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Hitchhiker: A Biography of Douglas Adams

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Douglas Adams was a driven and gifted polymath who cut a colorful swath in radio, television, live theater, comic books, computer games, CD-ROM, and the Internet before dying tragically in 2001 at 49. In Hitchhiker, Simpson has produced a rich, revealing chronicle of one of the most wildly creative minds of our time.


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Douglas Adams was a driven and gifted polymath who cut a colorful swath in radio, television, live theater, comic books, computer games, CD-ROM, and the Internet before dying tragically in 2001 at 49. In Hitchhiker, Simpson has produced a rich, revealing chronicle of one of the most wildly creative minds of our time.

30 review for Hitchhiker: A Biography of Douglas Adams

  1. 5 out of 5

    Hákon Gunnarsson

    Douglas Adams is one of my all time favorite authors. I don't know how many times I've read The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. Let's just sat that I now own three copies of it, and they have all been read at least once. In my view he is among the best comedy writers of novels to come out of Britain. The British comedy writer that I have read as often is P. G. Wodehouse who I also absolutely adore. But despite how much I like him this is the first biography about Douglas Adams I've read. This bi Douglas Adams is one of my all time favorite authors. I don't know how many times I've read The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. Let's just sat that I now own three copies of it, and they have all been read at least once. In my view he is among the best comedy writers of novels to come out of Britain. The British comedy writer that I have read as often is P. G. Wodehouse who I also absolutely adore. But despite how much I like him this is the first biography about Douglas Adams I've read. This biography is mostly centered around his working life. It is very interesting, but in a sense very sad. Adams seems to have been the opposite of Wodehouse in his attitude towards work. Wodehouse liked writing a lot, he spent a lot of time on in it all through his life, but Adams had a hard time with it, to say the least. In fact I get the sense that being a writer was probably what he was best at, but at the same time what he was least suited to do. It was a good and interesting read. Simpson has a humorous touch, but still makes a good, and detailed account of Adams life from the time he was in school, until his untimely death. I enjoyed this book, even though it gave me a little different view of my idol than I had got from reading his books, listening to the radio plays, and watching the TV series, and movie. He definitly wasn't without flaws, but he was still a great writer even though he may not have enjoyed that part of his job much.

  2. 5 out of 5

    David

    I'm glad I finished this. I nearly stopped reading it a couple times. The first third was particularly rough going since it's mostly a relentless series of names and dates and places from Adam's early life before Hitchhiker's came to be. (It wasn't until I was through the worst of it that I discovered the "glossary" of people in the appendix area at the back of the book. The appendix is amusingly written and I wish that the descriptions had simply been woven in to the text of the book itself or p I'm glad I finished this. I nearly stopped reading it a couple times. The first third was particularly rough going since it's mostly a relentless series of names and dates and places from Adam's early life before Hitchhiker's came to be. (It wasn't until I was through the worst of it that I discovered the "glossary" of people in the appendix area at the back of the book. The appendix is amusingly written and I wish that the descriptions had simply been woven in to the text of the book itself or put as footnotes on the pages where the person first appears.) Things got considerably more interesting for me after the Hitchhiker's radio show was underway and even more so as Adams first started to deal with money and the pressure of publishing deadlines after he was a "big name". My biggest problem with the book (and I see that a lot of other reviewers feel the same way) is that Simpson didn't attempt to "get into" Adam's head. Events were told strictly as a series of known facts and as quotes from interviews. While probably as accurate as possible, it was far too clinical to be as fun to read as I would have liked. I'll be the first to admit that I pulled this from the library shelf with the hopes that it would entertain me. But there is also plenty to like about this book. I did enjoy learning about the Starship Titanic CD-ROM game (which I remember seeing on store shelves, but never purchased or played), the h2g2.com website (which I actually DID visit during the height of the "Dot-Com" years), and other projects Adams was involved with. I especially enjoyed watching the 2005 Hitchhiker's Guide movie after reading about all of the trouble getting a Hollywood adaptation made in Adam's lifetime. (I have no idea what Adams would think of it, but I'm pleased to say that I love it just as much now as I did in 2005.) By the way, it is really interesting that Adams is listed as a co-writer of the script for the movie given how things ended up before he died. Adams isn't given an entirely sympathetic treatment, but perhaps that makes his good traits all the more enjoyable - knowing that he was a very real, flawed person like the rest of us who just happened to luck into something he was very, very good at and which became spectacularly successful. Not a fun book, but certainly as complete a biography as we're likely to get. It also made me want to read two of his other books I've not yet read: The Meaning of Liff and non-fiction Last Chance to See. So those are on my to-read "stack" now.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Phrodrick

