Wish You Were Here: The Official Biography of Douglas Adams
by Nick Webb
Review by Gayle Surrette
Ballantine Books Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 0345476506
Date: 29 March, 2005 List Price $25.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
The trouble with biographies is that if you don?t know the person who is the subject of the book there?s no real way to judge the validity of the coverage. Normally, I give an official biography greater weight because I make the assumption that the family of the subject was involved and providing information ? which is the case here. Also, Nick Webb was a friend of Adams and tries to make sure the readers knows when he?s inserting his own observations of Adams. All in all, it seems to be a fair handed coverage of a very complex man showing his genius, generosity, insecurities, and failings.
I?ve read all of the Hitchhiker books, the Dirk Gently books, Last Chance to See, and also the Salmon of Doubt which was a compilation of the material that his friends put together from his various computer hard-drives at the time of his death. The Salmon of Doubt includes as much of the third Dirk Gently novel as Adams had written and many of his science essays, letters to the editors, and Adams-ish short notes. Webb often refers the biography reader to Salmon of Doubt and to Neil Gaiman?s Don?t Panic. And while I?d have loved to have met the man because of his writing, I wouldn?t have thought that I knew him from what I?d read.
Webb begins his biography with a quick recap of who Douglas Adams was and what his major achievements were and then in typical biographical style goes back to his great-great grandfather, a Scot and medical doctor, and his sons also doctors and their sons also doctors, except for Douglas? father. So Douglas came by his interest in science perhaps by a genetic predisposition? However, he chose the arts and writing as his career and had a flair for comedy. After covering Adams? school years he then changes tactics a bit and follows Douglas Adams? life as it is woven around, through, and impacted by a Hitchhiker?s Guide to the Galaxy in all it?s incarnations.
What Webb does is assure those of us who have enjoyed the writings of Douglas Adams, his wit, his irreverence, and his slightly askew view of society, science, computers, and life on this planet, that we did know Douglas Adams. He wrote from his heart and his writing not only entertains but also shows us who he was. He left his mark on the world and on all those who know him through his works. This biography is just one more view of this very complex man.