Here we are with a promised recap of Sunday's marvelous Trib Nation Author Talks program with Alexander McCall Smith at Elmhurst College.
My colleagues Elizabeth Taylor, the Tribune's literary editor, and Joycelyn Winnecke, associate editor, were left to improvise when McCall Smith's plane to Chicago was delayed.
He made a timely entrance - 42 minutes late, by his count - at a point when the two had collected ideas from a patient audience for questions Elizabeth was able to weave into her conversation with McCall Smith, whose newest book, "The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party," is the latest in his No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series, based in Botswana. The chief character, Mma Precious Ramotswe, solves crimes but works at life all the while.
And what were people curious to know?
- Does he drink Red Bush Tea, popularized in the Detective Agency series. Yes, he does. And likes it.
- Will there be another TV series based on his books? An HBO series, featuring Jill Scott, won acclaim. People were cheered when McCall Smith said, yes, he was in talks for another adaptation. Of course, he cautioned that these things can take time to develop. And result in business lunches for the author, who gets a vague screen credit of consultant.
- And, just exactly how long is an apprenticeship in Botswana? That drew a collective nod and laugh, since everyone there was familiar with the saga of Charlie, who has been an apprentice in the series for, well, forever. Soon, McCall Smith said, but added that he's been saying that for years.
- His stories carry a hint of a moral lesson, one person said. Does he plan for that to happen? Not intentionally was the reply, but then again, don't most of us concern ourselves with living our lives well? We go through life, he said. "Our lives, in a sense, lead us."
- Would he base a book in the United States? No to a book, but possibly a character. That prompted a segue into the importance of knowing a place, of being of the place enough to get the feel and little details just so.
- Where in his heart does the author place Africa? McCall Smith's answer was of place and connection - that he identifies as Scottish but feels a deep, lifelong connection to Botswana, where he spent much of his childhood.
There was more, and we invite people to add their comments to this blog post. For those who asked about Trib Nation, please look around at other posts about Tribune journalism and our newsroom events programs. We'll update this post when we have a photo gallery assembled, so do check back.
One of the nice features of the Author Talks series is the chance for us to visit with readers about the program or other topics related to the Tribune.
Charity Green, who teaches at Libby Elementary and Middle School in Chicago, stuck around as many did to get a book autographed. She has her students participating in a book club, creating a "culture of readers."
Another attendee, Judy Berndt, had two questions for our literary expert, Liz Taylor. McCall Smith had mentioned an author, Barbara Pym, and a novel with a Belfast setting. These are confirmed: Pym is the spelling for the name of the woman he said could be viewed as a 20th Century Jane Austen; and the novel to which he referred was "The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne," by British author Brian Moore. In a piece in The Guardian, McCall Smith had high praise for Pym's novel, "Excellent Woman."
Each of us has a favorite moment for a free-wheeling program like this. Mine was when a woman asked whether McCall Smith, who has a grand laugh and an eye for gentle humor and self-deprecation, laughs when he writes. "Do you amuse yourself?" she asked.
Of course he laughed. And yes, he does laugh when he writes. But readers may have already figured that out
Author Talks recap: Alexander McCall Smith
A recap of Sunday's Trib Nation Author Talks program with Alexander McCall Smith
We've upgraded our reader commenting system. Learn more about the new features.
Los Angeles Times welcomes civil dialogue about our stories; you must register with the site to participate. We filter comments for language and adherence to our Terms of Service, but not for factual accuracy. By commenting, you agree to these legal terms. Please flag inappropriate comments.
Having technical problems? Check here for guidance.