One of Scotland’s most popular books is to return to the airwaves next week thanks to a new BBC Radio 4 serialisation.
A series of short dramas based on Alexander McCall Smith’s bestselling 44 Scotland Street books will be broadcast every weekday on the station.
The broadcasts come as a new batch of stories in the series is to be published in The Scotsman, starting this Friday.
Already the longest running serial novel in the world, it will be the 12th year in a row that Mr McCall Smith’s chronicles of the residents in a fictitious Edinburgh tenement are serialised in the newspaper.
The new Radio 4 series marks the fourth time the characters and stories from the franchise have been adapted for the station’s 15 Minute Drama. Written and dramatised for radio by Mr McCall Smith, it has been produced and directed by David Ian Neville, and draws on stories from the various books in the series.
Inspired by US author Armistead Maupin’s Tales of The City, the 44 Scotland Street series has attracted a loyal fanbase since it was first serialised in The Scotsman in 2004.
The new chapters will be collected and published in book form – the 12th in the series to date – later this year, with the launch taking place at the Edinburgh International Book Festival.
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. The serial was also turned into a Fringe show in 2011.
Mr McCall Smith described the Scotland Street stories as “one of my most enjoyable ventures,” though even he has been taken aback at its longevity.
He said: “When I started this with The Scotsman all those years ago I had no idea that it would become the world’s longest-running serial novel. Writing it has been a pleasure, but so too has watching its progress elsewhere in the world. It is now translated into many different languages and I get the greatest pleasure out of meeting readers of this series in unexpected places.”
Mr McCall Smith said the team behind the radio dramas have interpreted the books “very accurately” and “captured the feeling” of Scotland Street, adding: “Wherever I go in the world I meet people who have come to Edinburgh to see the places associated with the books.
“Many visit Scotland Street itself, but look in vain for number 44, which does not exist. They find many of the other settings, though – I think they enjoy doing that.”