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Hitchhiker: A Biography of Douglas Adams Hardcover – 3 Mar 2003

3.0 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 411 pages
  • Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton Ltd; First Edition First Printing edition (3 Mar. 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0340824883
  • ISBN-13: 978-0340824887
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 15 x 4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,077,101 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Amazon Review

The untimely death of Douglas Adams was a sharp reminder of what a protean talent (and remarkable character) the man was. As MJ Simpson's Hitchhiker: A Biography of Douglas Adams reminds us, when The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy appeared as a radio series, few could guess that its gifted author would, in the space of several books (and adaptations in various other media), single-handedly inaugurate a whole new genre: the sardonically funny, outrageous science fiction parody that combined the sharp-edged sensibility of Monty Python and a marvellously jaded view of British life (taking in some hilarious philosophical asides along the way). Many writers continue to be influenced by Adams, and a new film of Hitchhiker's Guide has been much discussed. So the time is right for this exhaustive and sympathetic biography.

Although several such books are in the pipeline, genre specialist MJ Simpson (a cofounder of the glossy SF magazine SFX) is the perfect chronicler of a strange and eventful life. Adams' quirky personality comes brilliantly to life (thanks to Simpson's impressive research, which he began before Adams' death). We are taken back to his auspicious beginnings as a comic talent in the Cambridge Footlights and through his phenomenal later success (not ignoring the man's pathological inability to meet a deadline). Simpson's writing style is never academic, and sounds the same wry and witty note as his subject effortlessly found. By interviewing a host of friends and associates (and consulting exclusive archives), Simpson paints a picture of this complex and fascinating man that is unlikely to be beaten for quite some time. --Barry Forshaw


'A fascinating biography... his style is as sardonic and sharp-edged as that of Adam's own work, and perfectly complements his subject.' -- Good Book Guide, March 2003

'Douglas's latest and most comprehensive biographer ... Simpson's style is easy and informative.' -- Daily Telegraph, 8th March 2003

'M.J. Simpson has written an engaging and unbiased study of his subject, who emerges as a shy and frequently distressed genius.' -- Evening Standard, 10th March 2003

'[A] solid and very readable biography... [M.J. Simpson] has written a thorough and fair-minded biography of a dazzling if frustrating talent.' -- Literary Review, March 2003

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
The problem with a book about a brilliant writer is that you expect it to be brilliantly written and this isn’t. What it is however, is a fantastically well researched history of Douglas Adams writing of his books. The last fifty pages are references to sources (including internet forum postings). It’s more of an academic work than a good read.
I really enjoyed it but I’m not sure many people will. This is a book for the real hardcore fan. The kind of person who understands the reference “I just wondered how he knew they were size nine”.
As a result it assumes you’ve read, marked and inwardly digested all the books and radio series, I listened to the radio series from the first transmission and while never enough of a fan to attend a convention or wear a silly suit and make ‘beep beep’ noises, have actively sought out everything Douglas Adams wrote. Yet without having read around the subject I don’t know what made the Kamikaze sketch so funny and I felt a bit left out.
It makes depressing reading, MJ Simpson is too close to the subject and takes Adams’ brilliance as a given and there are few quotes or examples to enjoy, instead it’s a 300 page story of missed deadlines and displacement activity which is an uncomfortable way to learn about a hero.
It’s a cliché to say that you laughed and cried at a book, but with The Salmon of Doubt (Adams posthumous collection) I did both and had to stop to compose myself. It’s a much better tribute to the man.
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By A Customer on 20 July 2003
Format: Hardcover
Having already covered the life of works of Douglas Adams TWICE before (with the Pocket Essentials book, and his revision of Neil Gaiman's Don't Panic), Mr Simpson doesn't quite know what to do with this "proper" biography. So he comes to neither bury nor praise Mr Adams, but to instead pick holes in the anecdotes he's already covered in the other two books...! And boy, does he do it often. So much so, that the book ends on a limp disclaimer, of all things, where he says "I'm not saying Douglas Adams was a liar, but...". That's really no way to write a biography.
Elsewhere, he gives us "for the first time ever", the story of what really happened about those early LPs. And guess what, the story is incredibly dull. THAT's why it hadn't been told before!
Still, there's a few details I hadn't known before, like Mr Adams working on a South Bank Show special about his inability to finish the 5th HHGTTG novel, instead of actually finishing the novel!
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Format: Hardcover
I love Douglas Adams's work. I read & re-read & enjoy myself immensely every time. I believe that would make me a fan.
So as a fan I bought M J Simpson's book with the intention of softening the blow of Adams's death by reading all about his life and enjoying myself at the same time. I was so very, very wrong.
Simpson's effort reads like a text book. It's an overly pedantic time line of events and anecdotes that have been entirely stripped of their warmth and humour. I am aware that Simpson was endeavouring to be as honest as possible and he certainly knows his facts.The reader is positively gagging on honest facts by the end of the book.
What really perplexes me is this; Simpson is an emormously loyal fan of Douglas Adams, yet he fails to capture any of the spirit of the man he admired so much. Douglas Adams was not accurate. He was intelligent and creative and funny. This book reflects none of thoses characteristics. It manages to make the story of the life of an extremely interesting man, dull. That is some acomplishment.
I cannot fault Simpson's astounding knowledge of facts, figures and dates but after being pelted with them for 340 pages I finished this book unsatisfied, bored and irritated.
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Format: Paperback
This book does an admirable job at uncovering the truth behind many Adams legends. I find it odd that so many reviewers perceive this as a negative, as if it ought to be a biographer's job to perpetuate myths instead of to investigate them. I think they fear that Adams or his legacy will be somehow diminished by the revelations. They are wrong. After reading Simpson's "Hitchhiker" I was struck with a renewed admiration for Adams. Here was a human being, saddled, we now realise, with exactly the same vanities and foibles as the rest of us, and yet who, despite this, gave us a new and funny way of looking at the world. It's said that fans of Paul McCartney hear the same anecdotes so many times that they number them and play bingo every time Macca is interviewed. The same could be true of fans of Douglas Adams. It is therefore refreshing to find some serious analysis of the facts behind DNA's life.
Compared to Nick Webb's "Wish You Were Here", Simpson's book comes across as being more for the true fan than the general reader. Webb, having access to Adams's private files, is better on the details of his subject's lovelife, but, despite being a friend of Adams, shows a worrying ignorance about the works that made his name. For instance, Webb thinks the middle-management people repopulating prehistoric Earth are themselves from a future Earth and that this is some wacky Adams paradox. He's got this badly wrong. They're from an entirely different planet (Golgafrincham as anyone who's read the books can tell you) and the fact that Webb doesn't seem to know or care seems at best bizarre and at worst sloppy, and where it is accurate it often retreads ground from the excellent book "Don't Panic" by Gaiman et al. As the Hitchhiker fanclub's archivist, and stickler for accuracy to boot, you know Simpson's facts are going to be checked, and that what he tells you is not going to be some "definitively innacurate" fairytale, but as close to the truth as he can get.
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