    The last book of Douglas Adams material was published under the name the The Salmon of Doubt. It is a hodgepodge including stores, essays and incomplete work by Douglas Adams. It also portrays an interesting man with a great sense of humor. MJ Simpson's Hitchhiker a Biography of Douglas Adams does not leave you with an image of the same man. Much of this biography I liked. I had had no idea of Douglas Adams's life but I was a fan of most of his writings. I bought this book at a used bookstore for The last book of Douglas Adams material was published under the name the The Salmon of Doubt. It is a hodgepodge including stores, essays and incomplete work by Douglas Adams. It also portrays an interesting man with a great sense of humor. MJ Simpson's Hitchhiker a Biography of Douglas Adams does not leave you with an image of the same man. Much of this biography I liked. I had had no idea of Douglas Adams's life but I was a fan of most of his writings. I bought this book at a used bookstore for a fraction of its list price and I suppose I got my money's worth. I left this book with a sense that much was missing. The text includes name dropping about the people who liked and admired and socialized with Douglas Adams and not very much of why these people would admire Douglas Adams. The Hitchhiker did much to explain the 25 year effort by Douglas Adams to make a movie made of his famous Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Trilogy (yes it is a five book series but only about three books of good stories). For all of the coverage given to the business of buying and selling the movie rights, of preparing and rewriting scripts and flying to different movie lots; one still has a sense that this story has not been fully told - thereby capturing my attitude towards the entire biography. The famous Douglas Adams story of the packets of cookies at London airport is all but debunked with the insistence that Adams made it up and became so enamored of it he continue to use it. One of the best Adams quotations in the book is "I love deadlines they make such a whooshing sound as they blow by" captures something of the humor of Adams but it is frequently used to criticize his work habits and by the end of the book loses its humor. I would've loved and wider variety of humorous quips from a man who loved playing with words. And this goes to the heart of the problem with the Hitchhiker; the underlying humor and broad-spectrum curiosity of this very intelligent if somewhat peripatetic man is rendered in faint praise. This is probably a 3.5 star review rounded up mostly by fondness for Adams. With this book I have a better sense of some of the facts of this author's life but only a vague sense of his spirit. I am glad I have read this book. I'm glad I did not pay the full price for this book and I would hope that someone with a greater interest in the human side will write a better biography of this man. Douglas Adams at his best was a writer who loved banging together words to see and hear what they sounded like. His biographer should share that same love.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Tim Gambrell

    A thoroughly researched and detailed biography. It’s written with short chapters (which I like) each dealing with a specific subject or discussion point. It’s not a volume of hero-worship and it doesn’t shy away from Douglas’ failings or quirks. But despite being fairly balanced about both Douglas and others in his life, the reader is left, at the end, with a sense of celebration, not sadness at an early death and the possibility of a life slightly unfulfilled. I guess the act’s because Douglas A thoroughly researched and detailed biography. It’s written with short chapters (which I like) each dealing with a specific subject or discussion point. It’s not a volume of hero-worship and it doesn’t shy away from Douglas’ failings or quirks. But despite being fairly balanced about both Douglas and others in his life, the reader is left, at the end, with a sense of celebration, not sadness at an early death and the possibility of a life slightly unfulfilled. I guess the act’s because Douglas Noel Adams have so much to the world - and a lot more than just the Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy, in all its myriad forms.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Tom Bennett

    The first third or so of this book is a hard slog: just lots of names and dates. As it does along, though, it does get more readable. Incredibly well researched: perhaps too much so. I’m glad to have read it, but the actual reading was a chore in places. There’s a definite focus on cataloguing facts and events, rather than trying to flesh out the personality of Douglas Adams. Overall, a bit dry for me - a bit ‘Colin from the fan club’.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Jim

