthecreature thatyearned tobeeaten, andwhether suchathingcouldeverevolve. Afterall,I said,therearemany plantsthatreplicateby packaging theirseedsin fertilizer collected on their journeythroughthedigestive tractofsomething ingesting them.Couldsuch

amechanism applytoananimal? “Hmm,” saidtheProf, withthecaution ofa manwhohasbeentoooftencornered bynutters withpetnotions. “Itishard toseethereproductive advantages ofsucha strategy. Ontheotherhandit mightbe theoretically possibleto genetically engineera creaturethatlikes pain,thoughsucha projectwouldbe perverseintheextreme...”* Theidea of a creaturethat wants to be eaten is not prescientin the sameway as,say,

ArthurC.Clarke's prediction ofgeosynchronous communication satellites. Rather itisanotherexample ofDouglas onceagaintakingsomething soinvisiblyfamiliarto usthatwejustdon’tthinkaboutit—inthiscaseshoving heatedlumpsofdeadanimaldownanorificeinourfacesinordertoabsorb nutrition—and, bymeansofa comictrope,forcingusto doso.

FortheTVseries, theBBC appointed asproducer/director AlanJ.W.Bell, * However, thereisnowresearch underway ongrowing animal tissueintanksonacollagen substrateinsuitablegrowthmedium, perhapsforconsumption onlongspacejourneys. Chicken ina pot?See“Raising theSteaks”byWendy Wolfson, NewScientist, 21-28December 2002.

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alreadyanexperienced programme maker, trustedbythepowers-that-be, whohaddirectedthe delightful Ripping Yarns andthehugelypopularLastof theSummer Wine. AfterHitchhiker's, throughthe eightiesandninetieshewent onto produceanddirecta dozenmajorprojectsinfilmandTV,winningan

Emmy Award in1999 forLost forWords. AlanBellhadbeenapproached earlier aboutHitchhiker's. Hisfirstimpulse wastosaythatitcouldneverbetelevised because thespecial effects andthe largesetswouldbe prohibitively expensive. However, hewaspersuadedto takethejobbyJohnHowardDavis,theHeadofComedy, whodescribedthe

TVscriptasoneofthebesthehadeverseen. Onpaper,itcouldhavebeena goodmarriage between Douglas thevisionaryandAlanthepragmatist. Alas,rightfromthebeginning theyhad poorpersonalchemistry. Butgiventheinvestment, whichwasconsiderable, theBBCmusthavefeltitwasprudenttousesomeonewithTVexperience.

Tohiscredit, AlanBellintroduced anumber ofdetails thatwereboundto workbetterontelevision. Forinstance heputSimon Jones(Arthur Dent) into thatcomforting butpassion-killing Marks &Spencer dressing gownanddevisedthe air-carthat carriesSlartibartfast intothe planet-making factory. Douglashimselfmadea coupleofHitchcockian cameoappearances, onceas a drinkerin thepubbarto whichArthurandFordrepairbeforetheendof theworld,and,whentheoriginalactorwastakenill,asthemanwhotears

upthoseabsurdbitsofpapermoneyandwalksnakedouttosea.Thiswasa bravemoveforDouglas anditexplains whysomanyofthecrewwerebuyinghimdrinksthenightbefore.Itsaysa lotforhiswillingness to perform.It wasa Closed set,something whichinstantlyattractedtheattentionofevery-

bodywithina halfmileradius. Manylargemenwithapassion forfoodhave arseslikeawhiteblancmange inapolythene bag. Douglas hadthoughthardaboutthetechnology oftelly.Heunderstood thatitcouldbeexploited toproducesomething somuchmorethanthecameraactingasan eyein frontofa stage.Multipleimagescouldbe displayed, andmergeintoeachother,orshowseparatenarrativestrands,andjumpcut,

andcooperate withorcounterpoint thesoundtrack. Telly couldachieve what waslatertobecalledinthecomputer world“parallel processing.” Douglas wasonlysorrythatthehumanbrainhadnotyetevolved tothepointwhere such a richmixcouldbeinhaled inonego,buthebelieved that“there should be moregoingonthantheviewercantakein.”Suchplethoraofdetailgives athree-dimensional feelthatmakestheworldthuscreatedutterlybelievable.

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Justthinkhowmuchprocessing poweris devotedto the creatures—few of whomhaveanynarrativefunction—in the spacebar in StarWars.In short,

Douglas believed TVcouldofferunconventional techniques asnewwaysof telling a story. AlanBell,bycontrast,wasa professional whoexcelledat delivering the producton timeandto budget.Alreadythe firstpilothad beencostedat £120,000—four timesthe priceof a Dr.Whoepisode—an expenditurethat

JohnHoward Davis hadauthorized personally. ItwasnotAlan's roletoprovideanopportunity forclever youngOxbridge thingstoexplore thepossibilities oftellyasanexperimental medium. Besides, therewassimply notime forDouglasto feelhisway,withhesitations andreprises, towardssometelevisionfirst.Alan'staskwastogetthejobdone,andbeneathhisurbaneexteriorlay a grimlytenaciousgraspof the relevant.He succeededdespitea

work-to-rule bytheelectrician’s union,theETU, thatmeantthateveryday’s filming hadtostopnotonepicosecond after10p.m. HeandDouglasclashedimmediately. LaterDouglas, whorarelydisplayed personalanimus,would describeAlan as “a bone-headedwanker,”a judge-

mentthatfromtheperspective ofseveraldecadeson looksdeeplyunfair.A

tough,albeitoccasionally abrasive, pragmatist wouldbea betterdescription. Alanhimself hasnotgonepublic onthesubject ofDouglas. Thequality ofthe TVseriesin anycaseunderminesDouglas's grievanceaboutthe producer. Havingwatchedit againforthisbook,I founditstillfresh,funnyandjoyous. Beingessentially text-led,itwasprobably alittle toowordyfortelevision, but

thiswasthenatureofthebeast. Thesound, engineered byMike McCarthy, was tight,theactors appeared tohavefun,thescript waswitty, theeffects wereinventive.Thegraphics, asmanyhavepointedout,wereparticularly seductive. Twokindsofcultureclashwereapparentfromtheoutset:Alanwasnot ofthebomber-pilot generation ofproducers, butinBBCtermshewastheold

guard—not partoftheinfluxofCambridge smarties. Thetraditional radio/TV schism randeeptoo.Upstart radiopeopletellingexperienced tellypeople howtodotheirjobwasnotappealing, andAlancouldbea littleregal* Douglaswasina fineyoungraptureofsuccess. Itwasprobablydifficult totellhim anything. * When theserieswascompleted, Alanmadea speech congratulating allconcerned. Inoneof thosemock jocular asidesindicating somedeepfeeling thatetiquette obliges youtodisguise, he saidthateverybody washappy except theradioproducer—and thatdidn’t count.

