McCall Smith on his lady detectives

Bookslut writer Clayton Moore recently interviewed Alexander McCall Smith, creater of the endearing and gentle Botswanan detective Mma Ramotswe. Here is the excerpt in which Smith compares Mma Ramotswe with Isabel Dalhousie, protagonist of The Sunday Philosophy Club:

“Isabel would look at Mma Ramotswe and know this was a good woman. She would greatly admire Mma Ramotswe and would want to be like her because she represents this sort of spontaneous goodness but of course, she would never be able to achieve her spontaneity,” McCall Smith said. “I think Mma Ramotswe would like Isabel Dalhousie. She would respect her but she would probably tell her to relax a bit, drink a bit more tea, and sit out under a tree to chew the fat a bit more.”

While Mma Ramotswe really sprang fully formed into McCall Smith’s mind about 15 years ago while he was waiting for an African woman to wring a chicken’s neck, the more sophisticated Isabel Dalhousie, like 44 Scotland Street, reflects his roots in Edinburgh.

Moore finds it surprising (but I do not) that McCall Smith counts among his influences the Indian writer R. K. Narayan. For anyone who has read both authors, there are many similar themes between Precious Ramotswe’s community in Gaborone and Swamy’s (“Chamy” to those of us drunk on nostalgia) village of Malgudi. What I do find surprising is that McCall Smith’s spoken answers in the interview are sometimes as simple as his writing, so much so that I am not sure if he is being simple or simplistic.


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