The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul

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This article is about the book. For radio serial, see The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul (radio serial).
The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul
Long dark tea time of soul UK.jpg
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
Series Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency
Genre Comedy, Science fiction novel
Publisher William Heinemann
Publication date
10 October 1988
Media type Print (hardback & 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)
OCLC 59213038
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 title is a phrase which appeared in Adams' novel Life, the Universe and Everything to describe the wretched boredom of immortal being Wowbagger, the Infinitely Prolonged, and is a play on the theological treatise Dark Night of the Soul, by Saint John of the Cross.

Plot summary[edit]

Dirk Gently, who calls himself a "holistic detective", has happened upon what he thinks is a rather comfortable situation. A wealthy man in the record industry has retained him, spinning a 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; when in reality, Dirk is musing about what he might do if he actually receives payment for his "services" – such as getting rid of his refrigerator, which is so filthy inside that it has become the centrepiece of a showdown between himself and his cleaning woman. The 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 Dirk disconnects the television set the boy had been watching, the boy promptly breaks Dirk's nose.

Nearly incapacitated by guilt, Dirk resolves to take 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 rhino phagic 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 and an advertising executive in exchange for clean linen, and an attractive American woman who gets angry when she can't get pizza delivered in London.


  • 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 whom 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.
  • The eagle that pursues Dirk and Thor is the transformed jet fighter that tries to stop him from getting to Norway. Thor's inability to fly to Norway using his hammer is why he needs to visit the airport at the opening 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—about the fridge and 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.
  • The gods' world exists in parallel with our own – where St Pancras railway station is Valhalla.


A BBC radio adaptation, The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul, starring Harry Enfield, Peter Davison, John Fortune[1] and Stephen Moore was broadcast on October 2008.[2]

Dirk Gently (2010, 2012) starred Stephen Mangan in the title role in a TV pilot broadcast on BBC4 in 2010 and a three episode series broadcast in 2012.

Release details[edit]

The original edition of the book was written and typeset on an Apple Macintosh II and an Apple LaserWriter II NTX, while the software used was FullWrite Professional.


Preceded by:
Series: Followed by:
Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency Dirk Gently series The Salmon of Doubt