By Paul Bignell and Andrew Johnson
The Independent, Sunday, 25 October 2009
Even for a seasoned author such as Colfer, taking on the late Douglas Adams' phenomenally successful Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series – five books that have sold more than 16 million copies worldwide – was not something to be taken lightly. And even now that his And Another Thing..., billed as the sixth book in the series, has been published, it is apparent that Colfer's anxiety has lessened only slightly. "There are still a lot of, almost, threats. As if people are saying, 'This had better be good.'"
Benedictus is surprisingly equivocal in his response to this vitriol – "What's the worst thing that can happen, that I'll be torn apart by wild journalists? Happened before and I survived" – but he does admit that, "At worst everyone will hate me and I'll just crawl under a bush and hide."
No matter what the fans might think, not just anyone is allowed the opportunity to be involved in this sort of project. Just obtaining the literary rights to a novel or a character can be a legal and ethical minefield. Benedictus spent eight years persuading the Milne estate that he was the man for the job, while, for the latest James Bond instalment, Devil May Care, many people needed convincing that the otherwise wildly successful Sebastian Faulks was up to the task. The rights to James Bond belong to the Broccoli family's EON Productions, so permission had to be sought there as well as from the Fleming estate.
So why do writers put themselves through it? Is it more than just a commercial opportunity? "The fact is that these characters are too good, too full of potential to be left alone. If they can be brought back sympathetically, then it's a great thing," says Jon Howells at Waterstone's. "But yes, the books are good for publishers financially as they are proven properties with years, if not decades, of the nation's love behind them. James Bond, Hitchhiker's Guide and Winnie-the-Pooh are some of the best-known franchises in the world, so they do have an advantage."
And for more on the new Hitchhiker here is a piece from the Sydney Morning Herald.