Alexander McCall Smith’s Edinburgh stories get their own television series

Alexander McCall Smith's stories set in Edinburgh's New Town have been a regular feature in The Scotsman since 2004. Photograph: Jayne Wright
Alexander McCall Smith's stories set in Edinburgh's New Town have been a regular feature in The Scotsman since 2004. Photograph: Jayne Wright
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It is the best-selling series of books set in the New Town of Edinburgh that started life as a daily novel in the pages of The Scotsman newspaper.

Now the inhabitants of 44 Scotland Street are set to get their own television series after author Alexander McCall Smith revealed a screen incarnation is in development.

The former law professor, who has been a prolific author for the past 20 years, revealed a production company had acquired the rights for an adaptation of his send-up of middle-class Edinburgh society – 15 years after his stories set in the New Town first appeared in print.

And McCall Smith said he would be writing the TV series, which is expected to feature familiar characters like Pat, Matthew, Bruce, Bertie and Angus.

It is likely to be filmed in Edinburgh’s New Town, which recently provided the backdrop to scenes shot for Belgravia, a new ITV period drama based on the novels of Downtown Abbey creator Julian Fellowes.

The New Town’s Georgian architecture will stand in for 19th century London in “a story of secrets and dishonour”, which unfolds at a high society ball on the eve of the Battle of Waterloo.

The Scotsman, sister publication of Scotland on Sunday, became the first UK newspaper to publish a daily novel when 44 Scotland Street first appeared in January 2004.

It has gone on to become the longest-running newspaper serial in the world, while a 13th 44 Scotland Street novel, The Peppermint Tea Chronicles, has just been published by Polygon.

The first 44 Scotland Street novel was named one of the nation’s top 10 books of the last 50 years in 2013, alongside Alasdair Gray’s Lanark, Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh, William McIlvanney’s Docherty and Morvern Callar by Alan Warner.

In an interview at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, the author revealed that the 44 Scotland Street adaptation is one of two new TV series in the pipeline.

He said he had already written a screenplay for an initial instalment of a “colourful romp” set in Scotland and described the project as “fairly advanced”.

McCall Smith has previously admitted that he hadn’t initially contemplated writing 44 Scotland Street as a daily series until he was asked to do so by then Scotsman editor Iain Martin. Seven years later, he joined forces with the BBC to take his characters on to Radio 4.

A stage adaptation, entitled The World According to Bertie, was performed at the 2011 Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

He said: “There are people working on a TV series. The rights have been optioned by a television company and people are trying to develop it at the moment.

“But these things can take a long time and we’ll have to wait and see.

“I would be very interested in seeing 44 Scotland Street become a television series.

“I have already done a drama series of 44 Scotland Street for Radio 4, when I worked with the producer David Ian Neville. I wrote five 15-minutes episodes and it was a great pleasure. I wouldn’t want to be involved in the casting of a TV adaptation in any way. TV and film is a very different world from mine. That would really be down to the director.”

McCall Smith has already seen his most successful series of books, The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, which are set in Botswana, turned into a TV series by the BBC and HBO.

McCall Smith added: “I have been approached to come up with a new series set in Scotland.

“I’ve already written the first screenplay and there are now people working on getting it to the next stage. It’s fairly advanced, but you never quite know with these things.

“It is going to be about the experiences of someone who visits Scotland, let’s put it that way. I’d describe it as a colourful romp.”

News of a 44 Scotland Street TV series has emerged two years after it was announced that playwright and screenwriter Gregory Burke had been hired for a TV reboot of Ian Rankin’s Inspector Rebus novels.