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In theevent,DouglaswasneverhappywiththeTVserieswhichhe felt

lacked themagic oftheradio.Hepersisted inregarding theradioseriesasthe definitive version. Thereisa famous remarkoftenquotedinpublishing that thedifference between a bookand afilm isthatina bookthepictures are better.Douglasfeltsomethinganalogousaboutthedifference betweenradio and telly,thoughhe concededthat thereweresomebrilliantTVperfor-

mances. Douglas andAlanhadtheirfirstdisagreement overcasting. Douglas wantedtheradiocasttobetranslated totelly,butAlanfeltthatTVhadits ownimperatives andthata judiciouslookaroundwouldbe sensible. They compromised. Manyoftheoriginalcastdidcrossthebarrierandwerejustas brillianton TV.SimonJoneswas a shoe-in for ArthurDent;afterall,the role

waswrittenwithhiminmind.ButAlanfelthewantedsomebody unusual forFordPrefect andwenttoaudition. Muchanxiety andmanyactorslater,he foundDavidDixon, whounderstood thehumourofthewritingperfectly. Thisactorhas an intelligent, elfinfacethat conceivably couldhavehailed fromBetelgeuse andnotGuildford; to makehimstrangeryet,heworepur-

plecontact lenses. It’shardtoimagine FordPrefect nowasanybody else.Trillianwaswritten asthearchetypal English rose,butendedupbeingplayed by the fine Americancomicactress,SandraDickinson, in her own trilling transatlanticalto*DavidLearner,who had playedMarvinon stage,took the

parton again,thoughStephenMoorecontinuedto providethevoice.Slartibartfast, a partoriginally writtenwithJohnLeMesurierinmind,wasplayed

withexemplary, languidmenace byRichard Vernon, reprising hisoriginal radiorole. Moneywasanothersourceofdissension. Douglasabhorredthepapiermdaché bouldersandendlessrecycling ofthesamecorridorshotfromdifferent anglesto be foundin StarTrekalmostas muchashe hatedthewobbly

plastic setsinDr.Who. George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, andthegrand-daddy ofthemall,Stanley Kubrick in2001: ASpace Odyssey, hadshownhowitwas possibletovisualizeanalienworldinwhicheverything lookedsharp-edged * Serious buffsarereferred totheexcellent TheMaking ofTheHitchhiker's Guide totheGalaxy, available aspartofadouble DVD (andalsoonvideo) fromtheBBC. Douglas, withastupendous effort attactwritlargeonhisguileless features, remarks onthisDVD thathemight nothave doneSandraa favourwhenhedeclinedheroffertodoanEnglish accent.Shehasanexcellent

rangeofaccents. Hewas,ontheotherhand,thrilled withhercomic timing.

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andreal.Douglas, inthegripofhiscreative vision, knewthathedidnothave suchresources, butwithinthelimitshe desperately wantedhisworknotto looktacky.Theobstructions ofaccountants orcorporatefootworkartistswere

nothisproblem* Certainly ofallthepeopleontheset,Douglas himself was thehardest toplease. In fact,theweirdlandscapes wereremarkably goodforthe limited budget.AndrewHowe-Davis, the designer,madeinnovativeuse of glass painting(beautifullyexecutedby a Frenchman, JeanPeyre)in orderto squeezeinfinityontoa soundstageatEalingStudiosinWestLondon. TheplanetMagrathea,forinstance(thesiteofthe customizedworldman-

ufacturers, youwillrecall), hadtobesomewhere alienandbleak.Douglas fanciedIceland.Moroccowasalsoa possibility until,aftera recce,Alanwas warnedoffby a melancholy Japanesefilmcrewwhohad had alltheirkit confiscated in orderto keepthemin the country—spending money—for longer.TheBBCteamendedup inthestrangeoff-whitechinaclaypitsin St.

Austell, Cornwall (now,incidentally, thesiteofthewondrous EdenProject withitsgraceful biomes). Similarly, theprehistoric EarthwasfilmedintheLakeDistrict. Itwasbit-

terlycoldand the extrasin theiranimalskinswerechilledto the marrow. AubreyMorris,thecaptainoftheB~Ark withtheDouglas-sized appetitefor baths,wasfreezingdespitethe constanttopping-upof the bathwithhot

water. (Andrew Howe-Davis hadfoundthatthenearest sourceofwaterwas a papermill200metresaway, sokeeping thebathhotwasnoteasy.) Consciousofhisshouldersblotchedwithcold,heasked,ina voicefruitierthana bunchofgrapes,ifhe couldn'thavesomefake-suntanlotion.Butnonewas handy.BethPorter,a buxomactressplayingoneof the scantily-clad hair-

dressers destined toout-evolve theearlyhominids, toldhimnottoworryas theaudience wouldallbelooking atherboobs. DavidLearner, theactorinsideMarvin, alsosuffered forhisart.Ittook himsolongto getin andoutofhisandroidgearthatwhenitwasraining, andthecrewtookabreak,theywouldleavehimtherewithonlyanumbrella * Somesaythattheennobling natureofgreatartmeansthatitislikely tobeexecuted bydecent human beings, buttherearemanycounter-examples thatsuggest theopposite maybetrue. Youneeda certainself-regarding single-mindedness andindifference tootherstopursuean _ ideatothedeath.Douglasprovedanhonourable exception as hewas—mostofthetime—a sweetiepie.

