Alexander McCall Smith

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Alexander McCall Smith
Born (1948-08-24) 24 August 1948 (age 70)
Bulawayo, Southern Rhodesia
Nationality British
Citizenship United Kingdom
Genre Fiction, Crime fiction, Children's books, Academic non-fiction

R. Alexander "Sandy" McCall Smith, CBE, FRSE, (born 24 August 1948) is a British writer and Emeritus Professor of Medical Law at the University of Edinburgh. In the late twentieth century, McCall Smith became a respected expert on medical law and bioethics and served on British and international committees concerned with these issues. He has since become internationally known as a writer of fiction. He is most widely known as the creator of the The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series.[1] "McCall" is not a middle name: his surname is "McCall Smith".[2][3][4]


File:Alexander Mccall Smith.jpg
Alexander McCall Smith signing books in Helsinki April 2007

Alexander McCall Smith was born in Bulawayo in the British colony of Southern Rhodesia (present-day Zimbabwe), where his father worked as a public prosecutor.[5] He was educated at the Christian Brothers College before moving to Scotland to study law at the University of Edinburgh, where he earned his PhD in law.[6] He soon taught at Queen's University Belfast, and while teaching there he entered a literary competition: one a children's book and the other a novel for adults. He won in the children's category, and published thirty books in the 1980s and 1990s.[5]

He returned to southern Africa in 1981 to help co-found and teach law at the University of Botswana. While there, he cowrote what remains the only book on the country's legal system, The Criminal Law of Botswana (1992).[7] He returned in 1984 to Edinburgh, Scotland, where he lives today with his wife, Elizabeth, a physician, and their two daughters Lucy and Emily (he lives close to the authors JK Rowling, Ian Rankin and Kate Atkinson.[8]). He was Professor of Medical Law at the University of Edinburgh at one time and is now Emeritus Professor at its School of Law. He retains a further involvement with the University in relation to the James Tait Black Memorial Prize. In addition, to being the Honorary President of the Diagnostic Society of Edinburgh - Edinburgh’s oldest society which can trace our origins to the Dialectic Society, founded in 1787 -, where he is in regular contact with its members and occasionally holds its meeting in his Edinburgh residence.

He is the former chairman of the British Medical Journal Ethics Committee (until 2002), the former vice-chairman of the Human Genetics Commission of the United Kingdom, and a former member of the International Bioethics Committee of UNESCO. After achieving success as a writer, he gave up these commitments. He was appointed a CBE in the December 2006 New Year's Honours List for services to literature.[9] In June 2007, he was awarded the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Laws at a ceremony celebrating the tercentenary of the University of Edinburgh School of Law. In June 2015, he was awarded the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Letters at a graduation ceremony at the University of St Andrews.

He is an amateur bassoonist, and co-founder of The Really Terrible Orchestra. He has helped to found Botswana's first centre for opera training, the Number 1 Ladies' Opera House,[10] for whom he wrote the libretto of their first production, a version of Macbeth set among a troop of baboons in the Okavango Delta.[11][12] He is also the author of a testimonial in The Future of the NHS (2006).[13] His use of the serial format, in his Edinburgh and Pimlico novels, has revived the nineteenth-century format used by authors including Charles Dickens and Armistead Maupin.[citation needed]

In 2009, he donated the short story Still Life to Oxfam's 'Ox-Tales' project—four collections of UK stories written by 38 authors. McCall Smith's story was published in the 'Air' collection.[14] Former First Lady of the United States Laura Bush is a big fan of McCall Smith's, as is Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers.[15]


The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series

44 Scotland Street series

The Sunday Philosophy Club series

also known as Isabel Dalhousie Mysteries

Corduroy Mansions

Professor Dr von Igelfeld Entertainments

Other novels

Short stories

  • 2011: "The Strange Story of Bobby Box" (published in the young adult anthology: What You Wish For)


  • 1991: Children of Wax: African Folk Tales
  • 1995: Heavenly Date and Other Flirtations
  • 2004: The Girl Who Married a Lion and Other Tales from Africa

Children's novels


Harriet Bean

Max & Maddy

Young Precious Ramotswe

Academic texts

  • 1978: Power and Manoeuvrability (with Tony Carty)
  • 1983: Law and Medical Ethics (with J. Kenyon Mason) (this text has gone through several editions: an eighth, by Mason and Graeme Laurie, was published in 2010; McCall Smith contributed to the first six editions)
  • 1987: Butterworths Medico-Legal Encyclopaedia (with J. Kenyon Mason)
  • 1990: Family Rights: Family Law and Medical Advances (with Elaine Sutherland)
  • 1991: All About Drink and Drug Abuse (educational text)
  • 1992: The Criminal Law of Botswana (with Kwame Frimpong)
  • 1993: The Duty to Rescue (with Michael Menlowe, 1993)
  • 1992: Scots Criminal Law (with David H Sheldon, second edition published 1997)
  • 1997: Forensic Aspects of Sleep (with Colin Shapiro)
  • 2000: Justice and the Prosecution of Old Crimes (with Daniel W. Shuman)
  • 2001: Errors, Medicine and the Law (with Alan Merry)
  • 2003: A Draft Criminal Code for Scotland (with Eric Clive, Pamela Ferguson and Christopher Gane)
  • 2004: Creating Humans: Ethical Questions where Reproduction and Science Collide (collected lectures, audio recordings)

See also


  1. Philby, Charlotte (19 June 2010). "Alexander McCall Smith: The No1 novelist's guide to Edinburgh". The Independent. Retrieved 26 August 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. McCall Smith, Alexander. "A. McCall Smith (McCallSmith) on Twitter". Retrieved 15 October 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Grice, Elizabeth (13 March 2009). "Alexander McCall Smith talks about 'Corduroy Mansions' – interview". The Telegraph. The Telegraph. Retrieved 15 October 2013. To say McCall Smith is a literary phenomenon doesn't quite describe what has happened. [Quoted on McCall Smith's own home page<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. McCall Smith praises inspiration of islands. Headline and also in text: "McCall Smith, 65, says islands take their residents back to childhood." Article dated 14 October 2013. Retrieved 15 October 2013.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Hunter, Jeffrey W. (2009). Contemporary Literary Criticism. Detroit, Michigan: Gale. ISBN 978-1-4144-1944-2.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. Nicoll, Ruaridh (2 May 2004). "Handy Sandy". The Observer. Retrieved 12 May 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. Wands, D C and P G (16 May 2011). "Alexander McCall Smith". Fantastic Fiction. Retrieved 25 May 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. Ian Rankin No. 1 Magazine, Retrieved 24 February 2014
  9. "New Year Honours—United Kingdom". The London Gazette. 29 December 2006. Retrieved 3 January 2009. line feed character in |work= at position 4 (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>[dead link]
  10. Times article
  11. AFP news report on the ‘Okavango Macbeth’ on YouTube
  12. The Okavango Macbeth, More Information
  13. Tempest, Michelle (2006). The Future of the NHS. ISBN 1-85811-369-5. Retrieved 13 October 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. Oxfam: Ox-Tales
  15. Lua error in Module:Citation/CS1/Identifiers at line 47: attempt to index field 'wikibase' (a nil value).
  16. Maclean Dubois; 1st Edition (1997) Retrieved 5 December 2012.
  17. Scots language translation by James Robertson

External links