Author Alexander McCall Smith is sitting pretty. His books are international best sellers. HBO developed a popular series based on his “No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency,” and its most famous character, Precious Ramotswe. His new book, "The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party," hits shelves next week and the Scotland native is planning a book tour of the United States.
In the HBO series, actress/jazz singer Jill Scott stars as the beloved Precious Ramotwse, the “traditionally built” owner of the Botswana’s first female-owned detective agency, with Anika Noni Rose as Mma Ramotswe’s tightly-wound assistant Grace Makutsi and Lucian Msamati as the gentle Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni.
The “No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency” books have sold over 20 million copies and have been translated into 45 languages.
According to his official biography, McCall Smith was born in what is now Zimbabwe and was educated there and in Scotland.
After he became a law professor in Scotland, he returned to Africa, where he helped set up a new law school at the University of Botswana.
He holds honorary doctorates from 10 universities, most recently from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, where he spent time on the faculty.
He is now a professor emeritus at the University of Edinburgh.
The author took time from his hectic pre-release schedule to answer some questions.News-Telegram: Why do you think your Precious Ramotswe stories have received such a following?
Alexander McCall Smith: I think that Precious Ramotswe appeals to people as a character. She is a very kind person, and I think people feel the need for kindness in this life.
N-T: Were you pleased with HBO's adaptation of the “No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency”?
AMS: I was very happy with HBO's adaptation of the books. I thought that they did a very good job, and I was most grateful to them for respecting the ethos of the books and for making such a sympathetic and beautiful series.
N-T: Does HBO plan another season of stories?
AMS: Yes, there will be more episodes of the series, and the scripts are being worked on at the moment.
N-T: Talk a little bit about Jill Scott, who plays Mma Ramotswe. Were you happy with her?
AMS: I was delighted with Jill Scott's portrayal of Precious Ramotswe. I think that she played the role exceptionally well. In particular I was impressed by someone who had never been to Africa being able to get the accent so accurate. I think it was a magnificent performance.
N-T: Anika Noni Rose played Grace Makutsi as though she had lived with the graduate of the Botswana Secretarial College (97%) character all her life. What's it like to see a character like Grace come to life?
AMS: It was wonderful to see Grace Makutsi come to life on the screen. Anika Noni Rose is an extremely fine actress, and I was full of admiration for her portrayal of the character.
N-T: Lucian Msamati is a treasure as Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni. Such a good man ... and so kind. Were you pleased with his work?
AMS: Lucian Msamati played Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni to perfection. I think that he caught the character absolutely beautifully.
N-T: In the new book, "The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party," Mma Ramotswe's beloved Botswana seems to be catching up to the modern world – and not in a good way. Traditions seem to be losing their importance, especially among the younger generation. How can Mma Ramotswe help preserve the culture she so dearly loves?
AMS: Mma Ramotswe places great importance on the traditional Botswana ways and values. I think that we can count on her to put up a spirited defence of the old traditions!
N-T: Tell us one thing about Mma Ramotswe that we do not know.
AMS: Mma Ramotswe likes to put sugar in her Red Bush tea, but she does not like Mma Makutsi to see her doing it.
N-T: Some things cannot be replaced in our hearts. Mma Ramotswe knows this. By the end of the new book, it seems that Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni has finally figured out why his wife is so attached to the relics of her past. Is this true?
N-T: Are you touring for the book? Is there a Texas stop on the agenda?
AMS: Yes, I embark on a book tour at the end of March and will be in the US until mid-April. I am delighted to say that I shall be in Texas again on this occasion. I shall be in Houston on Monday, April 4, at Brazos Bookstore, and at Murder By the Book on Tuesday, April 5.
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