The best-selling children's author Eoin Colfer is heading into a whole new galaxy.
The Wexford writer has been chosen to write a new book in the hugely popular 'Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy' series.
Eight years after the tragically early death of its creator, Douglas Adams, Colfer has been asked by Adams's widow to continue the series of Hitchhiker books that are international bestsellers and have a cult following of millions of readers around the world.
Penguin International will make the announcement of Colfer's appointment in London today.
Douglas Adams's widow Jane Belson was very keen to get Colfer to write the Hitchhiker follow-up because she is a big fan of his Artemis Fowl novels, the best-selling books that have made the former teacher a millionaire.
Described as 'Die Hard with fairies' the Artemis books are a series of fantasy novels starring the teenage criminal mastermind Artemis Fowl who operates in an underworld of fairies and goblins of all sorts policed by the LEPrecons.
Although very different from the Hitchhiker series, they have the same sense of fantasy, humour and adventure.
The new Hitchhiker book that Colfer is writing will be titled 'And Another Thing...' and will be published in October 2009. It will be the sixth in the Hitchhiker series.
The late Douglas Adams said in an interview some time after finishing the fifth book: "I suspect at some point in the future I will write a sixth Hitchhiker book ... I would love to finish Hitchhiker on a slightly more upbeat note. Five seems to be a wrong kind of number, six is a better kind of number."
But he never got to do the sixth book that Colfer will now write.
Ms Belson said yesterday: "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. The project has my full support."
Not all Hitchhiker fans will know Colfer, but he seems the perfect writer to take on the Douglas Adams mantle. Colfer has been a fan of Hitchhiker since his schooldays. He said yesterday that "being given the chance to write this book is like suddenly being offered the superpower of your choice.
"For years I have been finishing this incredible (Hitchhiker) story in my head and now I have the opportunity to do it in the real world. It is a gift from the gods."
In London yesterday, Penguin managing director Helen Fraser said: "In 1992 I was lucky enough to be involved in the publication of 'Mostly Harmless' -- Douglas Adams's last volume of 'The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy'. He was an extraordinary writer with an ability to come at the reader from the most unexpected angles, knock them off balance and make them laugh at the same time.
"Eoin Colfer is an inspired choice as Douglas's successor. Eoin burst on the world with his incredibly popular Artemis Fowl series, which is beloved by readers of all ages. He is a huge talent and a fantastically funny writer, and this new book will bring as many new young readers to Douglas Adams's work as it will introduce adults to the brilliance of Eoin Colfer."
Colfer was a primary school teacher in Wexford until he secured the largest ever advance for a children's novel by an unknown author in October 2000 for the first Artemis Fowl book. He hasn't looked back since.
Colfer's first novel, 'Benny and Omar', was an instant bestseller in Ireland and even knocked Harry Potter off the number-one slot on the children's book list here.
Total sales of his Artemis Fowl titles now exceed a staggering 2.8 million copies in Britain and Ireland and over seven million copies worldwide.
His work is published in 41 countries. He has achieved international critical acclaim and is ranked alongside Philip Pullman, Jacqueline Wilson and Anthony Horowitz as one of the world's most popular children's authors.
His commission to write a new Hitchhiker book is likely to be a very lucrative one. But at this stage in his career, already a millionaire several times over, he is unlikely to place much importance on that. He is heading into the Hitchhiker galaxy because he loves the books and he loves writing.