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Tears of the Giraffe: A No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency Novel (2)

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Tears of the Giraffe: A No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency Novel (2) Cover

 

 

Author Q & A

Q: You have written more than fifty books (from specialist titles such as Forensice Aspects of Sleep to children's books, including The Perfect Hamburger). Was The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency your first attempt at writing a mystery?

A: The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency is my first foray into this territory, although I do not think of it as a mystery. I like to think of it as a novel about a woman who happens to be a private detective. Mind you, I suppose that makes it a mystery...of a sort.

Q: Your detective, Precious Ramotswe, is a wonderfully unique character — a Batswana woman of traditional build who decides to become a professional private detective. Is Precious based on someone that you knew when you lived in Botswana or is she a creation of your imagination?

A: There is no particular person upon whom Precious Ramotswe is based, but there is an incident. Years ago I was in Botswana, staying with friends in a small town called Mochudi. A woman in the town wished to give my friends a chicken to celebrate Botswana National Day. I watched as this woman — traditionally built, like Mma Ramotswe — chased the chicken round the yard and eventually caught it. She made a clucking noise as she ran. The chicken looked miserable. She looked very cheerful. At that moment I thought that I might write a book about a cheerful woman of traditional build.

Q: Did you know immediately that the story of Mma Ramotswe would be the basis for an entire series of novels?

A: No, I did not. What happened is that I became so fond of the character that I could not let her go. To leave her where she was at the end of the first novel would have been rather like getting up and leaving the room in the middle of a conversation — rather rude.

Q: It is rare for an author to explore the evolution from amateur sleuth to professional detective, but one of the most appealing aspects of Precious's character is that she doesn't always know what she's doing. In Tears of the Giraffe (the sequel to The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency), she even sends away for an instructional manual, Principles of Private Detection. What interests you about "education of the detective"?

A: Mma Ramotswe sets up her agency without any relevant experience. However, she does have intuition — in abundance — and that is very much more important than anything she could learn from a book. In fact, the passages she cites from The Principles of Private Detection are ultimately not particularly helpful to her, the point being that a person without any training can achieve great things if he or she has natural intelligence and ability. In many African countries, including Botswana, people have great respect for books and for the learning they contain. I would hope to point out that this should not obscure the importance of real, practical wisdom.

Q: Although Mma Ramotswe is confronted by greed, lust, dishonesty, and murderous intent, these novels are rather optimistic and often humorous in tone. How do you maintain this rather delicate balance?

A: I think that many people living in Africa — in circumstances which are sometimes quite difficult — maintain that balance themselves, and with great dignity. I think that I merely reflect what is there in those fine people.

Q: In the Precious Ramotswe novels, Botswana emerges as a vivid character and a wonderful place to live. What do you hope that American readers will discover about Africa while reading these novels?

A: I very much hope that American readers will get a glimpse of the remarkable qualities of Botswana. It is a very special country and I think that it particularly chimes with many of the values which Americans feel very strongly about — respect for the rule of law and for individual freedom. I hope that readers will also see in these portrayals of Botswana some of the great traditional virtues in Africa — in particular, courtesy and a striking natural dignity.

Q: How have these books been received in Botswana? What about other parts of Africa?

A: I was recently in Botswana and I was delighted to find that people there liked the books. I was worried that they might have reservations about an outsider writing about their society. No. They appear to like the way in which their world is portrayed. I believe that they recognize themselves in them.

Q: You were born in what is now known as Zimbabwe and you have also lived in Botswana, the United States, and Edinburgh. In what ways have your international travels informed your writing?

A: The fact that I have been all over the world means that I tend to use a variety of locations for my work. I think it is important for a writer to see other societies and attempt to understand them. Of course, you have to be careful. It is easy to get things wrong. One might put palm trees in the wrong place, for example in New York.

