A lot of people were disappointed when the Icelandic volcano put the kybosh on Alexander McCall Smith's visit to the Twin Cities recently - including the author himself.
"Vulcan, who is the god of volcanos, and who is actually in charge of these matters, was very inconsiderate," he told me recently. We were sitting in the book lined study in Edinburgh Scotland where he writes his very popular "No 1 Ladies Detective Agency" novels - and four other series as well.
"It's bad enough to have unsettled economic circumstances, when you become geologically unsettled, that's piling...."
He then laughs and makes a reference to a geological phenomenon which this writer still trying to decipher.
It's a typical exchange with McCall Smith, who blends a gentle way with a story with deep erudition born of his past career as a Professor of medical law at Edinburgh University. He's set that aside now to focus full time on his writing.
"I'm told that I am breaking all known rules of publishing," he says. "I'm told that the general rule in publishing is that you write one book a year, and no more than that. Well we are breaking that I am afraid in that I am writing either four or five a year."
Along the way his books have gathered legions of fans, including the hundreds of people who bought tickets to hear him speak at the State Theater in Minneapolis in April. McCall Smith admits people get very attached to his books, and get worried by the thought that his output will dwindle or end.
"People write to me and they are quite direct. And they say: "Please don't die soon." That's a very nice sort of letter to get," he laughs.
There are plans to reschedule the cancelled tour, perhaps in September. although no details are available as yet, including whether there will be a Twin Cities date. McCall Smith says it's all up to his publicists in the US, but he like Minnesota, to the point that there is a character in the latest "No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency" book "The Double Comfort Safari Club" who is from St Paul.
You can hear more of our discussion on MPR's All Things Considered this evening.
You might remember me from Dallas. We met at Mimi and Joe's for a dinner in your honor and I was lucky enough to be your dinner partner---this preceded great fame on your part. Later that summer, while you were living in Oak Lawn, my husband, Mike, and I invited you and the McKnight's for lunch in our more-or-less crumbling Oak Lawn "mansion" on Bowser.
Very happy memories. We now live in St. Paul and hope to see you here on your USA tour. I write to Mimi and Joe every Christmas but haven't been back in Dallas for a number of years. How are they?
Very best wishes,