Peter’s puzzle is out of this world

Peter Jewell with the fanzine he wrote following his interview with Douglas Adams and his Doctor Who memorabilia.
Peter Jewell with the fanzine he wrote following his interview with Douglas Adams and his Doctor Who memorabilia.

A CITY sci-fi fan has found an interview he conducted with the late author Douglas Adams as a schoolboy – more than 30 years ago.

But Peter Jewell, 48, faces one major problem – it is all in shorthand and he cannot read a word of it.

Peter, then aged 15, concocted an elaborate ruse to secure an interview with the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy author after attending a talk he delivered at The Dukes in 1980, following the publication of his famous book the previous year.

He convinced Adams he was the editor of a non-existent fanzine, Dalek, and persuaded a slightly older female fan, the girlfriend of Robert Lawson, an acquaintance from Kendal, to be his secretary. She took down the interview in Teeline shorthand, but it was never transcribed and he never saw her again.

Reading back shorthand relies heavily on context and knowledge of the questions asked, plus the transcriber’s writing style.

So Peter is now hoping to trace the woman in the hope that the half-hour interview can finally be transcribed for himself and other sci-fi fans.

He cannot recall her name and remembers only that she was “blonde and nice”.

“She thought it was hilarious,” said Peter, who now buys and sells sci-fi memorabilia, as well as manning Lancaster city centre’s hot chestnut stall in season.

“Douglas Adams was absolutely great. He was very forthcoming – quite candid and quite rude and possibly a bit drunk – so it was very revealing for a 15-year-old. I think he possibly let his guard down a bit because he was being interviewed by a schoolboy.

“We were talking about an idea he had for a Dr Who film called The Krikkitmen, involving cosmic krikkit with planets as balls and something called The Star Goat. He used elements of it, but the movie was never made.

“I read about The Krikkitmen in a science fiction magazine recently, and it sent tingles down my spine remembering my interview.”

Peter, a father-of-two who now lives at Villas Court, Lancaster, said he realised his mistake in not getting the interview immediately transcribed “about an hour afterwards”. “It was one of those things you mean to do that never quite happens,” he said. “I did however write the first issue of the fanzine after the interview as a cover, in case anyone found out what I’d done.”

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy spanned five books and a TV series, while Adams also wrote three episodes of Dr Who and the Dirk Gently detective stories.He died of a heart attack, aged 49, in May 2001.