Author's Stage | Alexander McCall Smith

good evening hello my name is Jocelyn electron with health libraries and I'm excited to welcome you all to the Central Library tonight for an author reading with one of the world's best loved authors Alexander McCall of course the author of the number one ladies detective agency novels and a number of other standalone novels and series including the longest-running serial novel in the world the 44 Thomas remodeled it works have been translated into more than 40 languages and have been F fellers throughout the world he also has an interesting perhaps side career and a terrible musician the founding member of the really terrible orchestra in his hometown of Edinburgh and I read an interview that sandy and that Alexander gave earlier this year shortly before being presented with the prestigious Medal of Honor Award from the New York National Arts Club and he was asked to explain what he thought the appeal of the number one ladies detective agencies series was especially to a North American audience and his reply was the world can be a bit of a veil of Tears at times a very trying place my mower mom's way is the very antithesis of that time and that thermal earrings truth for me and I'm sure it does for most of you as well I've enjoyed reading his books for the last almost 20 years for this series and I am so looking forward to hearing tonight what mods were what sway and we could see are up to you in the house of unexpected sisters so won't you please join me in welcoming Alexander McCall Smith [Applause] thank you very much daddy Johnson people very generous introduction and ladies and gentlemen thank you very much for coming to see me and see about what we could to just live off of it that's all right is that right yeah thank you very much my defense people didn't realize that all microphones and throughout the world are made in the same place it's one of latitude that reduces voyeurism and at the end of the story there's a long desk with a hammer my friends go to the party done to each of the Americans and so they therefore have their in to do synthetic characteristics they go wrong I've never met one that hasn't gone wrong this evening that whole plant a choice very much but I don't consider me bad not funny experiences including one classic experience I had some beer school when I was addressing the ever illuminating gathering this big economy event number and they have literally one they have Dakota is responsible for 500 people and I was speaking to it with Willie never able to writes these wonderful books but Indian history that that I'm sure many of you will be familiar with and within I were in the green room at the back of the hall before the evening and we were miked up with at least lapel mics and will he said to me how old are you readers and I said well the range of Ages I've got some quite young readers and then so not so young readers and then he said my readers are positively ancient and that's the point of which we saw the organizers running down I've said to really look don't worry if your readers intentions as you say they are written but doesn't let me get your introduction you very kindly mentioned the musical side of my life at one of the golden vehicle which I think I read account but I'm one of the world's worst musicians I'm very I'm really not very good at all but my wife died about 20 years ago decided that we would start an orchestra for people who rarely were nervous and couldn't play their instruments but would like to be an enormous right this often comes to people when they see their kids going into the school orchestra to go to the school orchestra and you see the school orchestra having this tremendous honor and you think oh go try this start on that and so we set up an orchestra and we have to think of an analogue Estrada's didn't have to think of the name of it so we decided to call it the really terrible orchestra which of course is things that what you see on the tin that's what you get and we advertised and we'd have not a lot of people actually applying to join I don't quite work out why we got so many carriages and then I brought us that everybody learns the clarinet at school this is something that everybody does and I suspect if we did a follows evening we discover that probably 95% of people test ellezi learnt the clarinet at school and then you forget about it and it's only very much later on when you are having a look in the Attic when you get home today and you'll probably discover the clarinet in the Attic and if like these dudes who provide you with us and you go to Karen Angie what's removing it's as street for three weapons one see okay that was it it is the ornament so we know all these paramedics and various other people or different producers and they joined us and we that was 20 years ago we in play after our passion for 20 20 years and it really as we saw and cacophonous that hasn't discouraged us if we have to focus on doing it and we belong to a reaction unity wouldn't believe us that we went to New York we went to the we paid in the New York humble and it was full or vertical and a you know the New York audiences like they're so cool jaded their city they don't they never planted a spy but they got a standing ovation and they don't absolutely the gym because it was such a sort of opposite of the American philosophy trying