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'Hitchhiker' author Adams dies

LONDON, England -- Douglas Adams, author of the cult science-fiction comedy The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, has died at the age of 49.

British-born Adams died on Friday of a heart attack in Santa Barbara, California, his London spokeswoman Sophie Astin said. He was married with a daughter.

The guide, published in 1979, was a satirical adventure about a group of intergalactic travellers.

It opens with the Earth being destroyed to make way for an intergalactic highway.

It went on to sell more than 14 million copies worldwide and was turned into a BBC radio serial and later a TV series.

The book preceded a series of best-selling titles by the author, including The Restaurant At The End Of The Universe; Life, The Universe And Everything; and So Long, And Thanks For All The Fish.

The books blended satire, memorably named characters such as Zaphod Beeblebrox and Marvin the Paranoid Android and witty philosophy, at one point supplying the answer to "the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything." The answer was 42.

'Creative genius'

Adams later recalled how he first thought of the book during a teenage trip around Europe.

"I was hitchhiking around Europe in 1971, when I was 18, with this copy of A Hitchhiker's Guide to Europe," he said.

"At one point I found myself lying in the middle of a field, a little bit drunk, when it occurred to me that somebody should write a Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. It didn't occur to me that it might actually be me years later."

The book came 24th in a poll of the top 100 books of the 20th century conducted by the Waterstone's bookstore chain and Channel 4 television.

Geoffrey Perkins, the BBC's head of comedy, called Adams "absolutely one of the most creative geniuses to ever work in radio comedy," he told the Press Association.

"He probably wrote one of the greatest radio comedy series ever, certainly the most imaginative," he added.

Adams and his barrister wife moved from their home in north London to California in 1999, after he set up multimedia company The Digital Village.

The company, which lists Adams as its founder-director Chief Fantasist, created the Bafta-nominated 1998 CD-Rom Starship Titanic adventure game.

He signed a deal with Disney in 1998 to turn The Hitchhiker's Guide into a film, but the movie is still in development.

Adams on online encyclopedias
November 21, 2000

Douglas Adams

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4:30pm ET, 4/16

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