Alexander McCall Smith: ‘I hope the coronavirus makes us realise the ways we have abused the world’

The bestselling author of 111 books, including the hugely popular No 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series, talks to Martin Chilton about life under lockdown, his strange writing habits and making it big at the tender age of 50

Wednesday 08 April 2020 06:27
‘I have sympathy for young people whose lives are being put on hold’
‘I have sympathy for young people whose lives are being put on hold’

Alexander McCall Smith’s family are, as he puts it, “in the front line” of the battle against the coronavirus. The 71-year-old writer’s doctor daughters Emily and Lucy, along with a son-in-law who is a doctor at Edinburgh’s Royal Infirmary, are three of the dedicated NHS professionals to whom we all owe such a debt.

“One of my daughters lives nearby and she and her husband are doing our shopping,” says the bestselling author of The No 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series, speaking over the phone from the Edinburgh home he shares with his wife Elizabeth, a retired physician. “So we have found ourselves fortunate in that we can actually isolate properly. For many people living by themselves, it must be pretty awful. We are counting our blessings.”

McCall Smith was particularly pleased to see the nationwide doorstep clapping last week, a public show of support for our overburdened NHS. “That was very important. In fact, I think we are seeing all sorts of little instances of that spirit,” he says. “My daily regime is doing an hour on my exercise bike and going for a walk round the block. We don’t get close to anybody, but I see people doing the same thing, greeting strangers from across the other side of the street. Neighbours are worried about neighbours. These things are really terrific and we are seeing them. Of course, it’s disappointing that some behave very badly, but in the main, we can see an affirmation of a spirit of concern for others.”

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