Q: Do you see the Precious Ramotswe books within the context of the tradition of the classic African novel of writers like Isak Dinesen and Chinua Achebe? Or do you see them as a revamping of the mystery genre?

A: I think that these books might be difficult to put into any particular tradition. They are obviously about Africa, but they are very different from the works you mention. Some people say that they remind them of the novels of that great Indian writer R.K. Narayan, which is very flattering, but I suppose I can see the similarities in the world which his and my books portray.

Q: Anthony Minghella, who has directed The English Patient and The Talented Mr. Ripley, recently optioned The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency to be a major motion picture. Will you be involved in the production in any way?

A: I hope that this goes ahead as planned. They have shown me a script, which I read with interest. They said that I could come and see the shooting, one of these days. I shall stand well back and I suspect that I shall say nothing.

Q: The Precious Ramotswe books have a devoted following. Have you ever had the opportunity to meet with the Mma Ramotswe fan club that is based in New York? What question are you most frequently asked by your fans?

A: There seem to be many fans of the books in the U.S.A. I receive wonderfully warm letters from American readers, which I greatly enjoy. As far as New York is concerned, there is a splendid group of readers whom I met when I was last there. They love Mma Ramotswe and she would love them too. They, like many other readers, ask me when Mma Ramotswe and Mr J.L.B. Matekoni will eventually get married. I must think about that.

Q: Next spring, Pantheon Books will publish the fourth in the series of the Precious Ramotswe novels. Will there be other books in the series as well?

A: I hope so. I am writing the fifth at the moment and I am thinking of the sixth.

Q: In addition to writing novels, you are also a professor of medical law at Edinburgh University, and as if that wasn't enough to keep you busy, you also conduct a symphony. How do you find the time to do it all?

A: I struggle to find the time to do things. I have many commitments, but writing these books is such a pleasure for me that I shall always find the time, somehow. I don't conduct a symphony — I play in a distinctly amateur orchestra, of which I am the co-founder. I play the bassoon, but not the entire instrument, as I dislike the very high notes and stop at the high D, which I think is quite high enough. This orchestra is pretty awful, and that is why it bears the name The Really Terrible Orchestra. This brings it a wide and enthusiastic following. Recently we had a request from an American amateur orchestra to use our name. We said of course. So somewhere in the U.S. there is a bad amateur orchestra called The Really Terrible Orchestra. They will go far, perhaps.

Product Details

ISBN:
9781400077670
Publisher:
Anchor Books
Subject:
Mystery & Detective - Series
Author:
Smith, Alexander McCall
Author:
McCall Smith, R. A.
Author:
McCall Smith, Alexander
Author:
Alexander McCall Smith
Subject:
Mystery & Detective - Women Sleuths
Subject:
Botswana
Subject:
Fiction-Mystery & Detective - Women Sleuths
Subject:
Fiction-Mystery & Detective - Series
Subject:
Fiction : Mystery & Detective - Women Sleuths
Subject:
Fiction : Mystery & Detective - Series
Subject:
Fiction : Mystery & Detective - General
Subject:
Ramotswe, Precious
Subject:
Women private investigators
Subject:
Mystery fiction
Subject:
No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency
Subject:
Ramotswe, Precious (Fictitious character)
Subject:
Mystery-A to Z
Subject:
main_subject
Subject:
all_subjects
Publication Date:
2000
Binding:
ELECTRONIC
Language:
English
Pages:
227
Age Level:
No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency

Related Subjects

Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z
Fiction and Poetry » Mystery » A to Z

