Sunday, 26 June 2016


I don't suppose for one moment that I am the only person who, when reading something written by someone I know, hears that person's voice.  I had never really thought about that until a friend who had bought a copy of my book told me how much she had enjoyed it, and went on to say that she could hear me telling the story as she read it.

(A shameless bit of self-advertising - but all profits go to Brighton Lions Club Charity Trust Fund.)

Now I come to re-read that paragraph, I can't remember just why I decided to start this post like that. Although I suppose 'recognition' is a vague connection with what I had set out to think about.

Anyway, I have just finished reading what is, I think, the latest offering from Alexander McCall Smith.  Mr Smith - or Mr McCall Smith as he might prefer to be called although his name is not double-barreled - must be one of the most prolific writers working these days.  I think the latest count is 51 novels for adults, 27 children's novels and 13 academic tests. Plus a number of anthologies and short stories. He is, perhaps, best known for the No 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series about Mma Ramwotse.  These books are set in Botswana although others of his are set in Edinburgh.

The book I have just finished is My Italian Bulldozer, set - as the title suggests - in Italy. Obviously, I knew who the author was before I even opened the book but, had it be covered in plain brown paper and had I opened it at random and started to read, I would very quickly have known who had written it.  Mr McCall Smith's distinctive, some might say idiosyncratic, style of writing is instantly recognisable.  It is a style that is well-suited to the (supposedly) slower and more leisurely lifestyle of Tuscan villages and Botswana - although I don't think it fits so well in dreary, rain-swept Edinburgh. Reading one of the Ladies' Detective Agency titles is like taking a leisurely stroll with no reason to hurry. The same applies to the Italian Bulldozer.

Over the years I must have read books by hundreds of different authors.  In some cases there might have been 20 or even 30 books written by the same author.  But I don't think I have come across another writer with such a distinctive literary style as Alexander McCall Smith.

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