Then comes along a little book with a very strange title: The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency. It was placed in my hands and honestly, I gave it little attention at first, setting it aside for the larger stack of books on my list. When I finally got around to it, I fell in love. Precious Ramotswe is a highly endearing character. Kind and confident, she takes on the small problems/mysteries that fall upon her doorstep as a most unlikely private investigator in Botswana. The authentic voice of Precious is most unmistakably captured by Alexander McCall Smith. Imagine that! A white Anglo-Saxon tells the story in the voice of a Botswanan female!
And now, HBO offers its fans the a seven part series beginning March 29th. Facebook has established a 'fans page,' with interviews with the master-storyteller, Smith. He speaks of the idea for the detective agency as a "literary device," a useful tool in exploring the lives of the occasional agency visitor. Small plot lines become entwined in the life and travels of Precious, of course. "Everyday somebody can come in with a fresh issue."
More than a few editors at the SCBWI mid-winter conference challenged authors to think outside their comfort zone. They spoke of creating stories that were less known to them, residing instead in the outer realm of possibility for us all. Stretch ourselves, they said...invent rather than recreate. In my estimation, that is exactly what Alexander McCall Smith has done. He has captured the very nature, the spirit of Botswana in a way that is so very real and appealing. And yet this is no travelogue, no recounting of his own experiences there. Could it be that he is the reincarnated Precious Ramotswe in the body of a 20th century white gentleman?