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Wish You Were Here: The Official Biography of Douglas Adams

Wish You Were Here: The Official Biography of Douglas Adams

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by Nick Webb

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It all started when Douglas Adams demolished planet Earth in order to make way for an intergalactic expressway–and then invited everyone to thumb a ride on a comical cosmic road trip with the likes of Arthur Dent, Ford Prefect, and the other daft denizens of deep space immortalized in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Adams made the universe a much


It all started when Douglas Adams demolished planet Earth in order to make way for an intergalactic expressway–and then invited everyone to thumb a ride on a comical cosmic road trip with the likes of Arthur Dent, Ford Prefect, and the other daft denizens of deep space immortalized in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Adams made the universe a much funnier place to inhabit and forever changed the way we think about towels, extraterrestrial poetry, and especially the number 42. And then, too soon, he was gone.

Just who was this impossibly tall Englishman who wedded science fiction and absurdist humor to create the multimillion-selling five-book “trilogy” that became a cult phenomenon read round the world? Even if you’ve dined in the Restaurant at the End of the Universe, you’ve been exposed to only a portion of the offbeat, endearing, and irresistible Adams mystique. Have you met the only official unofficial member of Monty Python’s Flying Circus? The very first person to purchase a Macintosh computer? The first (and thus far only) author to play a guitar solo onstage with Pink Floyd? Adams was also the writer so notorious for missing deadlines that he had to be held captive in a hotel room under the watchful eye of his editor; the creator of the epic computer game Starship Titanic; and a globetrotting wildlife crusader.

A longtime friend of the author, Nick Webb reveals many quirks and contradictions: Adams as the high-tech-gadget junkie and lavish gift giver . . .irrepressible ham and painfully timid soul . . . gregarious conversationalist and brooding depressive . . . brilliant intellect and prickly egotist. Into the brief span of forty-nine years, Douglas Adams exuberantly crammed more lives than the most resilient cat–while still finding time and energy to pursue whatever side projects captivated his ever-inquisitive mind.

By turns touching, tongue-in-cheek, and not at all timid about telling the warts-and-all truth, Wish You Were Here is summation as celebration– a look back at a life well worth the vicarious reliving, and studded with anecdote, droll comic incident, and heartfelt insight as its subject’s own unforgettable tales of cosmic wanderlust. For the countless fans of Douglas Adams and his unique and winsome world, here is a wonderful postcard: to be read, reread, and treasured for the memories it bears.

