The No. 1 Ladies’ Writer In Carlsbad

by The Editors on April 25, 2008

Amsline2-1By 5:15 PM yesterday the line for tickets to see popular fiction writer and Carlsbad Reads author Alexander McCall Smith snaked across the front of Carlsbad’s Dove Library, around the corner, and all the way into the back of the parking lot.

“This is like a rock concert or something,” one woman said as she and her friends searched for the end of the line.

And she would have been right if rock concerts were attended almost exclusively by women in their late 50s to early 60s. Something about McCall Smith’s easy reading novels captures a demographic that Tolstoy might have described as “women who are not yet old.”


By 7 PM everyone with a ticket had filed into the the Ruby G. Schulman Auditorium and the George and Patricia Gowland Meeting room where the overflow audience could watch the lecture on closed circuit TV. When the stage curtains parted there was the jolly Scot Alexander McCall Smith in his suit jacket, tie, and kilt. Exactly as most everyone expected.

McCall Smith’s lecture was a perfectly paced performance of warmth, humor, and salesmanship. He began by saying that he would only speak for 40 minutes because “no topic is worth a lecture longer than 40 mintues. People like to nap so it’s good to let them know when it’s time to wake up.”

He touched on general jokes about American culture. “You American’s have many manners and most of them seem related to when it’s appropriate to wear white shoes,” he joked. “It has something to do with Labor day and whether you can wear them before or after. I still don’t know which it is.”

Ams KiltThe audience hung on every word, laughing on cue with the rhythm of his witty banter so by the time he finally got to the book everyone came to hear him discuss, he had the audience locked in.

While his talk was obviously built for fans of The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series he also took time to explain his other three serials (44 Scotland Street, The Sunday Philosophy Club, and The World According to Bertie) with the obvious hopes of encouraging this audience to buy the other books as well. It had an almost “if you like this you’ll love my other books” feeling to it. But then, that is what book tours are all about.

At the end of 40 minutes McCall Smith shared a poem from one of his other three serials. In the poem he eloquently stated that what is most important in life is the little thing, the small details, the local, and that only by celebrating the minuteness can we truly enjoy life. Apparently, that’s what his books are about, because most of the audience was nodding in affirmation.

McCall Smith answered questions read by a real life female detective from the Carlsbad Police Department. During the Q&A we learned that he writes 1,000 words an hour and that his books come out of his mind fully formed “like listening to music” he said. He rarely edits what he has written and that may explain why we’ve never been able to finish one of his books.

Ams Sign

At the signing which followed McCall Smith stood at the front of the room shaking hands and signing books until there were none left to sign. He was gracious and kind and sincere with each fan. It’s no wonder people are willing to spend their afternoon waiting in line to see him.

And it almost makes us want to give his books another try. Please, convince us in the comments.

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