While shopping for Christmas presents in Waterstones… looking back I think anyone could see how this could be considered a bad idea, lets just say that I came across several books that I decided I must definitely own. Somehow, by some miracle I managed to muster up all my will-power, avoid the temptations neatly arranged and tastefully displayed in my path and come away with only one book, ‘The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul’ by Douglas Adams. Having already read the first in the ‘Dirk Gently’ series, ‘Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency’, I didn’t see how I could pass up the opportunity to read it over the holidays. Although I say ‘in the series’, I think I’m correct in saying that there were only two books published, the third was going to be ‘The Salmon of Doubt’ but Adams’ ideas were better suited to a sixth book in the Hitchhiker series rather than being part of Dirk’s world, unfortunately he never got to finish this work and the book ‘The Salmon of Doubt’ was published after his death in 2001 which comprises previously published and unpublished material from Adams on a variety of subjects and also includes the material he was working on at the time of his death.
For any readers who are unfamiliar with Dirk Gently, aka Svlad Cjelli, he is an absolutely wonderful character in a way that is uniquely identifiable to Douglas Adams; describing himself as a ‘holistic’ private detective Dirk uses the ‘fundamental interconnectedness of all things’ to solve his cases. With his trademark leather coat and jaunty hat Dirk’s investigations involve some weird and wonderful practices, but stick with him and it will all ‘mostly’ become clear in the end. The story begins, as such (I say ‘as such’ because Adams’ stories never seem to begin, they just ‘are’), with a rather irate woman, Kate Schechter, trying to fly to Oslo; the reason she happens to be irate is because she has just crossed paths with Thor, the God of thunder, who also happens to be trying to fly to Oslo. This meeting ends with both Kate and Thor lying under a pile of rubble, and subsequently both residing in the local hospital. Meanwhile, Dirk has managed to land himself a big job with a wealthy client who insists that he is being stalked by a ‘seven-foot-tall, green-eyed, scythe-wielding monster’, and is talking about hot potatoes and contracts signed in blood; Dirk is really only thinking that for once he might actually get paid until his client winds up dead, his head’s final resting place atop a record player which is stuck on a line from a song called hot potato. Through guilt Dirk then starts taking his clients claims more seriously. Through his investigations and a long-running battle with his cleaner regarding his refrigerator, Dirk comes across the case of the exploding check-in desk at the airport, which ties into the discovery that Kings Cross station is actually the entrance to Valhalla, where the immortal Gods that are no longer worshiped by man reside like down and outs, and that Odin (assisted by an odd creature known as Toe Rag, whose minion just so happens to be a seven-foot-tall, green-eyed, scythe-wielding monster), the father of the Gods, has sold his powers to a lawyer and an advertiser in return for clean linen. It just so happens that Dirk’s fridge somehow creates a new God of Guilt which prevents Toe Rag and the seven-foot-tall, green-eyed, scythe-wielding monster from stopping Thor getting the contract signed by Odin, Thor then goes to Valhalla, assisted by Kate, where Thor confronts Odin and rips up the contract.
So, are you following? No? Well, I’m not surprised. You definitely need to read the book to appreciate the way that everything that happens is a small part of something much bigger because there is so much that I haven’t covered including: a fighter jet; a murderous eagle; two hairs; zen navigation; an ex-secretary and a Coca-Cola vending machine; it’s all part of the ‘holistic’ approach taken by Dirk Gently in solving the mysteries put before him. Adams’ is a master at tying up the loose ends and I’m the first to admit that only after I’d finished the book did I realize some of the subtle tie-ins that I’d missed on my first reading. For example, I was so engrossed in the interaction between Dirk and his late client’s son, that I failed to connect the advert that he was watching with the references to the Coca-Cola vending machine and advertising later on. I think that like all Adams’ books, a second reading only brings more insight into the story and new ways of interpretation, this is such a clever work of fiction I’m sure that I’ve overlooked so many things. I still have a feeling of things being drawn to a close but never truly finished, it’s as if I’ve been given a puzzle that someone has explained, but they’ve missed out certain parts; these parts are not necessarily integral to solving the puzzle, but they remain elusive and just out of reach. Rather than making the story frustrating, for me it just adds to my love of it.
Just as a side-note to this, if you are familiar with the Kings Cross area in London and can remember back ten or so years ago, you’ll most definitely identify with the description in this book where it is portrayed as a seedy hotbed of depravity frequented by all types of undesirables, indeed there was a time when this description was true and you couldn’t go ten feet without being propositioned by a ‘lady of the night’ shall we say or an interesting looking fellow who wanted to sell you illegal substances or something that fell of the back of a lorry, all on your way into work (as long as the entrance wasn’t blocked by some such undesirable as previously described). But now Kings Cross has been regenerated and has become a vibrant business district with trendy cafes and hotels along York Way and is home to the new St Pancras station which hosts the Eurostar. Not only that, the old Gothic hotel mentioned in the book, the ‘Midland Grand’, has also been revived. It’s amazing how in such a seemingly short period of time things have changed so much.
Filed under: Humour, fundamental interconnectedness, holistic detective agency, thor the god of thunder