Hey, we made it into month two over at Black Gate! Every fourth or so post I plan on going away from Holmes to mix it up a bit. So, for my first road trip, I visited Douglas Adams’ excellent private eye novel, Dirk Gently, Holistic Detective. You can read the whole thing over at Black Gate, but here’s the beginning:
Race Williams, Sam Spade, Philip Marlowe, Peter Kane, Max Thursday, Lew Archer, Travis McGee, Dave Robicheaux: the list of accomplished private eyes is a long one. And of course, Sherlock Holmes was the first professional consulting detective. But there has only been one holistic detective. Dirk Gently.
It’s hard to imagine a better science fiction parody than Douglas Adams’ marvelous Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series. Five books (plus one short story and an authorized sequel), they are the standard. Adams’ brilliance was equally on display when he tackled the private eye genre with Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency.
If you’ve read any of The Hitchhiker’s books, you know that Adams was not your typical writer. Gently, though mentioned earlier, does not appear until page 114. In fact, the main character is really Richard MacDuff, though Gently is certainly at the center of things.
What is a holistic detective, you ask? As Gently explains to a client, “The term ‘holistic’ refers to my conviction that what we are concerned with here is the fundamental interconnectedness of all things. I do not concern myself with such petty things as fingerprint powder, telltale pieces of pocket fluff and inane footprints. I see the solution to each problem as being detectable in the pattern and web of the whole. The connections between causes and effects are often much more subtle and complex than we with our rough and ready understanding of the physical world might naturally suppose.”