to succeed and trying to do everything they knew they would you ever getting that I've actually reveled in the pack to behave and every Webster Netherlands the some reason quite different to understand the you know let's come past here taking turns and then this is not a we were to see and we made it invisible invincible consulate soccer history like today people really like to see collaborative musicians trying to reach them at the same time to stop to stop messages he stopped us because he said there's something really wrong and we discovered the one section the office or was paying a totally different [Applause] something which you could consider and it's great uncertainty we've had several marriages we have a marginal profit search we had the other merit agenda and that is so we both have babies that have resulted in extra that's a wonderful wonderful thing okay enough of that what I'd like to do this evening is talk very briefly actual and Genesis ed probably use most of our and then after that who I'd be very delighted to answer any questions that you have how did you deal with any complaints because because we like to complain about rivals there's nothing that his people written ever and them to contain to others about their books and in particular to discover mistakes people absolutely agree does not give you quite a mistake what you could write to the author doesn't matter how long it is and this stables name you might say page doesn't so she said absent any sets on the house a page and ten continues or punishments it's our 35 so I have made mistakes my books I wasn't proposing to say much about this evening I might have made mistakes quite as it reaches Rita as one American novelist who on page one of his books described one of his characters unfortunately having one arm and the page 142 the same character claps his hands together mistakes books but you you you one thing you must don't get wrong is the first Center it's actually really really important first sentence is the life of it because in many cases that's the only sentence that the critics read and even though realizes the food critics have this extraordinary ability to judge a book on places in person and those reviews that you see in the news it's all based just on the person it's an extraordinary time they really persons and that one two three possible always get a profit it's it's important so he gives your first sentence absolutely right I move about favorite first sentences on my very first sentence is a sentence from Caribou Santa Barbara where she she says right into the kingdom book I had a farm in Africa at the foot of the earth god it's a wonderful sentence with that gorgeous residents and that is very poorly in the movie that they do in Africa where the camera pans across this corners he's done is he hearing and Meryl Streep who's play who's playing terabits says I have audiences are they beginning starting slow moving memoir that um I was in Kenya in January and we went to connect us basically caramel just sat outside my early Tuesday I realize it would have to eat it instead go to her to pass we worked hard on the run off the law and I looked up Lysol they've gone if there's multiple meant friendly when you have a book to them go and see the charities or people has described and it's there before it is quite a special moment I also went to Karen Blixen sassy as I couldn't payments on the ask you I was visiting my Danish culture and she said would you like to go and see Paris I see we might not there and I'm telling he's really partly because she would see this play and there's the desk with the photographic Dennis Finch who's on the on the desk and then you Polly were winding house and you get to a greater tree and under that tree is currently it's I very pretty animals to have my lovely of the first by there's not the first language I thought I would come from prison for these trials and trends on which is a marvelous comic novel 30p we did these days many that it it's it's very very funny and her first line is an absolute classic for it oh my god said my aunt dot on her way back from my mast market forces relationship – narrator the art had to go to a bit of religion in America – there's a very very good first first line but not to be beat by I think one of the finest first lines ever which is from a book called the young visitors by Daisy Ashford and this book is already about wonderful – look it's a novella it's about 60 70 pages written by a mine owner Arthur oh girl in Edwardian times Daisy Ashford sat down and read this does wonderful naive plastic some people said the chief there they thought the Jo Mary all through people who had written it but in fact that was the work of his I mean I wrote and and the first fired that is just absolutely wonderful bearing in mind that it's written by mine and after all and the first line is mr. salteena was an elderly man of 42 and what opportunities they say well let's see first night after in Vietnam to number one ladies detective agency we've got volume 18 of the number one negative static agency published just really this week or last week very very short time ago and that's called the house of unexpected sisters and me the title I suppose does give something away in fact it gives away the look there we are there were some books that do that Tolstoy's war and peace so the house of unexpected