ALEXANDER McCall Smith is writing another volume of his best-selling series, 44 Scotland Street, for The Scotsman.
The latest of his daily novels of life in Edinburgh’s New Town will begin on 7 January and will be published in the newspaper and online at scotsman.com. The serialisation will appear as a book later in the year.
This will be the ninth volume of a series that has gone on to become a global success since it first appeared in The Scotsman in 2004. It has been translated into a dozen languages, and racked up worldwide sales of about two million.
Central to the series’ success is the character of Bertie, a six-year-old child prodigy with a pushy mother.
“Bertie has been six for the last eight years,” said McCall Smith. “In the new volume, there will be a major change: he is going to be seven.
“He seems to have struck a chord with readers all over the world – I have had quite a few letters from people who inform me that they are naming their child after him.”
The fictional Edinburgh of 44 Scotland Street, McCall Smith concedes, differs in many ways from everyday realities of life in the city. This is an Edinburgh in which it is usually summer, the banks haven’t collapsed and not a single road has been affected by tram works.
“Not mentioning the trams in Edinburgh is rather like writing about London during the Blitz and not mentioning that any bombs were falling,” said McCall Smith. On the other hand, he points out, this means that the books won’t date quite so quickly. The world of Scotland Street may be a warmer, kinder, funnier place than the world most of us live in but that, he insists, doesn’t mean that it avoids life’s big themes.
“Bertie’s story is really about freedom and repression, Big Lou’s is about the search for love and looking after people, Cyril’s is about loyalty, and so on.
“That’s why these stories strike a chord with readers all the way round the world, and why I love writing them.”
So far, he has written ten episodes. There is, he says, trouble in store for the Moray Place nudists. Someone might report Cyril the dog for drinking beer. Antonia will return from Italy with a nun who helped her recovery.
And Bertie? What’s going to happen to him?
“You’re just going to have to read it and find out,” laughed the author.
• Alexander McCall Smith will be talking about the influence of music on his books in a special event at Edinburgh’s Queen’s Hall next Tuesday evening. The music will be provided by the choir from St Mary’s Music School, traditional fiddler Pete Clark, Dick Lee on clarinet and Anne Evans on flute. Jamie Jauncey, who will interview him, will also perform on keyboards.
Tickets are still available, and The Scotsman has ten pairs (normally £15 each) to give away to readers. They will go to the first ten people who get in touch with the Queen’s Hall box office (0131-668 2019, open 10am-5:30pm today) quoting the code: “Trains and Lovers, Scotsman”.