Douglas Adams’ new biographer Jem Roberts has uncovered a treasure trove of the author’s unseen material in an archive in St John’s College, Cambridge. Roberts was given full access by to Adams’ family to his papers and has discovered, among other things, an abandoned draft for Life, The Universe and Everything.
“The original version was going brilliantly – he had loads of really funny chapters and scenes – and then he just decided to abandon the whole lot and start from scratch,” Roberts said. “The book that we know has exactly the same plot. He’d written a version that was about two thirds of the way through before he abandoned it.
“A lot of people thought it had gone in the bin. But no. The manuscript with about 16 chapters is right there in St John’s College.”
“It was during the period when he split up with his girlfriend, which was a major ruction in his life. He was extremely unhappy at the time. I think he just wanted a whole fresh start.”
While a collection of story fragments and part of an unfinished novel were published posthumously as The Salmon of Doubt in 2002, those were culled from the author’s hard drives. “Nobody had ever thought about a paper trail though,”Roberts said. “Douglas Adams was the king of new technology, and people probably thought he’d had a huge bonfire of all his papers. But there are boxes and boxes of notebooks, lots of typescript stuff, paper printed from the computer … it was just an enormous job.”
Roberts’ book, The Frood, will also include passages that were left out of the original Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy novel, an alternative original pitch for Hitchhiker’s, a lost rough script for the second television series, and further scraps of unused material, with names like Baggy the Runch and The Assumption of Saint Zalabad.
“There are two short extracts, which are very entertaining actually, which were cut from the first book,” Roberts said. “They’re little asides, maybe a couple of pages each.
“One of them is all about the history of the Dentrassi, who work on the Vogon ships, and there’s a bit where Arthur goes on this long reverie about science, which is very out of character for him, which I think is maybe why it got cut.”
The Frood will be published in September.