sisters were back in what's wrong with our Matsui and mama could see her assistant in that wonderful little office of the nominators detective agency I haven't heard of the various things that are happening wrong things that's happening is that our monthly house is asked to deal with the case of unfair dismissal she's a very strong sense of justice in getting justice and so she often helps people even if they can't afford the fees tries to sort things out so she didn't work out at the same time she discovers that this there's another person caught our hearts bussiness she sees a photograph of the paper of the nurse called orang asli and so that raises the issue of who is this other environments paper cause she thought she knew who all the members of the robots were family and this is a this is a new a new member to her so the book is about that is inside I suppose the story of discovery of family interesting they know I've been quite surprised and I've known in my time there quite a number of people who have discovered siblings that they didn't because you think that generally speaking we know our brothers and sisters are but in character I've learned people who have discovered half-brothers how sisters thing and that must be really rather nice probably the moment of indecision when you have to decide whether you're going to meet this acidity or not because if you did not get like the sibling that may be better not to be and so on so it is more it's a more common problem or issue than one might imagine orang asli of course deals with it very well she deals with everything extremely well treated oh she's such a nice balanced person should not based on anybody but really people often sent in history based on a particular person and I say that that I couldn't take you to the Department of didn't sue to this person and say this tomorrow mastery but the third particular to Botswana and introduce you to people who are pretty like her because she's she's and type and I've met lots of lots of ladies what's wrong exactly like I'm not sure they exist intuitive hard-working and there's a certain cheerfulness and dealing with life with unconventional students peers and so she's she's she's real in that in that sense I do put some actual real people into the books but they they come in as named drug people they actually exist I don't based pontus on on people because I think that that could be a purpose if a person feels that the characters based on them they have been really necessarily not much of the means of reply so what I will introduce introduce actual people and they entered I did adopt us a lot of the Scotland sleep with their partisan characters and that actually really environment cells and stomping Street with their consent 11 watts and the form of the former First Minister's Scotland who's the equivalent of a veterinarian in inactivating problems and we have first been stressed out by messenger to do and he said oh I'm reading you da Vinci books and I said oh that's great First Minister lemon berry on my season which enacted here them he said Venus okay absurd and then I spied something to do eventually I decided then I have a poverty is one of the characters in stocking streamers walking down a steep road an emperor he freezes in the middle of the road and this is us come early number of this is in his heart until disaster and the trust amounts of the first mr. Scott is walking on paper tossed and he dashes out and saves from the various agencies very far affairs other series books these lousy series is another favorite mine that says no Isabella Rossi is moral philosopher and she runs something called review of applied ethics but she has spent her time yet in both these problems she wanted these people who participated to draw the line as to who she had a chance and which doesn't I said that's the liver problem for and she needs otherwise ideal line she has got a much younger called Jeannie I was musician he plays it soon and initially his boss got a niece called cat who's not very bad taste in men she goes the wrong sort of madness as many nieces dude she's had a series of pretty unsuitable unsuitable boyfriends and then she gets as well advice my friend JD and his openings for the long-lost cats getting getting crushed man but in part because he's so nice it's camp gets really and visible a lot I liked him so she she she thinks she will continue her friendship with it and she she does that she continues to see them and either he would be partly used inside looking for in these books Indian platonic sense of the time venture but I came under increasing pressure to let her have repair I was interviewed by a journalist from The Daily Express and this woman said to me you must net is about have enough ham vacuum I'll assert of these books are sent abroad we live doing nothing but I use depression I said to her why she like that his mother had an affair with Jenny and she said because it would be very empowering for 180 metres over 40 silent and indeed I received a number of letters from my favorites very supportive for Scotland Street series which is in serial novel I published that chapter i chapter as I write it in Scotsman newspaper and it comes out as a book and I'm not doing that a particular because of thought one of my favorite characters and image my favorite characters environments and that is a little boy called