Books 'The Salmon of Doubt' by Douglas Adams
It is now one year since Douglas died and for some reason it still feels like there's a hole in the world. True, Adams wasn't publishing books, but every now and then he would turn up on television or in a newspaper talking about some wonderful new piece of technology or environmental cause we should all get behind, and it felt like there was some good in the world. Within this context, Adams' final book feels like a study in loss, helped by the epilogue which reprints Richard Dawkins epitaph from 'The Guardian'.

The book is split into three sections. 'Life' deals with Adams as a man; there are pieces about his boyhood, writing methods and holidays he has taken. 'The Universe' is about Adams impact of the world -- there are articles about new technology and how he wished it would work more efficiently; 'Everything' collects some fiction, a couple of short stories reprinted from an old 'Comic Relief' book he worked on, and that third incomplete Dirk Gently novel. There is actually very little in here which has not been printed somewhere before. There are pieces from H2G2 (the internet attempt at 'The Hitchhicker's Guide), various magazine and newspaper articles and introductions and essays from his own books and others.

And we don't mind, because the quality of the writing is so strong and vivid. He brings the same vibrant gravitas to everything from his aetheism to making a cup of tea; he somehow manages to look beyond the surface of a thing and is able to describe it in a way which will make it instantly familiar. When he talks about the time he and a few pals climbed Everest in a Rhino outfit to raise money for that endangered species, you are in the centre of the group with him; you're there to when he goes diving with Manta Rays. A cynic reading the book might ask whether he did anything but go on exotic holidays and buy new electronic thingys, but I don't begrudge him a bit, because he's forever the observer, the learner, adding to the critical mass and the world's knowledge through these experiences.

Another joy is the inclusion of transcripts of concert introductions. Those in particular are a surprise as he generously heaps praise on 'Procal Harem' -- you can see in his words a niggling disappointment that he didn't make music instead of writing. He repeatedly he said he wasn't really a novelist, that he was a scriptwriter at heart; one of the books gitwrenching moments comes during an interview with 'The Onion' when he descibes how a Hitchhiker's film script was written which was dreadful, but someone had put his name on it even though he never contributed a word, and the thing hung around Hollywood for so long that producers assumed he couldn't write screenplays. You wonder what cinemagoers have missed without him being there. Imagine the Adams influenced 'Men In Black' if he had been the script doctor -- he would sure have increased it's meaning and depth.

It's ironic then that this book offers such a good introduction to the writing of Douglas Adams. I'm sure the big man would have appreciated the irony.

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