Thursday, December 23, 2004
When an academic health lawyer with a specialty in bioethics sells books in the millions and is translated into a few score languages around the world, one's first reaction might be joy (and a private sense that if it can happen to one of us, it could happen to me) or it might be trepidation ("Oh, no, not another Luddite reworking of Frankenstein").
In the case of Alexander McCall Smith -- late of the University of Edinburgh and an occasional visitor on the law faculty at SMU -- joy would be the appropriate response. Sandy is one of those rarities in life: a self-effacing polymath, a person of boundless energy and cheer who takes nothing (least of all himself) too seriously. He is also the internationally best-selling author of the The Ladies No. 1 Detective Agency and its five (so far) sequels. Plus the first in a new mystery series set in Scotland, The Sunday Philosophy Club. And don't forget the collections of stories such as Portuguese Irregular Verbs or the best-selling children's books in the UK, at least before he was eclipsed by another Edinburgher. He is also one of the founders (and chief bassoonist) of Edinburgh's Really Terrible Orchestra. I have sat in with the RTO in rehearsal (on a truly sweet-sounding clarinet cobbled together from three so-so instruments in Sandy's personal collection) and the RTO richly deserves its name (though, to his credit, Sandy's bassoon-playing does not seem to be dragging them down; in fact, no one in the orchestra remembers ever hearing him play a single note on the thing).
If you haven't run across Alexander McCall Smith or his fictional creations, this holiday break would be a good time to learn more about him (starting with this profile in the Dec. 23 Macleans) and to pick up one of his books.