Dirk Gently – Holistic Detective, Douglas Adams

Douglas Adams in his first Monty Python appear...

Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detection Agency and The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul published in 1987 and 1988. It was originally intended to be a trilogy (The Salmon of Doubt was to be the third book in the series) but the author died before completing it.

I first read these when they were originally published. I have no idea how many times I have read them since, but I keep emergency copies of them on my Kindle in case I need a fix. I have had who-know-how-many copies in paperback, a couple of hard cover copies, and both books on cassette tape, CD, and now as Audible downloads.

I have listened to it so many times that you might think I’d grow tired of it, but I never do. Of all the books that Douglas Adams wrote — and I love all of them — this is my favorite.

Unlike the Hitchhiker series, the Dirk Gently books have plots and follow a linear timeline. They are bizarre, outlandish and hilarious, but are actual detective stories, albeit full of ghosts, gods and weirdness.

I love Dirk Gently. He’s wonderfully strange and finds things intentionally by accident. The “holistic detective,” his purposely random behavior produces results. He doesn’t know how he does what he does and he doesn’t actually like it, but he counts on it.

The Long Dark Tea Time of the Soul was the book in which Adams introduced the idea that gods without worshipers fade away, that their powers spring from having followers. The idea was new and unique when the books were published in 1987 and 1988. Since then, the concept has been widely adopted by many authors and is now a staple in the fantasy genre.

Extended CD version released 13 November 2008

The title of the book is taken from Adams’ novel Life, the Universe and Everything (my favorite of the Hitchhiker series) to describe the wretched boredom of immortal being Wowbagger, the Infinitely Prolonged. It’s also a play on Dark Night of the Soul by Saint John of the Cross.

Douglas Adams died suddenly and far too soon. I still mourn him, but his influence and books live on.

Douglas Adams left his fingerprints all over the fantasy genre. Although Dirk was not a magician, he had magic. Descended from him is a legion of magic-wielding detectives solving crimes around the world. Douglas’ proclamation that “The Gods live!” has become the backbone of more than a few well-known authors. An entire sub-genre of literature is peopled by immortals and gods from various Pantheons.

Douglas Adams got there first and got there laughing.

If you haven’t read “Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency” and “The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul” you should correct that omission as soon as possible. You don’t have to read them in order, but I think they are better that way although each book stands on its own. You’ll love the gods … gods of rain, gods of thunder, gods of every little thing … as they roam the earth, wondering what happened to all their worshipers.