Bertie anonymity is six at the beginning of the series which is four volumes and he sits for eight minutes myself and everybody else making runners at least 14 speed six verses is it that's a very common problem for little boys if you ask them what their problem is their productivity Doozers scratch it and euros and particularly others to the pushing a Silurian pages we were under a very very serious problem of excessively pushing months the highest incidence in which situation talk about Sunday but which others in this man said yes yes and he abdicated in its own settings in the coffee house and this woman came in with us road is rocky road son Bobby of Sun City control his lawn I mean I like that and she said he gets searched hard often his dance classes she doesn't dude Molly's the beginning looks he goes to the past and I'm not good morning pastor and while he's at his advanced chem cotton his father only goes to the float area where she votes in a position to dispense and Irene's interpretation chamber Monday and cellphone having secrets of the advanced confirm is Christabel function online appearances but you can to come up to the advanced kinga has been finished and sir Irene's the cross map that she gets out of notation Jen and goes up to the advanced can come to be greeted by a fixed mr. Parker mister where I have being honest one of the children has written graffiti on the toilet bowl and I mean bristles said why do you look at me why do you think it's my version Anderson says because he's the only one who can rocks once to once is a Swiss Army and that's really really well and when he has his seventh birthday he gets two presents from his mother with his particular [Applause] you to to care about Itachi and so he's very masculine is generally legacy of the present but again it might be if not husband Tommy and then life it might be a training center something I love the duties which is it's a junior UN peacekeeping sig Israeli sovereignty under market I give them a glimpse of being a pilot and I let it have a bit of reading my review I mean promising from it was one book in which Irene supports a charity which sounds relief supplies to remain and surgery goes off to the Waldorf to saving the lives of the trucks that are taken reliefs there's a mindfulness and it wasn't another case is he's he persuades his mother to enter into a competition which office five days holiday as the price see things out of the way of kitchens father want to see everyone this is this is Brian I place in the Persian Gulf which is wanted to expand his tourist they wanted useful and so I mean with the slogan which is so much and so hesitant so she would inspire death on the Persian Gulf and she goes off there and unfortunately she spills coffee on her dress she needs a new dress as a boutique in the hotel they achieved to the Eva the only art that they have is a desert and a veteran ladies desert Harpeth and that of course completed punishment so she wears that and she's mistaken for the new wife of the veteran she actually stood up to her in the desert a British charge a 2/3 plus his best fine get her released but the Sheikh is having none of it because he'd have a bit of trouble with his wives at least and I mean if he has to calm them down and because she is formed so that picks up absolutely per month and financing not occasionally he does go he goes off with his father fishing one day because one of the dogs in the Penton – it's just outside Edinburgh and but he doesn't quite capture fish – all this but it's like he doesn't really seem destined to to to to achieve greatness so he doesn't quite education but they go and a mist comes down they get lost afterwards and when they're trying to get back to the car and he ends up in a farmhouse and the farmer's wife says don't come we're not make your cup of tea and then I'll get my husband to run you back to car and Bertie suddenly rises in this house is a real six year old boy a boy leading a real boy's life and this is a little boy called Andy and that means very nice diverging says Bertie would you like to come and see my things and verticity SP is acting he takes them upstairs to his room and he opens a straw and there in the drawer is not one but six suicide you know I've hurt his little heart fills with joy at the sight and oddly reaches for one of their minds takes long he says this Bertie is a Swiss Army member the swiss army fights goodly with penknives so we'll see what happens to 2:00 to 2:30 relievers incite others going on to do a PhD in Aberdeen with dr. urban a thermistor that might endure because dr. pepper is you diseased little new disease looks remarkably like make the direct suggestion that matters that is something which has been noted by those who says to his father mummy doesn't do disease that Clara doctor thoroughly said you don't say that anyway now finally I'll say a little bit about I write standalone novels which had nothing to do with series they're just single novels and there's a standalone that asked when I wrote it was called my Italian bulldozer and that has been published in in Canada now and by a terrible loser interesting Lee enough well again the title rather gives the game away but I've set him in initially ever done that actually is based on something that I actually really happened to me last year which I thought to have mentioned to you last year