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to stophimrustingsolidonthespot.Forobviousreasonsthepoormanhad

to becircumspect aboutaccepting cupsofteaorotherdrinkswithdiuretic properties. | Norweretheactors paida fortune. MarkWing-Davey, whoplayed Zaphod

Beeblebrox withstylishcool,worehissecondheadwithenormous panache. He thinkshemayhavebeencastbecauseofa hippyreputation lingering on from hisuniversity days,butDouglassaidthatit wasbecausehehadseenMarkin

The Glittering Prizes, Frederic Raphael's TVdrama. Thefakeheadwasheavy, uncomfortable, andradio-controlled bytheingenious technician, MikeKelt, who

hadmadeit.LaterMarkWing-Davey wasto discover thatithadcosttwiceas muchto makeashewaspaid(£3,000 istheoft-quotedfigure). Markrecalled thatbycontemporary standards“itwasn’ta greathead,”thoughitselectronic

innards hadappeared tosomeadmiration onTomorrows World, thegee-whizz BBC programme aboutnewtechnology. Whatever thevirtues orotherwise of thehead,fewofthefansminded—we alllikedtheeffort enough thatwewere

happytosuspenddisbelief. Douglas, ontheotherhand,wasmortified. Fortunately, he lovedthegraphics. Theseweretheingenious solutiontothe

problem ofconverting the narratorto television. PeterJonesastheBook

workeddeliciously ontheradio,butwhatwouldhehavebecomeonTV?An awkwardly protracted voice-over perhaps.Butinstead,a newdimension was added to the narrator'sdeliverythat, as on the radio,contrivedto be all the

morematter-of-fact as thecontentgrewincreasingly surreal.AsPeterspoke, thewordsappeared—glowing withhecticradioactive colour—one byoneon

thescreen. Atthesametime,elsewhere onthescreen, a graphic imageillustratedandamplified the wordswithtremendous visualflairand three-

dimensional movement* Theresultwasanintegrated feastforbotheyeandear. Thestoryofthegraphicsis oneofthoseserendipitous accidents. Kevin Davies,oneof thegraphicsteam,wasthena passionateyoungfanof Hitch-

hiker’s.' Bychance heoverheard thesoundofR2D2, theStarWars robot,emergingfromaneditingsuiteintheEaling Studios. Itmusthavebeenanodd * [havea softspotforthecreaturerepresenting theeditorat Megadodo Housefor,despitelooking

itiscalled Web Nixo. likeahairy alien polyp,

T Kevin Davies wasinfactmorethanafan.Notonlydidhistimely intrusion onAlanBellhelp get Pearce Studios thegraphics contract, butKevin produced thepropsfortheill-fated Rainbow Theatre showandhewasclosely involved inthecreation ofTheIllustrated Hitchhiker's Guide to theGalaxy. Healsoproduced anddirectedTheMaking oftheHitchhiker’s GuidetotheGalaxy.

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AlanBelltryingoutdifmoment.Unableto resist,he wentin anddiscovered KevinworkedforPearceStudios,an animation ferenteffectsforHitchhiker's. wassuchthathepersuaded houseinthe samebuilding,andhisenthusiasm Alanto meet the boss,RodLord,who in turn convincedAlanto allowthem

Asmanypeototenderforthejob.Thistheywononpriceaswellasquality. nocomputers irritation, suppressed plehavepointedout,withheroically

WhatPearce totheGalaxy. Guide wereharmedin themakingofTheHitchhiker's Itwascartoonanimationof Studiosdidhadnothingto dowithcomputers. wascreatedframebyframe,usinga movement sophistication: extraordinary

RodLordandhis acetates. drawnontransparent andimages camera rostrum Hitchhiker's forthe won t hey Award BAFTA 1981 t he teamwelldeserved graphics. AnothersourceofargumentbetweenDouglasandAlanwasthelaughter withthe track.Thisbattlehadbeenfoughtandwonalreadyin connection radio,but neverthelessfor TVit had to be put to the test again.TheBBCbe-

be it couldn't warmth; showlacked a comedy lievedthatwithoutlaughter but a studioaudience, athomemightlaughalongwith Theviewers funny. rooms. front of their theywouldnotlaughontheirowninthesolitude Douglasresistedthis artifice,but, despite his views,an audiencetrack was

addedusingthelaughterfroma speciallyorganizedshowingto committed

Theauwasnota sitcom. ButHitchhiker's FilmTheatre. SFfansattheNational tojokes at home theaudience cueing Crudely false. sounded diblemerriment bothendsofa needthatmuchhelpisa bitlikethrowing whichapparently Alandroppedthelaughtertrackafter ropeto a drowningman.Fortunately, TVFestival. anearlyshowingat theEdinburgh It is an ironythatDouglasandAlandidnotgeton better.Therewasso

Itbrokenewgroundcreatively. muchfortheviewertolikeintheTVseries. manymoreofthemwhohad andtheseriescreated Thefanswereecstatic onscreenwas ofthecharacters Theappearance missedtheradiobroadcasts. oftennot as the listener,or the reader,had imagined—butthat problemis in-

superablewith any transferfroma non-visualmediumto a visualone.

thathedid designer, effects) thefx(special toldJimFrancis, himself Douglas notseeMarvin thewayhewasonTV. likedittoo,thoughsomewereunkindaboutthe Byandlarge,thecritics fx.Butthisisto missthepoint.Ifthefxlooka bitclunkynowit isbecausewe wasjust Thattechnology imagery. havebeenspoiledby computer-generated

ZX81—hamstermicroandtheSinclair in theeraoftheBBC notavailable

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poweredby today’sstandards.Domesticcomputerscamewithallof4kof

ram,thoughfora fancypriceanenthusiast couldbuyanother16k.Mainframeswereforbusinessuse,andlivedin air-conditioned splendourbeing servicedbywhite-coated acolytes. Nowwehaveenoughprocessing powerto movemillionsofpixelssmoothlywithsoftwarethatcalculates theeffectof changinglightoneveryoneofthem.Backin 1980JimFrancisworkedwonderswithwhathehadtohand.Asitwas,theseriesconsumedsomuchofthe

fxbudgetthatthismayhavebeenpartlyresponsible forthedefection ofThe Goodies fromtheBBC toITVlaterintheyear* Besides,Hitchhikers was never about verisimilitude.CloseEncounters ofthe

