2023- A Year in the Life of Alexander McCall Smith

Date Published: 14th December 2023

2023 has been another busy and exciting year for Alexander and his team. It has seen the publication of no fewer than five new hardback books, a big birthday, over 25 appearances at book festivals and bookshop events around the world, a lifetime achievement award, and not just one, but two audiences with His Royal Highness, King Charles III.

This year marked the 25th anniversary of the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series. Through Alexander’s kind and gentle novels thousands of readers have fallen in love with Botswana and spent a quarter of a century in the company of Mma Ramotswe, her small white van, and all her friends. Fans were treated to a new addition to the series in September when the latest novel, From a Far and Lovely Country hit the shelves in the UK.

Alexander’s year began with an appearance on BBC’s The One Show, as he led Angela Rippon around the streets of Edinburgh’s New Town, the setting for his 44 Scotland Street and Isabel Dalhousie series. He then headed off to Dubai to talk as part of the Emirates Festival of Literature, chaired by one of his favourite comperes, Julia Wheeler. You can watch their discussion here.

February saw the UK publication of The Private Life of Spies, an intriguing and inventive collection of fictional and real stories from the world of espionage. Alexander then travelled to Australia for a book tour encompassing Adelaide Writer’s Week, events in Maleny, Brisbane, Wollongong, Melbourne, Kyneton, Castlemaine, and a literary lunch with Dymocks in Sydney. You can listen to the Dymocks event here.

Iceland was next on the travel itinerary following an invitation to speak at Reykjavik International Literary Festival, and then back to the UK for dinner with the King and events in Hexham and at Hay Festival.

The summer was a particularly lively period, kicking off with the publication of a new novel in the hilarious Detective Varg series, The Discreet Charm of the Big Bad Wolf, and a touching new collection of poetry, I Think of You. In July Alexander also had the pleasure of welcoming King Charles III and Queen Camilla to the Great Tapestry of Scotland visitor centre in Galashiels in the Scottish Borders. And in August Alexander returned to Edinburgh International Book Festival and celebrated his 75th birthday.

With barely time to draw breath Autumn was upon us, and in September the 44 Scotland Street series returned to the pages of The Scotsman newspaper where it appeared in daily serialised chapters. The latest No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency novel also appeared this month, From a Far and Lovely Country, and Alexander celebrated the series’ 25th anniversary with events at Daunt’s in London, and appearances at Appledore and Budleigh Salterton literary festivals. This busy month culminated with Alexander receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award from The Saltire Society. The society is one of Scotland’s leading supporters of culture. For over 85 years they have been committed to every part of Scottish life, from social housing and literature to public art and emerging creatives. Upon receiving the award Alexander commented:

“This means more to me than anything else I have received. I am very aware of the great work the society does. Thank you.

The final quarter of the year is almost always the busiest time for book events, and 2023 was no exception. Alexander travelled the length and breadth of the UK promoting his newest books, joined on many occasions by Anna Marshall, the author of The 44 Scotland Street Cookbook. Together the pair entertained audiences at Cheltenham Literature Festival, Berwick Literary Festival, Tobermory Book Festival on the Isle of Mull, and appeared at Scottish independent bookshop events in West Linton, Biggar and Linlithgow. In addition to all of this Alexander also spoke in Woodstock, at Wimbledon Book Festival, and at pre-Christmas events hosted by Toppings & Co. in Edinburgh and St Andrews.

The year came to a close with a new publication in the 44 Scotland Street series in the UK, which is now the world’s longest running serial novel. In The Stellar Debut of Galactica MacFee, the reader is once again transported to Edinburgh’s New Town, and into the lives of Bertie Pollock, Big Lou, Angus Lordie and the rest of the familiar Scotland Street cast. Copies will be available in the US and Canada in May 2024.

Alexander and his team are now looking ahead to 2024, to a long-awaited return to Botswana, to a brand new book series, to a host of new books including instalments in the Isabel Dalhousie and No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series, and some other goodies too!