I was doing a bit of writing I wanted to finish it and I was having difficulty getting the necessary he's required to do so my wife said well why did you go away for a couple weeks work on it and get it done in in isolation I said well that's that's great and I think I'll go to Italy because I'm a great fan of Italy and so I bought the ticket air ticket from heaven brother Peter and I intended to go to a wonderful the hilt are called Montalcino which is in the sea of these hills and it's one of these beautiful italia hill towns up on top the hill looking out earthy over the valleys below and they make a very good wine they're called Brunello at Montalcino that's one of the best of the Italian wines and so I thought I'd go there for a couple of weeks so I got on this plane from abroad to Pisa and on the plane I meant about sitting next to me who was very friendly Italians usually very friendly conversation people who haven't we got chatting and he was a businessman who Tontons ceramic tiles who did they make these wonderful ceramic tiles and there today and heaping on business Scotland was going back to Tunisia so we tapped away and when we got to these I said goodbye teams one was two friends nearly made of an aircraft I mean we went on into the into the arrival hall that I went to the car rental office there and I gave my ID and I said I've reserved a car with you the other man behind the desk took the idea and shook his heaven said no reservation I said the world I did make a reservation have ID fortunately I printed out the email which day that replied to me say we have reserved the following car for you so I showed this to him and he said that is no longer valid so taken aback place I said will you party if you can't give me that car give me another girl and he said I'm very sorry this is a holiday weekend all our cars arrived and so I was I was pretty promised by that and at that point my new traffic in the plane was walking past he came over and said anything wrong by explaining what the situation was he said don't worry I've got a friend who's got a vehicle rental business just a couple of miles from there come with me and he'll be shot and that's to pull the chariot renders everybody needs to be as it's about difficulties in America so I went off with him to this this his friend and we've got a model and he should be said push out for that is it's go back is reverse and then not only that and suit I am I pass this budget and I sit on my couch it'll be some time but it was ready for the nice is there any features for sound like after eventually IH college I went to the hotel right in reserve which is called the upper go to the lily and every morning I would copy in the main yes in it have a name yet and I got talking to the locals I became very friendly with the local prints which is probably the same I don't find all sorts of things and then two days before I was due to go the priest said to me look I've got a brother who's not a wine estate just outside Montalcino and he's asked you would you like to come for lunch I said oh that's great and then he turns tonight we've got to this my mistake wonderful and he said look I didn't have the simple Tuscan lunches eight horses very very much and at the end of it he said concise I'll show you the thing up so where do I sign he explained that a brilliant achievement has to be produced within a very strictly circumscribed in production and if you're outside the sermon production you have to sell the over wine as a rotted Montalcino which is you for which again much lower price and so he was armed just outside the desert much and the armory of the brush was a low and he said do you think you might crack – terribly I was in a hurry position I would say those these people they've been so actually so I've gotten the Warner's an Airbus a logical carotid and it'll be mama huh but I should deserve production and there was some degree and we went inside and he said thank you so much as I'd like it was toast so you've got undercover cases went to the priest and then he caught a bottle of his wife and bordered and we toasted in what was now [Applause] [Applause] was I have to tell you that I have a friend who works at the church down the street we have a lunch bunch Choir than these every week or so and I mentioned the orchestra diversion seriously has been trying to get a very bad orchestra started with their economic plans to socially be inspired so we are going to do a bit of a human aid with Alexander and afterwards love everybody to stay seated for a few minutes and we're getting situated it's just I'm the book and then we'll have some the staff who can help you queue up for designing don't worry he has promised that he will not leave this building until all are signed up to your question and if you just holler it out before they arrive I can always repeat it's moving on here all right so does anybody have a question just curious what just didn't play badly well thank you I did start updating soon am I good conscience it and that I started to play brought in my power play in that store would cross this axis don't I play the part of my wife place the deposit money the the the MA in since water which is MMA the mm slightly accentuates the sound so yes as well as being Sigma we just say not decided rah ezel wrote money is well yes he does strip clubs are top seed in ethanol