Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency – Show & Book

Thirty years ago when I wasn’t even born yet (<- total lie, I’m way older than that), Douglas Adams published Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency.  Two years ago, BBC America made a series of the same title which I saw on Hulu because it only appeared on Netflix outside the US.   (Why, Netflix, why??)   I enjoyed the show, which is very strange and very violent, but a sort of cartoony violence which didn’t bother me too much.  (The opening scene is a hotel room full of bodies and destruction, one of which was bitten in half by a shark (Landshark?).)  I watched the whole first season which has an excellent cast featuring Dirk Gently, holistic detective, a corgi, an heiress acting like a dog, creepy apparently super-powered henchmen, the police, the FBI, the CIA,  a kickass bodyguard, a holistic assassin, Todd Brotzman (played by Elijah Wood), the reluctant bellhop turned detective’s assistant and his sister and a van full of punk psychic vampires.  As I watched, none of this seemed remotely familiar.  I couldn’t remember much of the book, almost nothing, but I thought he was a bit more like a detective with a trench coat and a zen calculator.   As for the story, no memories surfaced.  I looked at the description of the book and it didn’t sound like the show, but I wanted to finish he show before rereading the book.  So I did and I recommend it to people who like quirky science fiction stories.


Then I read the book which I read 30 years ago and found Not As Funny as Hitchhiker’s Guide though mildly amusing.  Upon rereading, my opinion is a whole lot warmer than that.  It’s not really laugh out loud funny, but it is highly entertaining.   Dirk doesn’t make an appearance until 100 pages in,  First there’s a mysterious alien world with an electric monk that believes things for you so you don’t have to.  This monk seems to have gone a bit peculiar and believes all sorts of odd things including that the valley he is in is a uniform shade of pink.  He has a long-suffering and far more sensible horse who believes nothing of the kind, but the monk’s in charge.  Later on there is a mysterious old professor at a college in Cambridge attending the annual Coleridge dinner with a former student named Richard.  Dirk’s background is revealed, but the man himself doesn’t show up yet.  Richard is a programer who works for a man named Gordon Way who will be murdered that night.  These various elements will shortly merge into a story filled with Adams’ inimitable prose.  I love the way he anthropomorphizes everything.  Having finished it, I’d be prepared to swear I’d never read it before in my life.  Nothing in the book was any more familiar than the show.  Not that they had anything in common except about two sentences.  The obvious one that both featured a holistic detective named Dirk Gently and that neither bothers with things like footprints or clues because of the interconnectedness of all things.  That’s it.   There’s an older series from 2012 which might be more like the books, but I haven’t seen it yet.  In the book, Dirk is a sponging con artist.  Richard accuses him of exploiting gullible old ladies by pretending to search for their cats.

“Exploiting?” asked Dirk.  “Well, I suppose it would be if anybody ever paid me, but I do assure you, my dear Richard, that there never seems to be the remotest danger of that.”

Dirk could probably make an excellent living as a psychic except he refuses to admit he has these powers.  So, he scrapes along sponging pizzas off old friends and very occasionally doing something useful.

The upshot is I enjoyed both the book and the show and recommend them to fans of this sort of thing.   Already started the second book, but not sure I want to see the second season of the show enough to pay $25 for it.   I hope it shows up somewhere for less.