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Last Updated: Saturday, 30 December 2006, 00:47 GMT
McCall Smith shows the write way
Alexander McCall Smith
McCall Smith spent much of his early life in Africa
Alexander McCall Smith, who has been made a CBE for services to literature, was already a professor of medical law before he hit fame as an author.

Born in what was then Rhodesia in 1948, he moved to Scotland to study and eventually settled in Edinburgh.

His breakthrough novel, The No 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, came out in 1998 and has since been translated into 37 languages.

He said his award was "wonderful news", and that he felt lucky to be chosen.

McCall Smith returned to Scotland after spending time in Botswana working on criminal law, and helping set up a university law faculty.

Warm-hearted whodunnits

His position in Edinburgh established his reputation as an international authority on genetics and he served as an advisor to Unesco and the British government on bioethics.

These activities have been forced to take a back seat as his writing career has taken off.

Already the author of a number of academic and children's books, McCall Smith achieved renown with Ladies' Detective Agency, a series of warm-hearted whodunnits set in Botswana.

It features Precious Ramotswe, a down-to-earth yet imaginative woman who set up a private detective business, primarily to make her country a better place.

Writing speed

The books' celebration of warmth, compassion and moral certainty are seen as a balance to his legal career's philosophical complexities and dilemmas.

There is also the 44 Scotland Street series, which details events at the address in question and the Isabel Dalhousie books, which deal with everyday moral quandaries.

He is able to generate such a body of work because of his legendary writing speed.

While some writers may spend all day entangled in a single sentence, stories swirl of McCall Smith being able to turn out 3,000 words before lunch.


Despite, or perhaps because of, his success McCall Smith has become a target for "serious" writers and critics, who decry his work for its "rose-tinted" view of the world.

But he has stoutly defended this, saying that he writes about the people as they would want to be seen and insists it is "legitimate to write about virtue".

Reacting to news of his honour, McCall Smith said: "This is a tribute to one particular Botswana lady and what she represents.

"So I might say this award is really for Mma Ramotswe.

"But I feel very honoured with the award.

"I am very conscious of the fact that there are lots of other people who are more deserving, but it means a great deal to me."


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