demonstrate functionality so it's just so much enjoyed your story of the first lines and that's the cheek you love me love me illustration that and I am very handsome when it comes to two colors it is art they're all getting even I actually really get involved the beginning to the authenticity in the Martian colonies with suggestions and so these is thought my great diamond mine in my past especially in the way it was it's I'm saying [Laughter] built by the the contract it was just it was quite extraordinary I'm sure there would be people with us this evening you know Matt's father and I hope that they might feel the same that it's it's a country which has a very very extraordinary quality to it and you just know when you're in Botswana you feel you're in a good place it's extraordinary it's just it just is a very fine country and I remember being really really struck by that by the fact that this was a country in a very troubled region of southern Africa the Nautilus was consistent leading Democratic where human rights were not observed I mean obviously every country has its little has its little bad spots but the Botswana reading has been a model station back in there very there are a lot of people they're very courteous people the very polite people that could they're quite restrained there they're not straight but it's it's it really is a remarkable culture I was very very pigmented and that's really what prompted me to where I started I have no idea when I sat down and wrote the first of these books that I was engaging in a very modern different conversation in the country of the people but that's what it developed into and I make no apology to the fact that by the travel plans upon it's very positive work I'm accused of not recognizing that there are actual sides to it but in fact I think the problem is that external writers writers from outside in turn their gaze to sub-saharan Africa often just concentrate on things that are wrong and concentrated on confrontation and where is Authority research with pathology phenomena technology and so and so Africa gets in a way a very bad press right from the start I'm not saying that there are things like that occurring that these major issues but the other side of the coin is that these countries seem to me to be full of people who leading good lives and leading them with her with this dignity and I was struck by that and that's what that's what I'm not relative convey in these in these books so it's a country I love a good mother I have great great admiration for that's one and for what they've done they've built the country reserves since independence in 1966 it was a British protectorate before that where they've got independence it has something like 8 miles of tart Road and a company secretary schools the city it has been the policy I suppose what it's a relatively benign neglect and the modeling they've lived over the country themselves and they're very proud of it but I believe I was in Botswana some years ago and the BBC were making a film about books and they were filming the conversation I'm swimming with with amount of the the Walton farm it's the children so which I use as basis for my little pony so far and I was talking to this town and I said to her you proud of your country not that's that's the sort of product that we we would I need the question but in fact it's perfectly okay to save money over country and the tears came to his eyes he said I've and everybody who was there watching this recognizes was this was absolutely genuine honest [Applause] [Applause] last question but you're a pretty prolific writer and I must confess it never in any of them would think I won't do you reckon so you bring with the pen very well I I don't raising dictation that's very interesting question I find if I dictate is a different voice and it looks on the page it's tilted I dictated and still didn't way so I could conduct a two-letter but I can't I can't dictate content a to look so for the most part by writing a word processor so I write on a computer because I find screen right there writing on the screen very easy it's really I think I think it provides very easy form of access to the subconscious mind where the the ideas and sentences are formed so that's the way I did and occasionally I really use the pen if I'm writing just a one of that sort of thing I've got that book so it was kind of this was being that might have a door to in which I've I've written something sometimes I write in the book I started that what occurs between first is the very last two sentences and I write this for a little book it's a very curious thing and those are right compared to mine I just thought I have an image of what what is happening on them at the very end and then so that's how I write every day I have to write okay so dude about for fibers yeah and so I write I write quite quite quickly I write upwards I go to our state and I didn't have to say to myself what's gonna happen love times when you how many books yes never any books all right it's ready what's on this it's yours [Applause] [Applause] so I just want to thank you guys so glad you come back to Halifax and like I said we'll get on Cinderella set up of two's on the books and that will help you almost she wants to do that and do all the panel of the evening thank you very much

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