Eine Kleine Nichtmusik

Witty and pertinent observations on matters of great significance OR Incoherent jottings on total irrelevancies OR Something else altogether OR All of the above

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Alexander McCall Smith : Edinburgh Book Festival 27 August 2009

Third time lucky for me, as on previous occasions when I'd tried to see Edinburgh's second most famous author (after J K Rowling, but probably ahead of Ian Rankin) he'd been long sold out.

AMS is most famous worldwide for his Mma Ramotswe series set in Botswana, but in Edinburgh he is just as celebrated for the books set there: the Isabel Dalhousie detective stories, and the 44 Scotland Street serial novels which appear in the Scotsman. When the man appeared after a half-hour delay (there had been a power cut earlier so everything at the festival site was running late) one of the first things we learned was that he was due to begin a new series of 44 Scoatland Street in the autumn, and the next was that he is also due to begin another serial novel (Corduroy Mansions), this time for the Daily Telegraph and set in London. AMS read us an extract which sounded especially hilarous, in which an erratic driver ends up driving round a field of wheat and on looking back is convinced he's found a crop circle. Someone asked him if he ever gets characters muddled up between his books, and he said that once his American editor had to point out to him that he'd made Mma Ramotswe speak just like Isabel Dalhousie in one scene (hurriedly corrected!) He was asked what the inhabitants of the places in his books thought of them, and he said that while the inhabitants of Moray Place had been a little sniffy at the suggestion of nudist gatherings there, the proprietors of the Stockbridge floatarium (in which two of his characters - customers of the establishment - appear to have had sex) delightedly pinned the relevant instalment of the story on their notice-board with a large sign reading STRICTLY FORBIDDEN.

On the whole, Alexander McCall Smith was delightful. He does have a high=pitched and rather irritating laugh, which becomes the more irritating when one realises that he is laughing at all his own jokes (and of course is miked up). But in general, as much fun to hear interviewed as to read, and I'm glad I kept trying with the tickets.


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