ThirdKindneededthe mothershipto be aboutthe sizeof Pittsburghas it loomedoverthe Devil'sTowerbecausethe directorwastryingvisuallyto

bludgeon us intoawe.StarWarsneededteamsofacedesigners usingthe world’s largest network ofSunRISC-chip workstations tocreateasenseofrealitybecausethescriptsthemselves areassubtleasa carcrash.ButTheHitchhiker’s Guide totheGalaxy wasdifferent.It wasaboutwit,philosophical jokes andanunderpinning ofintellect. Youdon'tcareaboutZaphod’s palsiedsec-

ondhead;Douglas shouldnothavetormented himself. TheTVseriespulledin excellent ratingsandheightened Douglas's alreadyconsiderable profile. Nordiditdoanyharmtohisbooksales.Onlya

yearafterpublication, theoriginalHitchhiker's Guide totheGalaxy hadsoldhalf a millioncopies.In 1980,TheRestaurant at theEndoftheUniverse had gone

straight intothechartsonbothsidesoftheAtlantic andinAugust 1982, Life, theUniverse andEverything didlikewise, sittingat numberoneintheSunday Times bestseller listforsevenweeksandfeaturing inthechartsforfifteen weeksaltogether. TheoriginalHitchhiker's hadsolda millioncopiesbytheend of 1983andwonDouglasa GoldenPanfromhis publishers. Thiswasthe fastestattainmentofthataccoladeinthehistoryofthecompany, andinJan-

uary1984, bywayofcelebration, Panthrew a stylish partyforDouglas inthe RoofGarden oftheformer BibastoreinKensington HighStreet. Despitetheimpressive TVratings,though,a secondserieswasnotcommissioned. Douglas’s feudingwithAlanmaywellhavecontributedto the BBC's hesitation. Thecostandcomplexity werealsocompelling factors;you

canimagine thembeingjudiciously invoked atmeetings inairless roomsin Television Centre. GiventhatAlanBellwasoneoftheBBC's trustedpro* TheHitchhiker's Guide.

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ducer/directors, theauraofvexation aroundtheproject cannothavehelped. Usually ifthereisadispute between thetalentandaproducer thesolution is to changetheproducerin thehopethatsomeonenewmighthavea better

personal rapport. ItisrarefortheBBC tobacktheproducer insuchwrangles. InthiscasetheBBCstuckbyAlanBell.Douglas hadwantedGeoffrey Perkinsto producethe secondseries,but the twoofthemtogether—with

Geoffrey producing andAlandirecting—was considered, probably forgood

reason,an unworkablecombination. Bywayofcompensation Geoffrey was offeredthejobofscripteditor.Hewasin NewZealandat thetime,touring

withthewonderful RadioActive comedy show, andheremembers beingsomewhatdrunkverylateonenightandhaving a crackly international telephone callaboutthisjobofferwithJohnHoward Davis, whowasenjoying hisearly afternooncupofBBCtea.Notsurprisingly—for heisnodope—Geoffrey declined(thoughittooka fewyearsfortheTVpeopleto forgivehim).Itwould

havebeenaclassic caseofresponsibility without power. “Ithought itwasthe mostthankless taskimaginable,” hesaid.Hehadexperienced theagonyof getting material outofDouglas already. Asitwasprettyobvious thatDouglasdidnotwantto workwithAlanagain,the prospectsforanotherseries were effectivelyterminated.In the end, saysEdVictor,the final decisionnot

to makea secondserieswasDouglas's.

Thefirstseries waseventually soldtotheStates andbroadcast inNovember1982. Itwasregarded asa dud.American TVdoesnotusethesameline standard asBritish TV(NTSC is525lineswhereas European PAL is625)sothe resolutionwasnot quiteas clear;consequently the Americancriticscomplainedthat the complexgraphicswerenot alwayslegible.It is tempting,

thoughprobably facile, toseeacultural difference here.Douglas likedthefact thattherewasmorehappening onthescreen thancouldbetakeninatonce. ButsomeAmericans mayhavefoundthatirritating. Theirsisa societyin whichentertainment is slickand digestible, consumedwholesale,in giant bites,likea cheeseburgerslaveredin relish.(Afewyearslater,however,Amer-

icaproducedsomeofthemostcompelling multi-stranded “tapestry” TVever

madeintheformofshowslikeERandWest Wing. Douglas wasamajorfanof both.)Certainly Simon Jones, whowentovertohelppromote theseriesinthe US,wassoonputonthedefensive, thoughhewasquick-witted enoughto turnapparentvicesintovirtues.TheAmericanscornaboutthetackinessof thefxwasparticularly embarrassing givenhowthesehadimpoverished the

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BBC,but,asSimonpointedout,the sophisticated viewerwouldunderstand

thattheseweremeanttobeartfully artless.

Itwasn'tuntiltheBBChaddefinitely decidedagainstthesecondseriesin November1981thatthesellingofthefilmrightsbeganinearnest.

Terry Jones, whohadco-written andco-directed Monty Python andtheHoly Grail andTheLife ofBrian sohe knewwhereof hespoke, wasthefirstin the frametosuggest thatheandDouglas makethefilmtogether. Theyhadal-

waysgotontremendously wellandTerry'speculiarimagination woulddefinitelyhavebeenrightforthejob.ButDouglaswasreluctant.Hehadseen Hitchhiker's throughalmosteveryincarnationknownto man(including the

towel) andhewasjusta bitoverdosed withrewriting it fordifferent media. Initially it wouldhavebeenfunastheyfoundexcuses forgettingdangerouslytwistedon realale(scriptconferences, naturally). However, Douglas

knewthatfewrelationships survivemakinga movietogether, a processmore potentin its abilityto inducediscordthan unwantedsexualadvancesor

stealing yourpal’slastfiver. Aftersometo-ingandfro-ing, TerryandDouglasagreedthattheywouldliketo makea filmtogether oneday,butthatit wouldbebettertostartfromscratch withanideainnocent ofhistory* MeanwhileDouglashad finallymovedto Islington,the districthe thoughtofashome.JonCanter,hisformerflatmate,and Douglasremained goodfriendsalthough,followinghis pattern,Douglassomewhatdisen-

gagedfromwhathadbeena veryclosefriendship whileheinvested new enthusiasm inotherpeople. Jonistoocivilized tosaywhether hefoundthis hurtful. ThroughthegoodofficesofHotblack Desiato(nottherockstarfromDisasterAreabuttherespectable Islingtonestateagent),Douglasboughta won-

derfullyloucheduplexflatnearthe RoyalAgricultural Hallin a tiny sidestreet, moreofanalley, calledSt.Alban’s Place. Thefirstfloor(thesecond

ifyou'reAmerican), reachedbya narrowflightofstairs,wasmostlyonelarge L-shapedroomgivenoverto partiesand pleasure.Therewasa bar well stockedwiththestickyingredients ofexoticcocktails and,always, champagne

inthefridge. Bedrooms, bathrooms withgiantantique fixtures (from thepre* Thenearest Douglas andTerry gottoamajor filmundertaking waswhenDouglas bought some ticketsforAbelGance’s Napoleon andpersuaded Terrytoaccompany him.Overfivehoursof

silentmovie struck themassuchanawful prospect thattheysimply hadtoseeit.

