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Spending the Summer with Alexander McCall Smith

Alexander McCall Smith
Alexander McCall Smith

Clarksville, TN – If you are tired of watching the latest murder, robbery, sexual assault, wreck, and/or other horror on the nightly news, it’s time you discovered the books written by Scottish writer Alexander McCall Smith. No, you aren’t going to be reading about car chases or social media disasters or aliens.

What you are going to read about are characters with human emotions, deep thinking processes, dignity, kindness and morality—not the preachy kind—just genuine feeling for whether or not choices are the right ones and if a mistake is made, how to deal with it and move on.

Sound like something you can handle? Then you have a number of choices of book series from which to choose.

Alexander McCall Smith latest book, "At the Reunion Buffet"
Alexander McCall Smith latest book, “At the Reunion Buffet”

Perhaps the best known series begins with No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency. Others in the series are Tears of the Giraffe, Morality for Beautiful Girls, The Kalahari Typing School for Men, The Full Cupboard of Life, In the Company of Cheerful Ladies, Blue Shoes and Happiness, The Good Husband of Zebra Drive, The Miracle of Speedy Motors, Tea Time for the Traditionally Built, The Double Comfort Safari Club, The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party, The Limpopo Academy of Private Detection, The Minor Adjustment Beauty Salon, and The Handsome Man’s De Luxe Cafe.

The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series features Precious Ramotswe, the only female detective in Botswana (Africa). She doesn’t take murder cases (although on a rare occasion, one character was eaten by a crocodile!), just problems that ordinary people have with their spouses or neighbors.

Mma Ramotswe started her detective agency in Gabarone with money she earned after selling her father’s cattle after his death. Cattle are highly valued in Botswana and the herd brought a good price that enabled her to buy both a house and a building for her business. The sign outside the agency on the Lobatse Road read, “FOR ALL CONFIDENTIAL MATTERS AND ENQUIRIES. SATISFACTION GUARANTEED FOR ALL PARTIES. UNDER PERSONAL MANAGEMENT.” Princess proved to be a good detective because she was a good woman with plenty of common sense and she also referred to a detective manual that she ordered through the mail.

One important part of the detective agency was Mma Grace Makutsi who passed the general typing and secretarial examinations with an average grade of 97 percent at the Botswana College of Secretarial and Office Skills. Mma Makutsi’s grades were of great pride at the agency and she was eventually promoted to associate detective. She wore very thick glasses that tended to fog over when she became upset, but she was most efficient at all her tasks.

The pace of the plots in these books is not hurried but reveals throughout the pace of life in Botswana where Alexander McCall Smith taught law at the University of Botswana. Smith was born in Rhodesia of Scottish parents and spent his childhood in Africa. He earned a law degree at the University of Edinburgh where he later taught medical law. He also taught in Italy and the United States and was the author of thirty children’s books before rising to international prominence with No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency.

He writes several other series of books as well.

The 44 Scotland Street series features characters who live in New Town, a section of Edinburgh. Smith, whose nickname is “Sandy” and who loves Edinburgh, wanted to introduce the city to the world and show why other people as he does about it. Delightful characters have all types of adventures through these books and one book tends to be reflected at the beginning of each new one. The titles in this series are 44 Scotland Street, Espresso Tales, Love Over Scotland, The World According to Bertie, The Unbearable lightness of Scones, The Importance of Being Seven, Bertie Plays the Blues, Sunshine on Scotland Street, and Bertie’s Guide to Life and Mothers.

Isabelle Dalhousie, a philosopher who is editor/owner of The Review of Applied Ethics. She lives in Edinburgh and investigates all types of problems including a murder she witnessed. She is the central character in many of the books in the series called The Sunday Philosophy Club series, the first book having that title. Others in the series are Friends, Lovers, Chocolate followed by The Right Attitude to Rain, The Careful Use of Compliments, The Comfort of Saturdays, The Lost Art of Gratitude, The Charming Quirks of Others, The Forgotten Affairs of Youth, The Uncommon Appeal of Clouds, and The Novel Habits of Happiness.

To date, Corduroy Mansions, The Dog Who Came in from the Cold, and A Conspiracy of Friends are the three books in the wildly popular Corduroy Mansions series. The eccentric characters live in London on various floors of a crumbling apartment building. The fictional address has now been listed by the post office!

As if this extensive list of titles was not enough to choose from, here are others that do not have additional partners: Precious and the Missing Lion, The Forever Girl, The 2½ Pillars of Wisdom, Unusual Uses for Olive Oil, Mma Ramotswe’s Cookbook, La’s Orchestra Saves the World, Precious and the Puggies, Trains and Lovers, Fatty O’Leary’s Dinner Party, A Work of Beauty: Alexander McCall Smith’s Edinburgh, Precious and the Monkeys, and Emma.

Amazingly, almost all of Smith’s books are available as audio books and your local library carries nearly everything he writes as soon as it is available.

If you are looking for a delightful summer path of enjoyment, choose whichever series or book that appeals to you and get started on an escape from the travails of life. By choosing a book by Alexander McCall Smith, you won’t be sorry!

Sue Freeman Culverhouse
Sue Freeman Culverhousehttp://culverhouseart.com/
Author of Tennessee Literary Luminaries: From Cormac McCarthy to Robert Penn Warren (The History Press, 2013) Sue Freeman Culverhouse has been a freelance writer for the past 36 years. Beginning in 1976, she published magazines articles in Americana, Historic Preservation, American Horticulturist, Flower and Garden, The Albemarle Magazine, and many others. Sue is the winner of two Virginia Press Awards in writing. She moved to Springfield, Tennessee in 2003 with her sculptor husband, Bill a retired attorney. Sue has one daughter,  Susan Leigh Miller who teaches poetry and creative writing at Rutgers University. Sue teaches music and writing at Watauga Elementary School in Ridgetop, Tennessee to approximately 500 students in kindergarten through fifth grade. She also publishes a literary magazine each year; all work in the magazine is written and illustrated by the students. Sue writes "Uncommon Sense," a column in the Robertson County Times, which also appears on Clarksville Online. She is the author of "Seven keys to a sucessful life", which is  available on amazon.com and pubishamerica.com; this is a self-help book for all ages.

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