11 March 2009

The Sage of Edinburgh Strikes Multiple Chords

Fans of Alexander McCall Smith are probably aware that he has now at least three series of stories going on at roughly the same time. Two of these are centered on Edinburgh and the third, the series that elevated him to stardom in the book world, is the adventures of Precious Ramotswe, as related in the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency and following, takes place in Botswana. His website and the fore and end papers of the paperback version of The World According To Bertie mention a fourth series, called The Portuguese Irregular Verb series. I haven't sampled that last one yet.

The website has a great deal of information about the author who is becoming more of a celebrity every month it seems. It also has some interesting music which you can turn off if necessary. The 44 Scotland Street series—one of the paper covers is seen to the right— now has three separate books and Bertie is the third, apparently written in weekly! installments for a Scottish newspaper: the chapters are all written to about the same length and all have titles helpful to the lazy reader.

Somewhere on the website it mentions that the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency is being made into a TV series on HBO with the opening 29 March. And then there is a daily (sic!) serialization of his latest novel, Corduroy Mansions in the Telegraph, apparently going on right now.

This is one busy and productive guy. I am guessing that he has a team of amanuenses just following him around similar to a chess master playing matches against multiple opponents at the same time.

The World According to Bertie probably came into being because the author took to heart some feedback from his readers who told him that the only sympathetic character in this series is the 6 year old Bertie. By the way, he has remained 6 years old throughout the series so far. The city, of course, is very nice, without even talking about the marvelous Festival they have in late August/early September. You envy the folks who live there but these particular characters, mostly the lucky offspring of the people who put together the British Empire, except for Bertie, though sometimes mildly appealing, are on the whole, not that interesting. Of course, they are probably being unconsciously compared to the earlier and still living characters from Botswana, all of them thoroughly loveable.

I liked a couple of the characters from the Isabel Dalhousie series, though I've only read the first in the series. Maybe you grow to like them in the later books. I recommend you start with any of the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency books: you will be hooked. I'm even thinking of a trip to Botswana because it sounds so appealing. I'm guessing the HBO series will be worth your while as well.

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