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vioustrendyowners), loosandsoonwereupstairs.Attheverytoptherewas

aroofgarden. Thewholeplacewasdistinctly flash.Douglas likedtoshowofftheTV mounted onawallbracket sothathecouldwatchitfromhisbed.Hewasa bigkidinsomanyways.Foran evocative description, youcandonobetter thanto readhisownin SoLong, andThanks forAlltheFish.Fenchurch’s place

(minus theTV)wasliftedfromreality. Although access wasfromSt.Alban’s Place, theapartment beetledout overanantique shopinUpperStreet, athoroughfare sopreposterously fashionable—in anartyBohemian sortofway—that itincludes roughly eighty restaurants,two theatres,seventeenestateagencies,ten purveyorsof stripped

pinefurniture(somedistressed), a mallofantiquesemporia,severaldesigner

clothesshops,twoshopsapparently sellingItalianwastepaper baskets, a dozenpubsandalmost nowhere tobuyatinofbeansorabottleofmilk. ItwasherethatDouglas conducted anintense loveaffair(ofwhichmore in the nextchapter)whichlastedabouta yearbeforebreakingup.Thisleft himlivingwiththe BlackDog,deeplydepressed. MaryAllen,histhespian friendfromCambridge, imagininghimrattlingaroundhishugeapartment

tryingdespairingly towriteand,knowing howbadlyhecopedonhisown, thoughthe neededa flatmate.Sheintroducedhimto JaneBelson, a tall,

good-looking barrister.

Janeisan articulatewoman(St.Pauls,Oxford,theTreasuryandtheLaw) whoseintelligence isoftherigorous, legalistic, linearkind(“ifAimpliesB,and BimpliesC,thensurelythe courtmustagreethatAimpliesC”).Shewasa

usefulfoiltoDouglas's lateralwayofthinking. Atthebarshespecialized in matters matrimonial. Allaspects ofthelaw(apartfromtheexistence ofthe lawitself) strikemeasnotlikelytoimprove yourviewofhumankind, but fightingdivorcesmustbe especially destructive ofsentimental illusion.Jane isa strongcharacter, thoughhersuperficial toughnessisbeliedby a certain

lookofvulnerability aroundtheeyes.Aftera whilesheandDouglas fellfor eachotherandgottogether—of whichagainmorelater—but inthecontext ofthefilmsaga,theimportant thingisthatinthesummer of1982 theywent on holidaytogetherto California, theheartlandofthefilmindustryandthe spiritualhomeoftheslacker. Theretheyrenteda housein Malibu.Thiswas

thefirstofmanyvisitsforthemboth.Douglas lovedit.Hehadlotsoffans there—especially inthegrowing techiecommunity—who werealways ready tomakeagratifying fussofhim.Hewasbecoming fascinated bycomputers

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andtheextraordinary feverpitchoftechnological innovationthatwascentredonSiliconValley, a description justcomingintocurrency.

Hisaffection foreverything American wasreciprocated. TheAmericans wereamused byhisextravagant mannerandhisrepertoire ofexcellent anecdotes.Herewasa wholecontinentthat hadn’theardhis storiesalready. Douglas'spassionfornewideasstrucka sympathetic chordwiththem,and hisvastrangeofinterestswasseenasadmirable. Inmorerigidsocieties like

Britain, excelling outsideyourappointed compartment sometimes excites envy.Being a polymath isbadform. There's anopenness aboutAmerican society thatDouglas relished. Allso-

cieties,theysay,havea classstructurebecauseoftheuniversality ofhuman natureburdenedwithallitsevolutionary baggage. Puttwohumanstogether andtheywillsortthemselves intoa hierarchy. Adda third,andthere’sroom

forschisms andfactions. Butat leastintheUSAthesystem isbasedmore uponmoneyandsuccess thanonantecedents. MaybeDouglas's milieuof cleverNorthLondon fashionables, eternally competing overtheirachieve-

ments,remindedhimofsomepainfullyoverduecontractual obligation (there alwayswasone),sotherewasan elementofflight.Whateverthereasonshe

lovedtheUSA ingeneral, NewYork a lot,andCalifornia hugely. Thereisa legend thatI havebeenunabletoverifythatDouglas evengot

to meetthepresidentof theUSA.In themid-eighties, whenmostof Douglas’sincomecame from the Statesand he was at the height of his fame,the

storygoesthata groupoffamousauthorswereinvitedtolunchwithRonald

Reagan. Itispossible thatDouglas heardthisfromoneoftheactualparticipants—for hemetmanyfellow writers onthepromocircuit—and enjoyed theanecdote. Ofcourseit isdodgypractice toinclude a yarnofsuchuncer-

tainprovenance, butthisone(hedgedwitha healthwarning)ishardtoresist andhasa ghastlyringofverisimilitude. Apparentlythiscollectionof writers(whichmay or maynot havein-

cludedDouglas) wenttotheWhiteHousefora reallylonglunch.Theydid theirbesttoentertain thepresident whowastwinkly andaffable. Afterlunch theymovedto thepoolroomandhadcoffee andtalkedsomemore.Then

they had afternoontea.PresidentReaganshowedno signof wantingto throwthemout.Surely,theythought,hemustbebusyasrulerofthewesternworld?Butitwentonandon.Fromtimetotime,menandwomenwould

appearwithimportant-looking piecesofpaperwhichthepresident would sign.Itgottobealittleembarrassing. Someofthemhadcommitments later

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thatday.Howdoyoutellthemostpowerful manintheworldthatyouhave another appointment? ButAmerica wasn’t alljustabouthavingfun.Onthisparticular holiday toCalifornia in 1982JohnLloydcameouttojointhem.HeandDouglaswere workingonTheMeaning ofLiffthecollection ofplacenamesforwhichtheyin-

sulkeda lot, Lloydie thatalthough Janerecalls meanings. ventedalternative a gazetteer taken hadsensibly They thebook. on work theydiddoa lotof withthem,andtheywentthroughitlookingoutlikelyplacenamesandwritingdownpossiblemeaningsoncards.Theresultisenduringly brilliant. Itwasalsoduringthisvisitto California thatDouglasmetMichaelGross

organ Thisirreverent Lampoon. ofNational members former andJoeMedjuck,

a lotofstereoandsportscarads,anda featuredsometrenchantjournalism,

surfeit ofsophomoric anatomy jokes. Itisoftendescribed astheUSPrivate Eye thoughinfeelandproductionvaluesitisquitedifferent. TheoldCambridge networkmighthaveplayeda parthere,foroneofDouglas's palsat univer-

sityhadbeenJimSiegelman; former member ofFootlights andalsopresident had derived. Lampoon fromwhichin 1969National Lampoon, oftheHarvard

