Now Alexander McCall Smith, who writes the 44 Scotland Street stories for The Scotsman, has revealed he has become a theatre impresario in South Africa.
At the Edinburgh International Book Festival, the best-selling writer revealed he is now the owner of a tiny 50-seater venue in Cape Town.
He has joined Nicholas Ellenbogen, a leading actor, playwright, director and producer in Cape Town, to run the Rosebank Theatre, a former drama school.
The Zimbabwe-born writer, who found fame with the first No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency novel 18 years ago, has worked on several drama and opera productions during his career.
He previously worked with Ellenbogen – who founded the Theatre for Africa company in 1989 with his wife Elizabeth – when he directed McCall Smith’s opera based on Macbeth, which transferred the Shakespearean tragedy to a troupe of baboons.
McCall Smith said: “I’m quite a regular visitor to Cape Town – it’s a really interesting part of the world.
“I really did this for Nick, who has been a friend of mine for many years and has his own theatre company who are able to put on all kinds of different shows throughout the year.
“I was passing through Cape Town and when I saw Nick he said he was quite interested in this place, which was originally built as a house and has been a theatre school most recently.
“When I saw it I thought it was just gorgeous. He was hoping to get a lease for it at that point but I wondered whether the landlord would sell it. Ha was very happy.
“It was very much an impulse thing to but it. I don’t actually go to see that much theatre. But I’ve seen what pleasure Nick brings to people. He’s a great encouragement to actors at the beginning of their career. Nick is very good with his hands – he completely converted it by knocking walls down and built all the seats. The result is really lovely.”