The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul

The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul

Infobox Book
name = The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul

image_caption = The front cover of the UK first hardcover edition of "The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul".
author = Douglas Adams
country = United Kingdom
language = English
cover_artist =
series = Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency
genre = Comedy, Science fiction novel
publisher = William Heinemann
release_date = 10 October 1988
media_type = Print (Hardcover & Paperback) & Audio Book (Cassette, CD)
pages = 256 pp (hardcover), 320 pp (paperback)
isbn = ISBN 0-434-00921-0 (hardcover edition) & ISBN 0-671-74251-5 (US paperback edition)
preceded_by = Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency
followed_by = The Salmon of Doubt

"The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul" is a 1988 humorous fantasy detective novel by Douglas Adams. It is the second book by Adams featuring private detective Dirk Gently, the first being "Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency". The novel's title is a phrase which appeared in Adams's earlier novel "Life, the Universe and Everything". The Norse thundergod Thor, who appeared briefly in "The Restaurant at the End of the Universe" and "Life, the Universe and Everything", has an extended role in "The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul". However, the novels are not otherwise related.

An Above the Title Productions adaptation, The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul of this story starring Harry Enfield, Peter Davison, John Fortune [cite web|url=|title=Above The Title - The Long Dark Tea Time of the Soul|accessdate=2008-09-23] and Stephen Moore began broadcasting on 2nd October 2008 [cite web|url=|title=BBC - Press Office - Network Radio Programme Information Week 40 Thursday 2 October 2008|accessdate=2008-09-16] , [ audio trailer] .

Plot summary

Dirk Gently, who calls himself a "holistic detective", has happened upon what he thinks is a rather comfortable situation. A ridiculously wealthy man in the record industry has retained him, spinning a ludicrous story about being stalked by a seven-foot-tall, green-eyed, scythe-wielding monster. Dirk pretends to understand the man's ravings involving potatoes and a contract signed in blood coming due; in reality, however, Dirk is musing about what he might do if he actually receives payment for his "services". Get rid of his refrigerator, for one; the seemingly innocuous appliance has become the centerpiece of a dangerous showdown between himself and his cleaning woman. The apparent seriousness of his client's claims becomes clear when Dirk arrives several hours late for an appointment to find a swarm of police around his client's estate. The aforementioned client is found in a sealed and heavily barricaded room, his head neatly removed several feet from his body and rotating on a turntable. While at his recently deceased client’s house, he discovers that his client had a son. However, after disconnecting the television set the boy had been watching, the boy promptly breaks Dirk’s nose.

Nearly incapacitated by great thudding pangs of guilt, Dirk resolves to belatedly begin taking his now-late client's wild claims seriously. During his investigation, Gently encounters exploding airport check-in counters, the gods of Norse mythology, insulting horoscopes, a sinister nursing home, a rhinophagic eagle, an I Ching calculator (to which everything calculated above the value of 4 is apparently 'a suffusion of yellow'), an omnipotent being who gives his powers to a lawyer in exchange for clean linen, and an attractive American woman who gets angry when she can't get pizza delivered in London.

Keys to deciphering the plot

Understanding the plot depends on the realisation of several facts which are either alluded to or understated in the book:

* The central premise of the book is that gods are created by humans' necessity and desire for them, and, once worshipped by man don't disappear but remain on earth forever. Because nobody worships them, many become destitute, like the tramps who Dirk witnesses entering Valhalla.
* Odin makes Thor accidentally transmogrify objects when he gets angry, in a bid to delay him getting to Norway and finding the Draycotts' contract. Hence the jet fighter turning into the eagle, or Kate's table lamp turning into a kitten; Thor is unable to change the objects back because of his anger, which is why the Coke vending machine (the transmogrified airline check-in girl) is kept with him throughout the book.
* The eagle that pursues Dirk and Thor is the transmogrified jet fighter that Thor briefly mentions stops him getting to Norway. His inability to fly to Norway using his hammer is why he needs to visit the airport at the opening of the novel. The retransmogrified jet fighter explodes from Dirk's house and destroys the Draycotts and their car at the end of the novel.
* Odin makes contact with the Draycotts after seeing one of Cynthia Draycott's adverts for a soft drink, which seemingly involve various gods promoting the drink; one of these adverts is seen when Dirk confronts Anstey's son early in the book.
* Odin, like all the gods, is naive and quite literally unworldly; this is how the Draycotts are able to take advantage of him.
* One of Dirk's chief characteristics in the novel is guilt -- guilt about the fridge, and guilt about the death of Anstey, whom he should have protected. At the end of the novel, Dirk's fridge generates a new god of Guilt and it is implied this stops Toe Rag and the green monster from stopping Thor finally retrieving the contract in Norway.
* Due to a joke of fate, any prediction, and many of his passing wishes, ever made by Dirk Gently seems to come true.
* It is implied that Odin may have stepped in during the airport explosion and also the jet fighter explosion to stop the loss of life; thus he might be complicit in the death of the Draycotts, who were the only ones killed in the jet fighter explosion. At the end of the contract negotiations with the Draycotts, Dirk says the only wish he has is that the Draycotts die. This might be fulfillment of that wish. Note that the Draycotts are killed after Thor destroys the contract.
* The gods' world exists in parallel with our own - where (for example) St Pancras railway station is Valhalla.

Other information

Only three characters from the previous novel appear in this story: Dirk himself, Sergeant Gilks, and Dirk's repeatedly quitting secretary Janice Pearce (now Janice Smith). Dirk is the only character to appear in all three Dirk Gently stories.

The title is a play on the theological treatise "Dark Night of the Soul", by Saint John of the Cross. Adams previously used the phrase "long, dark teatime of the soul" in his third book in "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" series, "Life, the Universe and Everything", to describe the wretched boredom of immortal being Wowbagger, the Infinitely Prolonged.

Adams was a noted fan of Macintosh computers and an opening page of the book declares that the book was "written and typeset on an Apple Macintosh II and an Apple LaserWriter II NTX", while the software used as FullWrite Professional.

Release details

*1988, UK, William Heinemann (ISBN 0-434-00921-0), Pub date 10 October 1988, Hardcover
*1989, US, Simon & Schuster (ISBN 0-671-62583-7), Pub date 1 March 1989, Hardcover
*1989, UK, Chivers P (ISBN 0-86220-323-6), Pub date 3 October 1989, Hardcover
*1989, UK, Pan Macmillan (ISBN 0-330-30955-2), Pub date 13 October 1989, Paperback
*1990, US, Pocket Books (ISBN 0-671-69404-9), Pub date 2 January 1990, Paperback
*1991, US, Pocket Books (ISBN 0-671-74251-5), Pub date ? February 1991, Paperback
*1998, UK, ISIS Audio Books (ISBN 0-7531-0473-3), Pub date ? October 1998, ?
*2006, US, Phoenix Audio (rerelease, ISBN 1-59777-008-6), Pub date January 2006, compact disc


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