Michael GrossandJoeMedjuck werethenworking forIvanReitman, a producer/director withColumbia Studios whohadmadesomesuccessful comedies (Animal House, forinstance, withJohnBelushi." Itwasthroughthese intermediaries thatIvanReitmanbecameinterestedinthefilmrights.Doug-

espeinhugenumbers, laswashot.Hisbookswereinthechartsandselling oftheUSfilm (Thedemographics market. college ciallytotheall-important market areskewed towards theyounger endofthepopulation. Therehasto

be somereasonwhyallthosePolice Academy filmsgetmade.) EdVictorlikesto sellfilmrightsforthesortofmoneythatmotivatesthe

purchaser toactually makethemovie. Thismeansthatthesaleislucrative onlybringsina fraction unlikeanoptionsalethattypically butpermanent, ofthemoney.” Edistooexperienced todiscuss thedetailsofa client's deal * Jimisanauthorandcommunications scholar.BecauseofJim’sresearchinterests,Douglas once

called hima“massacre expert.” ontheearlydaysof wasmodelled inthemovie character hasitthatBelushi’s legend + Apopular George W.Bush. coAnoption isashort-term arrangement whereby theoption holder buyscertain rights intheauthor’sintellectual property—in thiscase,film—for a sumthatisanadvanceagainst a largerfee. Thismoreseriousmoneyonlybecomespayableiftheoptionisexercisedbyputtingthework

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unlesstheyarealreadyinthepublicdomain. However, inhisfascinating book,TheGreatest Sci-Fi Movies Never Made(TitanBooks, 2001), DavidHughesde-

scribes thesumpaidforthefilmrightsastoolargeforevenZaphod Beeble-

broxto leavein a taxi.Atthetime,withroyaltiesalsorollingin frombook sales,DouglascouldeasilyaffordtorelocatetoCalifornia towritethescreen-

play—so hedid.Ofcourse, youdon'tactually havetobeinmovielandto writeascreenplay, butDouglas always likedbeingontheset,asitwere,and hethought thateasyaccess totherightpeoplewouldbeadvantageous. Inearly1983,heandJaneflewouttoCalifornia againandrenteda house in Coldwater Canyon,a pleasantdistrictofLosAngeleswitha famouspark. Hewasin heaven—tooling aboutin opencars,"buyingcomputers, having lunchand“working” onthemovie.Jane,ontheotherhand,foundthecom-

bination ofsun,orangejuice,thebeachandthewholeopen-weave lifestyle a bitstupefying. However, sheisnotthesortofpersontoletherbrainidlein neutralforlong.Realizing thatDouglashadfallenfortheWestCoastina big wayandthattheywouldspend a lotoftimethere,shedecidedto takethe

California barexams. Godforbidthatthemysteries oftheAmerican legal profession shouldbeimpugned byoutsiders, butJane'scrispverdict onthe exams was“asurprising amount ofmultiple choice questions. Youhavethese questionsto whichtherearefourpossibleanswers.Noneofthemis right. Oneofthemismerelylesswrongthantheothers.Allmyfriendsatthebar

toldmeIwasn'tallowed tofail.Theymade a terrible fussaboutit.Itreally wasn'tverydifficult.” Shequalified, butintheenddidnotpractise. Edtakesupthestory: I soldHitchhiker's fourtimes.Thefirsttimewasto DonTaffner andABC.ThenI soldthefilmrightsto ColumbiaforIvanReitman. intoproduction. Within theagreed timethepurchaser hasanexclusive lienontherights, and aftertheexpiry ofthattermtherights granted revert totheauthor again. Options arefrequently renewedandcanevolveintoa decentsourceofincome,butit’sultimately frustrating ifthework

isnotfilmed. Producers oftenhavea portfolio ofoptions, buttheychange theirminds asoftenas theirsocks. * Though hebelieved thatAmerican carsareonlyforgoing instraight linesandnotaround corners.InSoLong, andThanks forAlltheFish(PanBooks, 1984) hehasafantasy aboutthisin which heconcludes thatit’sbettertohireacarthat’salready headed intherightdirection than attempt tonegotiate anAmerican onearound a bend.

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Douglaswentout thereto reincarnatehimselfin Hollywood. He wasthrilled.Hehada parkingspacewithhisnameon it.

They[IvanReitman andteam]werein themiddleofmaking Ghostbusters andwerecompletely preoccupied withthat.Theyjust leftDouglas alone.Douglas turnedina 250-page script.Itwastoo long. Andthen it turnedout that IvanReitmandid not thinkthat forty-twowasa verygoodanswer.“It’sjustnota greatpunchline,” he said.“Whatdoesit mean?Willthe audienceget it?”He’snot

Sonny[Mehta]. Douglas knewhewasintroublethen. Anyway, theyplayedwithitandplayedwithit.Theybroughtin anotherwriterandtheytoldustheywereunhappy. Itwasamiser-

ableexperience. Variousotherpeoplealsoplayedaroundwithit. Theywouldbuyit andput it intoturnaround.DavidPuttnambe-

cameinvolved. JeffreyKatzenberg wasinterested. Atonepoint therewasanattempttobringthefilmtoDisney because Katzenberghad justgonethere.RememberRockyMortonand Annabel Jankel?TheydevelopedMaxHeadroom.* Theyweregoingto direct Hitchhiker's. Butthentheymadea filmforDisneywhichwasa re-

makeofa veryfamousfortieslovestorycalledDOA [deadonarrival]. Itcameout,andwasDOA. Soitopened, anditclosed—and Katzenberg pulledout. Douglaswasdreadfullyupsetthat the secondscreenplaydid the rounds withouthimhavingcontributed somuchasa commatoit.Itborehisname

andthatofthenewwriter, AbbieBernstein, who,inanattempt toorganize thematerial intoa moremovie-like pattern, hadcutitbrutally, takingout muchofthehumourintheprocess.Douglasabominated thisversionandit fuelledhis anxietyabouteverlosingcontrolofthe projectagain.Healso fearedthat the newscreenplay wouldblackenhis namewiththe movie

moguls. Infact,heneednothaveworried. Producers aresodeluged byatidal waveofmaterial thatinself-defence theyhavedeveloped theattention span ofafleawithanamphetamine sulphate habit.Besides, theytendtoremem-

bertheturkeysthatdogetmaderatherthanthemultitudethatdon't.

