Daily Express

By Matt Nixson


seal colonies and birds, and there’s a functionin­g lighthouse on one. I don’t have to do anything, they’re just wild.”

As well as his most famous creation, private detective Mma (it’s pronounced “ma”) Precious Ramotswe of The No 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, whose adventures have seen her described as being like a sleuth from an “African Agatha Christie”, his other works include the 44 Scotland Street series, 12 volumes of the Sunday Philosophy Club, dozens of children’s books and his new Detective Varg series, of which more below.

Partly, he believes, he was fortunate to find his audience later in life. Now 71, his age and experience have built up a huge bank of material to draw upon and – while he is constantly inspired by his travels – fans will be delighted to learn that being stuck at home in Edinburgh has not dented his literary endeavours nor output.

“Writing requires experience. You develop an understand­ing of the world; you see human nature and you constantly draw on that,” he explains.

“I think the sort of book one is going to write aged 50 is going to be very different to the sort of book one writes at 20 because of

‘We can’t all go off, at the drop of a hat, for a stag weekend in Poland... it isn’t doing the planet any good’

the intervenin­g years of human experience. I do like watching and listening to people and that’s part of my novelist’s function.

“But I think I’ve got enough in the memory bank to draw on for a fairly prolonged period of seclusion though let’s hope lockdown’s not going to be too long now.”

McCall Smith, a retired professor of medical ethics at the University of Edinburgh, is only too aware of the issues surroundin­g the pandemic response.

His two grown-up daughters, plus a son-inlaw, are NHS doctors and his wife, Elizabeth, is a retired physician. While not profession­ally involved, he has been following the public debate closely and is deeply sympatheti­c for those whose lives are on hold.

“I get the impression the people making these decisions are being very careful about them,” he says cautiously. “They’ve got a balancing act between survival of the economy on one hand and public health on the other.”


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