Author of the week
Alexander McCall Smith
Alexander McCall Smith works at an enviable clip, said Laurie Herzel in the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Best known for his No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series, the 70-year-old British mystery novelist has more than 100 titles to his name—a doubly impressive feat considering that it all came after a midlife career change. In 1998, the University of Edinburgh law professor decided to try writing a novel set in Botswana, where he had helped establish the nation’s first law school. The result, which focused on the exploits of private detective Precious Ramotswe, became an instant best-seller and persuaded him to write full-time. “It was not without some regret—I enjoyed my previous career,” he says. “But I haven’t looked back.” He has since added 18 novels to that series and launched four others. He usually works on two novels at a time, cranking out 3,000 words a day.
He’s aware that some people consider his books old-fashioned, or worse, said Ken Cuthbertson in The Globe and Mail (Canada). The latest Ladies’ Detective Agency novel, The Colors of All the Cattle, arrives at a time when some readers find it hard to trust a white author, this one born in Southern Rhodesia, telling stories about black characters in a former British colony. “People are entitled to their views,” he says. “But I travel a lot. And when I do, I’m constantly meeting people who are exactly like my characters. They treat one another with respect and courtesy, and they lead lives with dignity and good humor, although they do so in difficult circumstances.” Writing about other cultures with respect, he says, is not cultural appropriation. “It’s cultural admiration.” ■
November 21, 2018 THE WEEK