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Last Updated: Tuesday, 19 April, 2005, 16:14 GMT 17:14 UK
Guide to hitchhiker Douglas Adams
Douglas Adams
Adams was working on the film version before his sudden death

The author Douglas Adams became a household name when his radio series, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, evolved first into a cult science fiction novel and then a hit BBC TV series.

Born in Cambridge in 1952, Adams studied at St John's College, Cambridge before embarking on a career as a radio and TV writer and producer.

His life was changed by the publication of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy in 1979.

It went on to sell more than 14 million copies worldwide, becoming the forerunner to a series of best-selling titles including The Restaurant At The End Of The Universe, Life, The Universe And Everything, So Long, And Thanks For All The Fish, Mostly Harmless and posthumously, The Salmon of Doubt.

The "trilogy" detailed the adventures of Earthling 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 and the fact that the Earth was a gigantic biological computer designed to calculate the meaning of life.

Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (1980)
The cult BBC series widened author Adams' global fan-base

In an interview with the BBC News website in 2000, Adams explained how the idea for the book first struck him.

"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 Doctor Who. He wrote eight episodes, four under the pseudonym David Agnew.

Shada, an Adams-scripted Doctor Who episode which was shelved due to industrial action in 1979, eventually premiered in a one-off webcast on the BBC website in 2003.

Prior to his death in 2001 at the age of 49, Adams had been working on the screenplay of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (2005)
The new film stars Bill Nighy and The Office's Martin Freeman

A film version had been in development for nearly 20 years, but Adams' premature death from a heart attack saw the project once again put on hold.

The big screen adaptation was eventually resurrected, led by Adams' friend and business partner Robbie Stamp.

Last year the late Adams' voice also featured in a new radio adaptation, after BBC Radio 4 were able to include a recording of the author playing the role of Argrajag.

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!"

Bill Nighy on making The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy

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11 Apr 05 |  Entertainment
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20 Jan 05 |  Entertainment
Adams' voice in radio Hitchhiker
21 Jun 04 |  Entertainment
Long hitchhike to film cult novel
18 Jun 03 |  Entertainment
Author Douglas Adams dies
14 May 01 |  UK News


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