Alexander McCall Smith

Alexander McCall Smith
Photo courtesy of Michael Lionstar

Alexander McCall Smith has written and contributed to more than 100 books, including specialist academic titles, short story collections, and a number of immensely popular children's books. He is best known for his internationally acclaimed and bestselling No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series, which currently has 13 volumes. The series has now been translated into 45 languages and has sold over 20 million copies worldwide. The first episode of a film adaptation, directed by Anthony Minghella, and produced by the Weinstein Company, premiered on HBO in March 2009. Another series, beginning with The Sunday Philosophy Club, about an intriguing woman named Isabel Dalhousie, appeared in 2004 and immediately leapt onto national bestseller lists, as did its sequels. The ninth Dalhousie novel, The Uncommon Appeal of Clouds, came out fall 2012. McCall Smith’s serial novel, 44 Scotland Street, was published in book form to great acclaim in 2005 and has been followed by many sequels. A solo novel, La’s Orchestra Saves the World, came out in December 2009. Corduroy Mansions, a series depicting the lives of the inhabitants of a large Pimlico house, was published and podcasted by the UK’s Daily Telegraph, and is now published in three volumes.

In addition, McCall Smith’s German professor series, Portuguese Irregular Verbs, The Finer Points of Sausage Dogs, and At the Villa of Reduced Circumstances were published in the US in January 2005. The newest book in the series, Unusual Uses for Olive Oil: A Professor Dr von Igelfeld Entertainment, has just been released. He is also the author of several children’s books, including The Great Cake Mystery (about Precious Ramotswe as a young girl), the Akimbo series, about a boy in Africa, the Harriet Bean series, the Max & Maddy series, and The Perfect Hamburger and other Delicious Stories. Pantheon has also published Alexander McCall Smith’s collection of African folktales, The Girl Who Married a Lion. He is currently working on a book about W. H. Auden which will be published by Princeton University Press in 2014.

McCall Smith was born in what is now Zimbabwe and was educated there and in Scotland. He became a law professor in Scotland, and it was in this role that he first returned to Africa to work in Botswana, where he helped to set up a new law school at the University of Botswana. For many years he was Professor of Medical Law at the University of Edinburgh, and has been a visiting professor at a number of other universities elsewhere, including ones in Italy and the United States. He is now a Professor Emeritus at the University of Edinburgh.

In addition to his university work, McCall Smith was for four years the vice-chairman of the Human Genetics Commission of the UK, the chairman of the British Medical Journal Ethics Committee, and a member of the International Bioethics Commission of UNESCO. He is the recipient of numerous awards, including The Crime Writers’ Association’s Dagger in the Library Award, the United Kingdom’s Author of The Year Award in 2004, the Saga Award for Wit, and Sweden’s Martin Beck Award. In 2007 he was made a CBE for his services to literature in the Queen’s New Year’s Honor List. He holds honorary doctorates from 12 universities, most recently from Southern Methodist University, Dallas. In 2010 McCall Smith was awarded the Presidential Order of Merit by the President of Botswana.

Alexander McCall Smith currently lives in Edinburgh with his wife Elizabeth (an Edinburgh doctor). His hobbies include playing wind instruments, and he is the co-founder of an amateur orchestra called "The Really Terrible Orchestra" in which he plays the bassoon and his wife plays the horn.

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