Tears of the Giraffe: A No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency Novel (2)
0 stars - 0 reviews
$ In Stock
Product details 227 pages Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group - English 9781400077670 Reviews:
"Review" by , "Cynics might not buy McCall Smith's fulsome praise of old African ways and the 'traditionally built' Precious Ramotswe, but this is the most entertaining read of the year."
"Synopsis" by , The continuing story of The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency finds our wily heroine searching for a young man who disappeared into the African plains many years ago. Along the way she becomes engaged to Mr. J. L. B. Matekoni, a good man who passes the most difficult test (her father would like him), and promotes her talented secretary, who got 97 percent on her typing final, to Assistant Detective. She also finds herself suddenly and unexpectedly the mother of two small children. Tears of the Giraffe is the wonderfully entertaining continuation of the story of Botswana's first lady detective.
"Synopsis" by , The continuing story of The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency — starring Precious Ramotswe, Botswana's first lady detective — finds our wily heroine searching for a young man who disappeared into the African plains many years ago.
"Synopsis" by , Alexander McCall Smith is a professor of medical law at Edinburgh University. He was born in what is now known as Zimbabwe and taught law at the University of Botswana. He is the
"Synopsis" by , The story of The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency continues as irrepressible sleuth Precious Ramotswe searches for a young man who vanished many years ago on the African plains, while dealing with her engagement to Mr. J. L. B. Matekoni, sudden and unexpected motherhood, and her recently promoted new assistant. Reprint. 12,500 first printing.
"Synopsis" by , CHAPTER ONE

Mr J.L.B. Matekoni's House

Mr J.L.B. Matekoni, proprietor of Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors, found it difficult to believe that Mma Ramotswe, the accomplished founder of the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, had agreed to marry him. It was at the second time of asking; the first posing of the question, which had required immense courage on his part, had brought forth a refusal--gentle, and regretful--but a refusal nonetheless. After that, he had assumed that Mma Ramotswe would never remarry; that her brief and disastrous marriage to Note Mokoti, trumpeter and jazz aficionado, had persuaded her that marriage was nothing but a recipe for sorrow and suffering. After all, she was an independent-minded woman, with a business to run, and a comfortable house of her own in Zebra Drive. Why, he wondered, should a woman like that take on a man, when a man could prove to be difficult to manage once vows were exchanged and he had settled himself in her house? No, if he were in Mma Ramotswe's shoes, then he might well decline an offer of marriage, even from somebody as eminently reasonable and respectable as himself.

But then, on that noumenal evening, sitting with him on her verandah after he had spent the afternoon fixing her tiny white van, she had said yes. And she had given this answer in such a simple, unambiguously kind way, that he had been confirmed in his belief that she was one of the very best women in Botswana. That evening, when he returned home to his house near the old Defence Force Club, he had reflected on the enormity of his good fortune. Here he was, in his mid-forties, a man who had until that point been unable to find a suitable wife, now blessed with the hand of the one woman whom he admired more than any other. Such remarkable good fortune was almost inconceivable, and he wondered whether he would suddenly wake up from the delicious dream into which he seemed to have wandered.

Yet it was true. The next morning, when he turned on his bedside radio to hear the familiar sound of cattle bells with which Radio Botswana prefaced its morning broadcast, he realised that it had indeed happened and that unless she had changed her mind overnight, he was a man engaged to be married.

He looked at his watch. It was six o'clock, and the first light of the day was on the thorn tree outside his bedroom window. Smoke from morning fires, the fine wood smoke that sharpened the appetite, would soon be in the air, and he would hear the sound of people on the paths that criss-crossed the bush near his house; shouts of children on their way to school; men going sleepy-eyed to their work in the town; women calling out to one another; Africa waking up and starting the day. People arose early, but it would be best to wait an hour or so before he telephoned Mma Ramotswe, which would give her time to get up and make her morning cup of bush tea. Once she had done that, he knew that she liked to sit outside for half an hour or so and watch the birds on her patch of grass. There were hoopoes, with their black and white stripes, pecking at insects like little mechanical toys, and the strutting ring-neck doves, engaged in their constant wooing. Mma Ramotswe liked birds, and perhaps, if she were interested, he could build her an aviary. They could breed doves, maybe, or even, as some people did, something bigger, such as buzzards, though what they would do with buzzards once they had bred them was not c

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