* MaxHeadroom—a wonderful cyberspace character whoappeared inhisownbizarre andanarchicTVseriesinthemid-eighties.

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Muchmoredamaging tothemovie's prospects wasDouglas’s desireto havemorecreative control thanHollywood normally grantstotyros.Inthis toughtown,thepower-brokers areexquisitely alerttoanyforeigner, Britor otherwise,who arriveswiththis attitude:“I’munspeakablytalented,and available—now pleasegiveme$100millionandI'llshowyouhowit’sdone.” Douglaswasneverguiltyofthatparticularsin,buthisprotectiveness towards

hisvisioncouldeasily havebeenmisconstrued. The Hitchhiker's Guide totheGalaxy isabookthatborders onbeingintractably difficult toturnintoafilm,especially aHollywood film.Theinvestment isso

greatthatitwouldbeafoolhardy producerwhojettisoned thewell-tried storytellingstructures. Havingbeenwrittenin episodes, Hitchhiker's remainsstub-

bornlyandindefatigably episodic. Itjustdoesnothavewhatthescriptwriting guru,RobertMcKee, callsa narrativearc.There'snoexposition, thebuild-up

meanders discontinuously, theclimax isatthebeginning forGod’s sake,and theresolution, albeitfunny,isbleak.Toworkasafilm,thewholebookwould havetoberadicallyrestructured, butwithoutlosingitsessentialhumourand the ferro-concrete underpinnings providedby itsideas.Ofcourse,Douglas

understood this,andhisscreenwriting craftimproved witheveryiteration. Butthelesson wasnonetheless slowandpainful. OnebonusofbeinginHollywood wasanotherterrificfriendship. Richard Curtis,nowfamousforFourWeddings anda Funeral andNotting Hillamongst othergoodies,hadbeenimportedto California likesomeamusingvarietyof

British grapethatHollywood hopedwouldgraftonto localvines.How thingsstarted withhimandDouglas isitselfmovie-like. Richard reminisces: Themostinterestingsectionofour relationshipwasthe beginning.I thinkI probablypaledintoa prettyordinaryfriendthere-

after,although | didlikehim a lot.Butmyfirstmeeting withhim wasabsolutely extraordinary, because I wasinLosAngeles, having a veryhardtime—well, nothardcompared tosomeone inPeru— becauseI waswritinga filmwhichI didn’treallyunderstandandI wasawayfromhome,which I findverydifficult.

Whathappened wasImetanAmerican producer whocameup with an ideaand commissioned me to writeit. I wroteit, but it

wasn'tanideaI reallybelieved ininmyheart.EversincethenI've alwayswrittenideasthat I'vealreadyhad for fiveyears.FinallyI wrotea draft.Hesaidtherewasa funnysceneto do withslippers,

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and as for the rest—well, you couldsee therewas a glimmerof somethingin it.Sohe flewmeoverto Americato livein hishouse, workwiththe directorandwriteit.I didn’tknowthe director,and

I'velearnedtobeveryfussyaboutsuchthingsthesedays.I don’t thinkhebelieved inmyscriptatall.Hewasjustinterested inthe possibility thatit mightturnintoa scriptheloved.Theproducer

wasa perfectlylovelyman,but,youknow,livingwitha personyou areworkingforisa bitodd.AfterthreeweeksI kindofcrackedand rangDouglas’snumber,whichI'd been givenby JohnLloyd,be-

causeeventhoughI'dbeenfriends witha lotofpeoplefromCambridge, I'dnevermetDouglas. Andthe long and short of the tale is that we went out for lunch—andI lefttwomonthslater. Wewentto lunch,andtalkeduntilhalfpastfour.Atthe endof lunchhe said,“Comeon backto the house.”Thenwe had dinner

andJaneturnedup.She’dbeenstudyingforherlawexams.He said—or shesaid—“Why don'tyoustaythenight?” Thenextmorningtheyboth said:“It’sridiculousifyou’refindingit trickyliving withyouremployer,whydon’tyou continueto stayhere?”AndI stayedtherea long,longtime.That’sa remarkabledegreeof exu-

beranthospitality, to takesomeonefromtotalstrangerto the longesthouseguestyou'deverhadwithnointermediate phase. Richardisasentertaining andclevera guestasanyonecouldwishfor;Douglascouldhaveadvertised forhim.It musthavebeenblissfulnotwritingon

thegrounds thatyou'regallantly rescuing a compatriot fromtheclaustrophobicembarrassment oflivingwithhisemployer. Theyhadalotoffuntogether, thoughRichard wincesattherecollection ofDouglas lurching into oneencounterwiththefinesseofanarmylorry...

StayingwithDouglaswasa wonderfulwayof learningabout

America. Wewentbowlingtogether; wewentto themoviestogether. Onething| particularly recall—which wouldonlybeoneof a stringofthings—was thatI tookhimoutto dinnerwiththedirectorIhadbeenworkingwith.Itwasa bitliketheoldgirlfriendmeet-

ingthenewgirlfriend. Michael ***cameinandI misphrased my openingremark,soinsteadofsaying“Douglas, thisisMichael **

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whomadeQuest forFire,” I said:“Douglas, doyourememberQuest for Fire?” AndbeforeI couldinterject,he said:“OhGod,that wasan

awful film.Iabsolutely hatedthatfilm.Themake-up wassounconvincing.Theanthropology wasrubbish.Whocouldpossiblybelieve thatmenwouldbelikethatatthattime?Whata ridiculouswasteit all was...” What's more, he didn’t back off with much embarrassment when I told him who Michaelwas,and it certainlydidn't, as it

were,stophisflow. Eventually itbecameclearthatIvanReitman wasnottherightmanforHitchhiker's. Withthespuriousinsightofretrospect it seemslikea mismatchin all respects.ThebroadcomedyofNational Lampoon andGhostbusters isperfectly

fine:it’sfullofenergy, slapstick andinnuendo thatappealtomillions. Butit’s milesawayfromthesurrealcerebral wittiness ofHitchhiker's. Thefilmrights werereturnedtoColumbia wheretheylanguished, possiblyindevelopment hell,ormaybeforgottenhalfto death. Thenextdealwasa tributeto theroleofinadvertence in humanaffairs

andtoDouglas's talentforfriendship. Itrevolved aroundthealliance that sprangupbetween Douglas andMichael “Nez” Nesmith—TV andfilmproducerandformer Monkee.