    Excellent bio of Douglas Adams that's worth reading just for the catalog of Adams' stock anecdotes that he used in interviews (the origin of the Hitchhiker's title, what really happened at his first book signing, the biscuits story, etc.). A critical look at the work of Adams and his achievements. Definitely recommended for Douglas Adams fans. Excellent bio of Douglas Adams that's worth reading just for the catalog of Adams' stock anecdotes that he used in interviews (the origin of the Hitchhiker's title, what really happened at his first book signing, the biscuits story, etc.). A critical look at the work of Adams and his achievements. Definitely recommended for Douglas Adams fans.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jamie

    This is a bit dull in places. The author seemed to include some information just by virtue of the fact that he'd acquired it. But Douglas Adams's life is an interesting enough topic to make up for most of the book's shortcomings. This is a bit dull in places. The author seemed to include some information just by virtue of the fact that he'd acquired it. But Douglas Adams's life is an interesting enough topic to make up for most of the book's shortcomings.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Jason Keenan

    It's a great glimpse behind the creation of Hitchhiker's, Dirk Gently. Douglas Adams was wickedly funny and incredibly complex, and all of this comes out in Hitchhiker. It's a great glimpse behind the creation of Hitchhiker's, Dirk Gently. Douglas Adams was wickedly funny and incredibly complex, and all of this comes out in Hitchhiker.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Craig Smith

  10. 5 out of 5

    Bill Porter

    I reached page 163 before throwing in the towel. And dipped through the rest. Way too much microscopic detail for me, and yet I felt I hadn't even started to know Adams at all. Pity. I reached page 163 before throwing in the towel. And dipped through the rest. Way too much microscopic detail for me, and yet I felt I hadn't even started to know Adams at all. Pity.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Becca

    I adore Douglas Adams and all his works, so it only seemed logical to read this biography. It gives a great deal of insight into Douglas, and was quite intriguing. I rather liked it.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Joseph

    It’s a perfectly fine biography that suffers a bit from jumping around like crazy.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Thomas Stroemquist

    Recommended biography of Douglas Adams. Well researched and written. Obviously of absolute highest interest for HHGTTG fans, but I think others can appreciate it as well.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Colby E

    I wish Douglas was still alive just to see how far technology has come. He would have had a badass podcast.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jake Barney

    If you're looking for a Douglas Adams biography as written by a Vogon, then this is the book for you. It was really hard not to throw away and I only finished it because I paid for it and had some sunk cost fallacy working against me. Really, really hard to read this book as the author seems more in favor of repeating himself while throwing name after name and date after date at the reader with almost no personality at all. Did you know Adams always failed to make deadlines? Prepare to be told th If you're looking for a Douglas Adams biography as written by a Vogon, then this is the book for you. It was really hard not to throw away and I only finished it because I paid for it and had some sunk cost fallacy working against me. Really, really hard to read this book as the author seems more in favor of repeating himself while throwing name after name and date after date at the reader with almost no personality at all. Did you know Adams always failed to make deadlines? Prepare to be told this at least forty or two hundred times while reading this book. Not terrible but also not terribly interesting.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Steve Mitchell

    This biography of Douglas Adams tends to focus on his work and only briefly touches on his personal and private life. In many ways this and Nick Webb’s book, “Wish You Were Here” form a complimentary and more complete biography of Douglas. Both are well worth a read for all Douglas Adams fans

  17. 5 out of 5

    John Boyce

    Oddly episodic and lacking much depth but still an interesting read for those of us brought up on Hitchhikers.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Jukka

