Friday, March 27, 2009

Precious Ramotswe Hits the Little Screen

It will be interesting to see how HBO does with its adaptation of the wildly popular series The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, by Alexander McCall Smith. The series premieres Sunday night with a two-hour episode directed by Anthony Minghella ("The English Patient," "The Talented Mr. Ripley"), who died last March. On the small screen, private investigator Precious Ramotswe -- Botswana's first female detective -- will be played by Jill Scott, Grammy-winning singer and songwriter.

If the series -- filmed on location in Botswana -- remains true to the feel of the books, it will have a more languorous pacing than the nonstop action and edginess we often see in TV mysteries. The series excels at exploring the tension between tradition and modernity and at portraying the everyday lives of black Africans. Mr. Smith has said this about the country where he used to live: "...when you visit Botswana that you are likely to be impressed by the spirituality of the place. Not in a religious sense, but just a sense of human spirituality, and spiritual possibilities. And, you can't help but be bowled over by the magnificence of the country, by the sense of being in this great natural theater of light and wonderful expanses of countryside and intense natural beauty. It's very moving. It's overwhelming. I fell in love with it."

Alexander McCall Smith was born in 1948 in what is now known as Zimbabwe and was educated there and in Scotland. He was working as a distinguished bioethicist -- serving on British and international bioethics committees -- and as a professor of medical law at the University of Edinburgh, when the idea for the Precious Ramotswe character came to him. He chose to set the series in Botswana, where he used to teach law. He has now written more than 60 books, including academic texts and books for both children and adults, including two series featuring women who solve problems (Precious and Isabel Dalhousie, the main character in The Sunday Philosophy Club series set in Edinburgh.) He plays the bassoon in The Really Terrible Orchestra, an Edinburgh band he founded in which his wife, a physician, plays the horn. (The tag line for the orchestra is "The cream of Edinburgh's musically disadvantaged.")

The No 1 Ladies Detective Agency has been translated into more than xx languages and has sold more than xx million copies in English. [There's really no point in quoting actual numbers here, because his books are so wildly popular the numbers change pretty much daily!] The tenth book in the series, Tea Time for the Traditionally Built (what a fabulous title) will publish next month in hardcover. The Miracle at Speedy Motors, the ninth book, just came out in paperback.

Since I don't have HBO, I'll have to stick to reading the books for now to keep up with Precious. But maybe someone who catches the premiere can let me know what they think.

1 comment:

  1. I am reading The Miracle at Speedy Motors right now and and as with his previous books in this series, Mr Smith delivers a wonderful picture of Precious Ramotswe and life in her part of the world. Don't have HBO either, so will have to keep on reading!


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