Alexander McCall Smith's 44 Scotland Street saga goes global

Alice Jones' Arts Diary

Avid readers of the 44 Scotland Street saga will be pleased to learn that Alexander McCall Smith is already hard at work on the ninth volume.

As with the previous best-selling volumes, the new work will be published first in 1000-word daily instalments in The Scotsman from 7 January. This time, for the first time, each episode will also be available to read online at Scotsman.com for 48 hours after publication. Which means that fans outside Scotland will no longer have to wait to buy the book to find out what Bertie and Big Lou have been doing.

“He’s written around 10 episodes so far and there are usually 80 in a volume”, David Robinson, books editor of The Scotsman tells me. “It’s like walking a tightrope, except what Sandy does is even scarier. At least a tightrope walker has an end in sight. He writes without knowing his ending and he does it five days a week, in public. But he never seems to get stuck and always files on time.”

“A lot of writers can only write at home, in their own studio, but Sandy sends his stories in from all corners of the globe. There was one hairy moment when he was on a cruise around Cape Horn and he was stuck on board during a storm. I thought I was going to have to write the next day’s instalment myself but the email came through at the last minute.”

McCall Smith began his daily Scotland Street columns in 2004, after meeting Armistead Maupin, whose Tales of the City were serialised in the San Francisco Chronicle, at a party. The last series concluded in the newspaper in May and was published as Sunshine on Scotland Street in August. The ninth series will start on 7 January and will run until May, with a book to follow. Readers should brace themselves for at least one striking plot development. “Bertie has been six years old for the last eight years”, said McCall Smith. “In the new volume, there will be a major change: he is going to be seven.”

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