    Hitchhiker (2003) - M. J. Simpson Biography of Douglas Adams, principally known for creating The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, but beyond that an early innovator in the use of multiple media in popular entertainment, with a wide variety of creation. On an absolute split second impulse i picked up this book. Adams was an incredibly creative person and i am interested in his process and personality. The book does a good job unraveling the origins of some of Adams' ideas. Interesting to see the va Hitchhiker (2003) - M. J. Simpson Biography of Douglas Adams, principally known for creating The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, but beyond that an early innovator in the use of multiple media in popular entertainment, with a wide variety of creation. On an absolute split second impulse i picked up this book. Adams was an incredibly creative person and i am interested in his process and personality. The book does a good job unraveling the origins of some of Adams' ideas. Interesting to see the various places in Adams' life that his creativity spilled forth. He was interested in and expressed himself across multiple forms of media -- radio, books, tv, computer games, stage, the internet and movies. He was an amateur musician and an early user of personal computers, both things he pursued with passion. It's also informing to get some understanding on the personality aspects that would both lead him to his creativity and then stifle it at the same time. I found it striking how he came, cleverly into contact with so many other famous and popular creative people so early in his life. I was entertained with the early Hitchhiker's stuff, in its time. I heard the radio show and then read the books. This book showed me how much broader were Douglas Adams' abilities and how confining the commercial and monetary forces can be upon a creative person. Some of those forces would encircle at least a part of Adams' creativity into popular entertainment and comedy. Douglas often chose to redo the same material across various media - radio, to book, to tv, to computer games, to stage, to radio again, to tv again, to movies. Where previously most creators stick to creating new material in one media, and within that face commercial pressure to be pegged and repeat with similar creation in that same media. Simpson wrote this book shortly after Adams death -- it's interesting how quickly perspectives on this can change in just the few years since 2003. ASIDE: For math nerds like me, something i learned in this book: Why 42? -> 101010b! So it follows two and ten in that way. ALSO: Discovered that Adams was an early computer user, his first computer was a DEC Rainbow. That made me feel good -- i was on the development team that created the Rainbow in the very early 80's. Good to think i could have done something creative for Mr. Adams. (So you see i also faced those same narrowing commercial forces.) AND A PLUS: I never knew about and now really like the website: h2g2.com

  19. 5 out of 5

    Tracey

    bought Hitchhiker : A Biography of Douglas Adams about a year ago; as I've been a fan of his works for over 20 years and I was looking forward to reading a biography of his. In true Adams style, I didn't get around to actually reading it until a week before the premiere of the long-awaited movie. Simpson rides a very fine line at times between being a detailed biographer and a nitpicky fanboy. He delves into Adams' life, briefly discussing his childhood and then jumping directly into his school bought Hitchhiker : A Biography of Douglas Adams about a year ago; as I've been a fan of his works for over 20 years and I was looking forward to reading a biography of his. In true Adams style, I didn't get around to actually reading it until a week before the premiere of the long-awaited movie. Simpson rides a very fine line at times between being a detailed biographer and a nitpicky fanboy. He delves into Adams' life, briefly discussing his childhood and then jumping directly into his school career. He seems to have interviewed nearly every classmate and teacher who would speak to him.. except for the infamous Paul Neil Milne Johnstone, aka "The Worst Poet in the Universe"; Simpson quotes some letters, but nothing more. Adams' early career is covered in detail as well - noting his peripheral involvement with the disbanded Pythons, the writing credits on various short-lived or one-off TV shows, and his eventual triumph with the Hitchhiker radio show/novel/TV show/computer game/breakfast cereal... and (finally!) movie. The endnotes are extensive (bording on exhausting), and a couple of themes pop up over and over again: Adams' tendency to embellish his stories, and his procrastination. Apparently, the only way to get a finished work out of Douglas was to lock him up and glower until he was done. My impression is that his ideas overwhelmed him at times; his dilettante tendencies getting the better of him. He also seems to have had a pretty poor business sense - paying very little attention to the management of his assets, yet reviewing over and over again any of the creative work he produced or co-produced. I have a feeling that the movie would never have gotten produced if Adams were still around - he'd still be fiddling with bits here and there. While Adams' story is pretty fascinating if not "very splendid and worthwhile" - Simpson's detailed retelling seems to suck some of the life out of it. I'd recommend Don't Panic by Neil Gaiman over this book - but froods who know where their towels are will probably want to read both.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Patrick DiJusto