ThoseofyouwhorememberthatRingoStarrwasoncein a popgroup beforehe becamethe narratorofThomas theTankEngine willalsoknowthe

Monkees (“Hey, Hey,we'retheMonkees!")—the rockbandandstarsofthe 1966 TVseriesproduced byBobRafelson andBertSchneider. People tendeithertolikeorloathetheMonkees—and formuchthesamereason: theywere utterlymanufactured, whichwassickening ifyoubelievedthatthemusicwas aboutsocialchangeandnotjustTin-PanAlley(thiswasthesixties). Onthe

otherhand,theMonkees wereutterly manufactured byprofessionals whoknew whattheyweredoing. Usingaformatloosely basedontheBeatles’ movie A Hard Day's Night, eachepisode followed thehigh-spirited adventures ofarock groupplayedbyfourengaging youngactors.Itwasabrilliantpieceofmultimediamarketing. Somewhere inMonkeehistorythebalanceshiftedfroma sitcomabouta

bandtoasortofsemi-real bandusingTVforpromotion. Asrock'n'roll went, theywerewholesome ratherthandangerous. Commercially, theywerehuge. ThefouractorswereMickyDolenz (thewild-looking drummer), Peter

Tork(thefunnyonewiththeboy-next-door phizzog), DavyJones(thecute,

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jockey-sized Britwhoalways gotthegirl),andMichael (“Nez”) Nesmith, the coolTexanwiththegreenbeaniehatandthedrysmile. Nezhasaninteresting background. Hismother,BetteGraham, workedas

a secretary. Shewasstruggling tofendforyoungMichael andherself when shehada brightidea.Wouldn't itbeneat,shethought, ifyoucouldfixall thoseinfuriating typingerrorsthatobligethepernickety (orthoseworking forthem)to starta documentalloveragain?(Thiswasdecadesbeforeword processing.) SheinventedLiquidPaperinherkitchenandit quicklybecame essentialforofficesallovertheworld.Thefamilyfortuneswereemphatically

made. InhiscareeraftertheMonkees, Nezamongotherthingsiscredited with beingoneofthefounders ofMTV. Heisadelightful manwithastreakoffan-

tasyin hisimagination thatlentwingsto hismagicalrealistnovel,TheLong Sandy HairofNeftoon Zamora. (Douglas gaveit a generousquote:“Itrisesinthe

imagination likeafantastical building inthedesert.”) LikeDouglas, Nezisinterestedin unconventional thinking. Fromtimeto time,usingtheGihon Foundation (founded byhismotheranddedicated toproductive innovation), heorganizes theCouncilofIdeasinwhichcreativepeoplefromdifferent disciplinescancometogetherfortrulyblueskyspeculation. EdVictorpicksupthestory:

Iwenttoadinnerpartyonenightatmylawyer's home.Michael Nesmith wasthere,andImentioned thatIrepresented Douglas and that the filmrightswere free.Michaelturned out to be a fan,and he

andItalkedaboutdoingajointventurewithDouglas. Douglaswent outto Michael'sranchin SantaFe.Theygotalongfamously, really

likedeachother.Douglas wasconvinced thatMichael wouldhelp himmakethefilmandthatitwasgoingtobea hugehigh-rolling thingto do.Butfirstwe’dgotto getthe rightsbackfromColumbia...

Bynowitwas1992, andnearlyadecade hadwhizzed pastwithout themovie getting anyfurther. ButDouglas wasconfident thatthenextdealwasimminent,so,withEd’shelp,he boughtthefilmrightsbackfromColumbiafor $350,000. Nothavingthatmuchin cash,hehadto raidhispensionfund.As a generalrule,authorspreferreceiving largechequestowritingthem,andit

waspainful tostumpupthemoneyforrightsthatwerepassively marinad-

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inginsomestudio’sinventoryofintellectual property. Itsaysalotforhisam-

bitiontomakethismovie. Douglas wentouttoSantaFe,statecapital ofNewMexico, andstayedon Nez’s ranchtowritethescreenplay forthemoviethatMichael wouldproduce.JamesCameron,no less,was one ofthe directorswho wassaidto be in-

terested.NezandDouglasdiscovered thattheylaughedincessantly together and had in common a sidewaysview of the world. Jane thinks that Nez,

who’sakindlymanandverygrounded, wastosomeextentoneofDouglas's fathersurrogates.) SantaFeappealedto Douglas.It’ssunnyand affluent,and the altitude andthesurrounding desertlendthelighta mysterious quality.Thetownisa mixofthehard-boiledandthedreamy.TheSantaFeInstitute(homeofMur-

rayGell-Mann, amongst others) contains someofthebrightest brainsonthe planet.Inthebarsyoumightfindyourself sandwiched betweena Nobel Prize-winner anda mysticlocalfruitcake. Douglasfondlycarrieda memento ofhistimethereintheformofa largeNativeAmerican silverbraceletwhich heworeallthetime.“It’ssoheavy,” hetoldJane,“thatwhenItakeitoffitfeels

asifmyarmshouldfloatuptotheceiling.” Oneevening ontheranch,attheendofanexhausting day(fortherehad been a meetingof the Councilof Ideas),Nezand Douglaswere sittingon the

verandalookingatthesunputtingonitsdailyspectacular when,aproposof nothingin particular, Douglassaid:“YouknowwhenI wasyoung| didn’t

knowwhatI woulddo.ThenonedayI sawthiscartoon. Itshowedmea wholenewwayofthinking aboutcomedy. UptillthenI confused comedy withsarcasm. Sarcasm isOxbridge’s biggest export, youknow.” “That'sstrange,” saidNez,“because whenIwasa kidIsawaweirdcartoon aswellthatIjustloved.ItmighthavebeenintheNewYorker. I'vebeentrying to findit eversince.I'veneverforgottenit.Therewerethesetwohippos...”

Atthispointmuchhead-slapping andcriesof“stone me”ensued, forthey realized thattheyhadbothbeeninspired bythesamecartoon* Atjustthe * Thecartoonwasbya BritwhosenomdeplumewasPaulCrum.HisrealnamewasRogerPetti-

ward.Hewas6’5%”, andhediedwithlotsofbraveCanadians during thedisastrous commando raidonDieppe inWorld WarTwo. Thecartoon wasfirstpublished inPunch andthenrepublished intheNewYorker. Inthehistory ofthegenre, Crum isimportant asheprefigures bydecades the kindofhumour foundintheGoon Show orMonty Python. | amindebted forthisinformation to Dr.MarkBryantwhoseencyclopaedic knowledge ofcartoonsissecondtonone.

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