A crowd of 350 fans came to Kepler's for a night with Alexander McCall Smith, author of more than 50 books, including the bestselling No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency and Isabel Dalhousie series. On April 22nd, he was in town to talk about his newest novel, The Miracle at Speedy Motors. And as event host and bookseller, Bobbi Emel, reports, it was indeed an evening to remember. ~
Mr. McCall Smith is a very courteous, charming, and funny man. He offered to sign stock while waiting for the event to begin and also met with a few fans privately, including my mother who came down from the great state of Washington for the event. Mrs. McCall Smith and friend wanted to browse and shop in the store and were very impressed with the layout and selection at Kepler's.
Meanwhile, the crowd waited patiently outside and staff distributed colored tickets for them to use for the book-signing procedure. Finally, they were brought in and we ended up with quite a large audience.
They waited patiently as I extolled the virtues of literary circle membership, talked up the Kepler's Blog, touted upcoming events, and reviewed basics about keeping the aisles clear and signing line procedures. Spontaneous applause from the audience was, alas, not for my thorough pre-intro but for Mr. McCall Smith who had left the green room and appeared to my right. I provided a brief introduction about the author (which was a little difficult given his extensive education, wide range of interests, and multiple ongoing series of stories) and then he took the podium. Almost instantly, he had the audience laughing with delight.
Mr. McCall Smith (AMS) picked up on something I had mentioned in the intro, the fact that he and his wife had created a musical group called "The Really Terrible Orchestra" in which he plays bassoon and Elizabeth plays the horn. AMS said, in his very droll manner, that I had misspoken. Although he does play the bassoon it must be said more accurately that he only plays "half the bassoon. The high notes are very hard to play so when the music gets to a D, I stop. Of course, most of the players in The Really Terrible Orchestra also employ this procedure when their music goes too high, as well, so really, we are simply, simply awful."
AMS continued on in this manner, speaking without notes, telling stories on himself that were extremely funny and kind-heartedly making fun of people he has met throughout his life. (A story about a trip to Santa Barbara was told with AMS gently recalling the denizens of that fair city as "Santa Barbarians.") He quickly reviewed the status of the storylines in his No. 1 Detective Ladies' Agency series as well as in his other series and then confessed to the audience that he has a serious condition known as "serial novelism." (He has written over 50 books.)
After 30 minutes of highly entertaining speaking (loud guffawing could be heard from Receiving where the host and Pam were sitting in the wings, watching), AMS took questions from the audience. An extremely polite man, he thanked each person for his/her question but could not help laughing at one woman's query. Referring to his "Scotland Yard" series, the woman noted that it was implied that one of the characters, Pat, had been through a traumatic experience in her past. The woman then earnestly asked, "So...do you know what happened to Pat?"
Answering another question, he revealed that he writes for 3 hours every day and writes 1000 words per hour. He also does not edit his work or change the story in any way, it just flows out of him. My mother had asked him previously how he was able [in the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series] to write from the perspective of a "middle-aged, Botswanian woman of traditional build" to which he simply answered "imagination."
Truly, Mr. McCall Smith held the imaginations of all of us in the audience that night.
He preferred to stand while signing books and was very quick about it while making each customer feel that s/he was the only person in the room with him.
As you can tell from this report, I was delighted with AMS and the event as a whole. And one of the great things about being a host is writing these reports and being able to insert pictures of yourself, your mom, and the author.
Special thanks to Cynthia and Mom for the photos.
Additional thanks go out to Pam, Frank, Jeff, Noam, the night crew, volunteer Pam, Ann Dreeszen and her mom, Jean, Cynthia, Marilyn A. for manning the outside Mobi, and Jonathan for setting up the AV. Sincere apologies to anyone I may have overlooked.