Eoin Colfer to write sixth Hitchhiker's Guide book

Comic fantasy children's author describes being given the opportunity to continue Douglas Adams's legendary series as 'like suddenly being offered the superpower of your choice'

Douglas Adams's increasingly inaccurately named Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy trilogy is to be extended to six titles, after Adams's widow Jane Belson sanctioned a project which will see children's author Eoin Colfer taking up the story.

And Another Thing… by Colfer, whose involvement with the project was personally requested by Belson, will be published next October by Penguin. No information has yet emerged about the plot of the novel but Hitchhiker fans will be hoping for a resurrection of much-loved characters Arthur Dent, Trillian and Ford Prefect, who were all apparently blown to smithereens at the end of the fifth novel, Mostly Harmless.

Adams himself had plans for a sixth Hitchhiker book, saying in an interview: "People have said, quite rightly, that Mostly Harmless is a very bleak book. And it was a bleak book. I would love to finish Hitchhiker on a slightly more upbeat note, so five seems to be a wrong kind of number, six is a better kind of number."

But his death in 2001, aged 49, meant the book was never written, and "legions of Hitchhiker fans were left with their hearts beating a little too quickly for all eternity," said Colfer, author of the bestselling Artemis Fowl series for children.

The proposal from the literary agency which manages Adams's estate was "quite out of the blue", said Penguin marketing and publicity director Joanna Prior. "It was something I guess [Jane Belson] had been mulling over for some time, and we jumped the minute we got the call – we could immediately see what a fantastic project this would be."

Colfer, who has been a fan of Hitchhiker since his schooldays, said being given the opportunity to continue the series was "like suddenly being offered the superpower of your choice". "For years I have been finishing this incredible story in my head and now I have the opportunity to do it in the real world," he added. "It is a gift from the gods. So, thank you Thor and Odin."

The book will "make no claims for Eoin being Douglas", according to Prior. "It's not Eoin Colfer writing as Douglas Adams, as was the case with Sebastian Faulks," she said, pointing to Penguin's successful publication of Faulks's new James Bond novel Devil May Care earlier this year. "It's absolutely about him being himself – Eoin the author, but with the cast of Hitchhiker."

Colfer himself is currently grappling with nerves over the quality of his addition to Adams' oeuvre. "I feel more pressure to perform now than I ever have with my own books, and that is why I am bloody determined that this will be the best thing I have ever written," he said. "For the first time in decades I feel the uncertainty that I last felt in my teenage years. There are people out there that really want to like this book."

Penguin hopes that Belson's choice of Colfer will bring a new generation of readers to Adams's work. "It's always a challenge when we haven't got Douglas any more – how can we introduce his writing to the next generation?" asked Prior. "There's a huge fan base out there, but this is a really exciting way of creating a new legacy."

Belson said the project had her full support. "I am delighted that Eoin Colfer has agreed to continue the Hitchhiker series. I love his books and could not think of a better person to transport Arthur, Zaphod and Marvin to pastures new," she added.

Approximately 16m copies of Hitchhiker books have been sold worldwide, according to Penguin. The "trilogy in five parts", which started with radio series The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy in 1978 and was completed with The Restaurant at the End of the Universe; Life, The Universe and Everything; So Long, and Thanks for all the Fish; and Mostly Harmless, has been translated into 35 languages.

Contributor

Alison Flood

The GuardianTramp

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