From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Webb was the editor at Britain's Pan Books who bought the book rights to Adams's Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy in 1978, back when it was a hit radio show on the BBC. While Webb didn't have much to do with Adams professionally after that, the two remained friendly until Adams's death, at age 49, in 2001, and that closeness pervades this authorized biography and its conversational tone. That doesn't mean the story is sugarcoated; Adams is occasionally chided for his emotional thickness, and Webb deals frankly with the consequences of his chronic slowness as a writer (one Hitchhiker novel was produced only when his editor, Sonny Mehta, booked a hotel room and sat with him as he turned out the pages). Another section addresses the thorny issue of who contributed what to the zany plot line of the radio series and how Adams's collaborator, John Lloyd, was nudged out of the book deal. For the most part, however, Webb genially celebrates Adams's comic talent and zest for life, aiming his account squarely at the large Hitchhiker fan base with occasional overtures to readers who don't necessarily know every nuance of the trilogy. It might be overstating matters to suggest that "before Douglas nobody had been cosmically funny," but Webb's tribute makes it easy to see why those who knew Adams admired him so greatly. Agent, Ed Victor Agency. (On sale Mar. 29) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
In 2003 Douglas Adams's The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy was voted "one of Britain's 21 best loved novels" by the British public as part of the BBC's "The Big Read" campaign. Adams, creator of the radio series, the novel, and its sequels, is the subject of this official biography. Webb, the editor who commissioned the original Hitchhiker novel and a friend of Adams, studies the man, his work, and his influence, presenting him as "a brilliant, engaging, and complex man." He provides countless details about almost every aspect of Adams's childhood, schooling, and early career as scriptwriter and producer at the BBC, as well as the creation of each of the Hitchhiker sequels and his other works. His interviews with family members, friends, and colleagues reveal Adams's generosity, overarching curiosity, and constant need for reassurance. The agony Adams endured during the writing process is also well documented. Webb's informal, intimate writing style works well, and his insights are rendered with a great deal of affection. Although the index contains numerous errors, this is still recommended for public and academic libraries.-Kathryn R. Bartelt, Univ. of Evansville Libs., IN Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Tales of frantic deadlines, obsessions with gadgetry and physics, and jokes told by one of history's most amusing authors. If only all biographies could be this much fun. Immediately ditching the cloak of scholarly reverence-and fortunately also eschewing a fan's gushing mania-Webb dives into the messy life of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy impresario Douglas Adams, handling his subject with aplomb and not a little gentle ribbing. The large and ferociously intelligent Adams had a stiffly proper English education that he used to good effect: solid grounding in the sciences served him well in his sci-fi writing, and being so well versed in manners of British embarrassment and reticence allowed him to mock them amiably and with unerring accuracy. Webb deals with Adams's childhood seriously but expeditiously, really hitting his stride with the author's Cambridge years. Here, we learn about Adams's little-known yen for theater and sketch-writing that would propel his postgraduate career. After a few years flirting with starvation and freelance sketch-writing-he was one of only two outside writers ever given credit on The Monty Python Show-the BBC agreed in 1977 to produce his radio play of Hitchhiker's. A desperate period of overwork ensued as Adams also struggled to finish a few Dr. Who scripts, but soon the Hitchhiker novel was proposed, and once written, a smash success. While Webb's affably irreverent tale downshifts as Adams's celebrity climbs, there's still plenty of good material here, mostly about the author's infamous lateness (the best anecdote is from Sonny Mehta, who tells of locking himself into a hotel room with Adams, where Mehta wrung So Long and Thanks for All the Fishout of Adams, page by page). Adams's death, in 2000, comes far too soon: you won't want to let go of this gregarious and gangly master of thoughtfully comic science fiction. Not just for the obsessives so gently chided here. A warm and humorous exploration of a generation's answer to Vonnegut-and Einstein. Agent: Russell Galen/Scovil Chichak Galen
From the Publisher
Praise for Wish You Were Here

“Webb’s tale brims with affection and humour; every page is a delight.”
–The Daily Mail

“It’s perhaps the ultimate credit to Webb that he can be just as funny as Adams in his writing. With many of the same veins of humour that Adams had running throughout this biography, it’s as if the great hitchhiker has never really left.”
–The Leeds Guide

Product Details

Random House Publishing Group
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Meet the Author

NICK WEBB was a publisher for nearly thirty years before, perversely, turning to writing. He commissioned The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy while he was an editor at Pan Books, and remained good friends with Douglas Adams until the end of the author's life. He lives in Hackney.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Wish You Were Here: The Official Biography of Douglas Adams 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
harstan More than 1 year ago
¿Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the western spiral arm of the galaxy lies a small unregarded yellow sun'; there on a inconsequential rock revolving around this insignificant star, Douglas Adams used humor to place the importance of earthlings in the Einstein Universe. Nick Webb in turn provides insight into the life of Mr. Adams, the brain behind such classic tales as The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy; don¿t panic there is still time if you ignore your digital watch to read the amusing novel and its wacky sequels or catch the TV series. The well-written biography is parts irreverent (Mr. Adams must have provided divine guidance for that inclusion) and parts insightful especially on his subject¿s prim and proper British education and during the artistic period of starvation, overwork, and fame. Though obviously targeting Ford Prefect fans, Nick Webb does a masterful job giving insight into Adams during the time he wrote the Hitchhiker-Python-Who scripts in the late 1970s.--- Harriet Klausner
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