Look, sometimes life gets to be too much, to the point where you don’t just want any book. You want a book with no unpleasant surprises, a book you know and love. A comfort read.
Wolf Road, by Beth Lewis, is a post-apocalyptic Western. It centres on Elka, a girl who was lost in a forest far from home and ended up being raised by a man who turned out to be a serial murderer. Once she finds this out, she decides to run away and seek out her parents, but she is pursued by the murderer who raised her and the sheriff who wants to catch them both.
Mary Westmacott is the pen name Agatha Christie used for six novels which are usually referred to as romances. It may baffle some people that Agatha Christie, Queen of Crime, ever wrote romance. Actually the baffling thing is that these books are considered romances. Perhaps the genre has changed, but one of the defining elements of the romance genre is the happy ending, the resolved issues and the blissful relationship.
I almost exclusively write fantasy and science fiction. I write about things that aren’t real, that couldn’t be real, not in this time or place. I do this because I love to make things up. I’ve been making things up since I was small. As a child, I populated my backyard with fairies, and I populated the school playground with cheese-eating grass-gulls. I didn’t just make things up. I also read about made up stuff. I grew up with Brer Rabbit and Aslan, and I spent my teen years with Harry Potter, Frodo Baggins, and Arthur Dent.
Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency began as a book (or two) by Douglas Adams. Not as well known as the Hitchhiker’s series, which I think is a shame. They have the same absurd humour, but with tighter, cleverer plots. Dirk Gently, a detective who refuses to ‘eliminate the impossible,’ solves crimes by looking for connections between seemingly unconnected events and objects. Against all likelihood (and despite his seeming incompetence), he succeeds in unravelling a supernatural mystery and foiling whoever was threatening the world. If I did have a complaint about the book, it’s that it took me too long to get the resolution in The Long Dark Tea-time of the Soul. I felt that too much was implied. (That could just be me being slow, of course.)
Douglas Adams is most famously known for his “trilogy” Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, which started out as a radio series, then a book, then a tv show, and there’s even now a movie. He tends to be quoted mostly when people are searching for the meaning of life, because he figured it out, you see. It’s 42.
I have a great love for the Hitchhiker books, not least because the audiobooks are a great cure for insomnia. All I have to do is set one to playing, lie back and close my eyes, and I will be asleep soon enough. But lately I’ve been wondering if Adams’ Great Answer holds a bit more of a message for us. Most of the time people treat it is a glib answer, the punchline of a joke, and make no mistake, it is one of the best punchlines in comedy writing. But I do think there is something a bit deeper.
(Warning: Spoilers for Hitchhikers series ahead)