    It's actually pretty good. The author takes a very sympathetic tone towards Adams, while still managing to get the point across that practically nothing Adams ever said in an interview setting was the truth; that he was probably the most irresponsible successful author in the history of publishing, and that of all his well known problems, at least 90% were his own fault and could have been solved if he had only dealt with them. Still, it manages to present a sympathetic portrait. The author stops It's actually pretty good. The author takes a very sympathetic tone towards Adams, while still managing to get the point across that practically nothing Adams ever said in an interview setting was the truth; that he was probably the most irresponsible successful author in the history of publishing, and that of all his well known problems, at least 90% were his own fault and could have been solved if he had only dealt with them. Still, it manages to present a sympathetic portrait. The author stops the narrative every so often to point out that even though he had just analyzed one of Adams' cherished anecdotes and proved with documents and eyewitness testimony that it just didn't happen that way, he is NOT calling Adams a liar. Not at all. No way. It's just that Adams had his own way of telling stories, that's all, in which he valued entertainment over strict accuracy. And there's nothing wrong with that. These asides are clearly a sop to the Adams geek fanboys out there (the type who believe that if one fact in a narrative is found to be false then the entire narrative -- as well as the narrator -- is COMPLETELY AND UTTERLY USELESS) who would be crestfallen to hear that their hero is a liar. Another good thing about this book is that it is written in a straightforward style. The "official" biography of Douglas Adams is written in a pseudo-Hitchhiker's style: all puns, paraprosdokian, and using big words that no one else knows as a means of showing off (just like I did with that big word a few words back). When Adams does it it's funny; when someone else does it you want to piss on their front door.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Elliot

    I've enjoyed Douglas Adams's books for a long time. I grew up reading The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and even Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency, and have always been impressed with Adams's humor, intelligence and imagination. This biography was an informative book about one of my favorite authors, but definitely more for a British audience than for an American one. I knew a few of the big names mentioned in the book, but there were many (too many, despite the name reference in the b I've enjoyed Douglas Adams's books for a long time. I grew up reading The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and even Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency, and have always been impressed with Adams's humor, intelligence and imagination. This biography was an informative book about one of my favorite authors, but definitely more for a British audience than for an American one. I knew a few of the big names mentioned in the book, but there were many (too many, despite the name reference in the back) that I didn't know. A positive point about the book was that the author was able to get to the truth behind several of Adams's oft-repeated (and slightly inaccurate) anecdotes. A negative is that it was focused more on dragging the reader through an interminable succession of this-happened-then-this-happened than giving any insight into Adams's writing.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Nicholas Whyte

    http://nhw.livejournal.com/685584.html[return][return]This is really an exploration of Adams in his own words and in the words of people around him, including attempts to get at the truth or otherwise of various anecdotes told by or about him during his life. Simpson conveys well both Adams' charm and the way in which he infuriated friends and colleagues. He is probably fair to put some of the blame of Adams' failure to produce on his editors. Apart from that, it's a bit unsatisfying; as John Ll http://nhw.livejournal.com/685584.html[return][return]This is really an exploration of Adams in his own words and in the words of people around him, including attempts to get at the truth or otherwise of various anecdotes told by or about him during his life. Simpson conveys well both Adams' charm and the way in which he infuriated friends and colleagues. He is probably fair to put some of the blame of Adams' failure to produce on his editors. Apart from that, it's a bit unsatisfying; as John Lloyd hints in the introduction, Adams' family life, particularly his relationship with his father, remains pretty much unexplored. Also I would like someone to look at Adams' work in perhaps a more literary way, with more reflections on the social context of his writing and how he did (or didn't) link into the issues of the day.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Ari

    I love Doug Adams' writing, and was hoping to learn about him as a writer and a person. I think I might have been better served to choose Neil Gaiman's "Don't Panic" for this instead. I found this book to be rather tedious. I wanted to come away from the book with insight into Douglas's beliefs, personality, and inner workings, but instead, I came away with a head full of dates and statistics and names names names names names. I forced myself to keep reading, but really didn't find the book inter I love Doug Adams' writing, and was hoping to learn about him as a writer and a person. I think I might have been better served to choose Neil Gaiman's "Don't Panic" for this instead. I found this book to be rather tedious. I wanted to come away from the book with insight into Douglas's beliefs, personality, and inner workings, but instead, I came away with a head full of dates and statistics and names names names names names. I forced myself to keep reading, but really didn't find the book interesting until the last couple of chapters.

  24. 5 out of 5

    David

    great

  25. 5 out of 5

    Kris Ivy

    A good biography of one of the most interesting men. The only way to make it better would have been if Douglas wrote it himself, but then it would have become a work of fiction.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Stephen Cinti

  27. 5 out of 5

    Lori Holuta

  28. 5 out of 5

    François Carrière

  29. 4 out of 5

    Kyokugaisha

  30. 4 out of 5

    Andy Moore

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