44 Scotland Street: Alexander McCall Smith’s soap opera returns to The Scotsman

Alexander McCall Smith. Photo: Jayne Wright/JPIMedia

Now, a whole new series of chapters exploring life in a fictional apartment block on Scotland Street will unfold with the return of Alexander McCall Smith’s everyday novel to the pages of The Scotsman.

The Edinburgh-based author today launches the 16th story in the 44 Scotland Street series, which began life in this newspaper more than 18 years ago and followed characters grappling with ‘life’s moral dilemmas daily”.

It marks the return of Bertie, Big Lou, Fat Bob, Irene, Bruce, Domenica and Angus, whose setbacks have traveled the world thanks to serialization success in The Scotsman and subsequent books bringing together each series of stories.

Alexande McCall Smith writes the 44 Scotland Street stories for The Scotsman.

McCall Smith’s editor says the light-hearted series made 44 Scotland Street Edinburgh’s most famous address, although fans are often confused when they arrive at the actual street because it was invented by the author.

The final book in the series, The Enigma of Garlic, announces the arrival of “the most anticipated event of the decade” – the wedding of Big Lou and Fat Bob.

Discussing 44 Scotland Street’s return to the Edinburgh International Book Festival, McCall Smith said: “It’s one of my favorite series – I love writing it. I write one Scotland Street book a year.

“It’s usually released as I write it, but on this occasion, for the first time, I just finished it. I actually finished it yesterday.

Author Alexander McCall Smith is the creator of the 44 Scotland Street stories.

“It takes place right next to my house and I really like all the characters. I love sitting with them.

“It has become a place of pilgrimage, although people are very confused when they look for 44 Scotland Street because it doesn’t really exist.

“Scotland Street has a really nice atmosphere. It’s one of those really attractive streets where, because it’s so wide, you almost feel like you’re in a courtyard. Other people are watching over you.

The author rose to fame with the #1 detective agency for women, which is said to have sold over 20 million copies worldwide.

Part of the inspiration for 44 Scotland Street was American writer Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City series in the San Francisco Chronicle. McCall Smith ignored a warning from the novelist that he would regret writing a serial novel.

Speaking of his love for 44 Scotland Street stories, he said: “Obviously I write about Edinburgh, which I really enjoy, but it’s also about the range of characters. When you spend a lot of time with literary characters, they become very familiar and they almost become your friends, as if you were sitting having coffee with them.

“I love writing about Bertie and his terrible mother and looking at the adult world through the eyes of a seven-year-old boy. They’re all different types of characters that I can have fun with.

“It’s all wonderfully absurd, but there’s also an element of reality to the stories.

“Characters should be people you could recognize as possible. It’s a fantasy world, but it’s set in a real place, with recognizable characters and issues.”

Irene B. Bowles