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Saturday, 12 May, 2001, 15:59 GMT 16:59 UK
So long, and thanks for all the books
Richard Vernon as Slartibartfast and Simon Jones as Arthur Dent
The Hitchhiker's books became a successful TV series
The author Douglas Adams, who has died aged 49, became a household name when his BBC TV series, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, was turned into a cult science fiction novel.

Adams had worked as a radio and television writer and producer before his life was changed by the book's publication in 1979.

It went on to sell more than 14m copies worldwide and preceded a series of best-selling titles by the author, including The Restaurant At The End Of The Universe; Life, The Universe And Everything; So Long, And Thanks For All The Fish; and Mostly Harmless.

The five books in the series detailed the adventures of Earthman Arthur Dent, who hitched a lift on a passing starship when his home planet was destroyed to make way for an interstellar bypass.

I love deadlines - I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by

Douglas Adams
In the book, The Guide is a portable device that can tell you anything you want to know about wherever you are.

Most helpfully of all, it had the words "Don't Panic" printed in large, friendly letters on the front cover.

The books produced many memorable characters, including Betelgeusian travel writer Ford Prefect, Galactic President and space pirate Zaphod Beeblebrox, and Marvin the Paranoid Android.

They introduced readers to the worst poetry in the known universe, the Pan-Galactic Gargle Blaster (a drinking experience said to be akin to having your brain smashed in with a slice of lemon wrapped around a gold brick) and the fact that the Earth was a gigantic biological computer designed to calculate the meaning of life.

The series was initially broadcast on radio, and later became a successful TV series.

In an interview with BBC News Online, Adams explained how the idea for the book first struck him.

Douglas Adams
Douglas Adams was working on a Hitch Hiker's movie
"I was hitch-hiking around Europe in 1971, when I was 18, with this copy of A Hitchhiker's Guide to Europe," he recalled.

"At one point I found myself lying in the middle of a field, a little bit drunk, when it occurred to me that somebody should write a Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. It didn't occur to me that it might actually be me years later."

Adams went on to write other novels, including Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency, The Long Dark Teatime of the Soul and the Meaning of Liff - an alternative dictionary of nonsense words and place names.

But he was never a punctual writer.

Adams was once quoted as saying: "I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by."

Hollywood film

His early career involved some time as a writer and script editor for the series Dr Who. He wrote eight episodes, four under the pseudonym David Agnew.

More recently, Adams had been involved in writing computer games, one based on the Hitchhiker's Guide and another called Starship Titanic.

But his latest project was producing the screenplay for the Hollywood film version of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

Douglas Adams in 1980
The way he was: Douglas Adams in 1980
Born in Cambridge in 1952, Douglas Adams was educated in Essex before returning to Cambridge to study at St John's College.

He married Jane Belson in 1991 and their daughter, Polly, was born in 1994.

Such was the cult appeal of his books that many fans took them more seriously than the author himself.

In the Hitchhiker's books, the meaning of life was finally revealed to an eager audience as the number 42.

Adams said: "I think I disappointed a lot of people with that. They must have been expecting this great, profound piece of genius, but I screwed them!"

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