As I have mentioned elsewhere, the voice and humor in Douglas Adams’s books were a source of inspiration to my teenage self. And probably at least some of my nerd-snarky attitude in the nineteen-nineties was a result of poor imitation attempts. Of course, that was ten-fifteen years later than the actual premiere of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to The Galaxy on the BBC. But, as my own age is only slightly more that of the Guide, I think I did pretty well in any case.
These days, my sharpest memories from Adams’s writings comes from Last Chance to See, with a few highlights out of the Dirk Gently books. That isn’t to say that I don’t like The Hitchhiker-books, only that they are represented as a tone and a voice in my head. Not as much by what actually happened in them. I don’t think this is a bad thing, but rather a proof of how an influential and special comic writer Adams was.
In any case, I never knew much about Douglas Adams, about the writer behind the books – well except from bits and pieces here and there – and I had never really planned to learn much more either. But in a bookshop I ran into Jem Roberts‘s The Frood – The Authorized and Very Official History of Douglas Adams & The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy. Somehow I bought it. Then a bit later I read it. I guess it is quite interesting, if you are into authorized biographies and that sort of thing. Which, actually, I am not, but I thought it was nice to book anyway. Not least because Roberts doesn’t glorify his subject too much (I think).
Douglas Adams is shown as a struggling young man, trying to make a way in comedy until he hits gold with the Hitchhiker’s Guide series. However after his breakthrough life isn’t always sunshine, lollipops, rainbows, and so forth either. Adam’s legendary problems with deadlines is a reoccurring theme throughout the book. Overall I thought The Frood presented Adams as a person with talents and flaws.
On the downside, the text got a bit dragged out at times. Perhaps the book could have done with another pass by someone? There are sections I thought could have been cut from the text, or bridged in better. One example is Roberts’s defense of the movie and the continuation of the franchise without Douglas Adams. I don’t have any strong opinion in either direction here, but it felt… well weird, as I did not notice Roberts showing much of his opinions earlier in the book. Well, perhaps I am being unfair here, perhaps I was just in a bad mode when reading it?
Anyway, Jem Roberts seems to have done a lot of research into Adams’s life, and I guess The Frood contains details that will make the book worth reading for many fans of Douglas Adams and especially those devout of The Hitchiker’s Guide-series. It could of course be that those fans already know everything contained in the book… Well, at least personally I learned a huge deal about both the author and the series. I found it interesting what a huge role John Lloyd seems to have played for the creation of the Hitchhiker’s Guide. I also had not been aware that Adam’s had been writing with some of the former Pythons, and so on. As I wrote, above, I was ignorant of most of the author’s life.
What I found most fascinating however was to read how the The Hitchhiker’s Guide to The Galaxy morphed and transformed from Radio to TV and book medium (and after the death of Douglas Adams to a movie). There are probably more in-depth scholarly or fan-written analysis of the evolution of the narrative, containing more details, but this one was my introduction to it. I kind of like the idea that Adams’s most known series is in a way instanced into different media rather than adapted. It fits with my own, personal, memory: a concept, a voice, a feeling. All very funny.
As for The Frood it is a nice enough read. If you are interested in the life of Douglas Adams, or that of the Hitchhiker franchise it might be worth a look.