Alexander McCall Smith reveals that he’s suffering from “Serial-novel-ism”

Alexander McCall Smith is astonishingly prolific, and writes a thousand words an hour during his writing spell between three thirty in the morning and breakfast. His gently mocking novels include The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, and 44 Scotland Street, and he delights in finding new targets for his humour: vegans, pushy parents, Aberdeen.

He was concerned, however, that the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize jury couldn’t find a writer sufficiently amusing this year to deserve their prize, which is awarded for comic literature. Was this a sign that the famous British sense of humour is dying out? "We are in some respects losing our sense of humour out of concern that we inadvertently give offence," he said.

He conceded that there were certain subjects he doesn’t like to lampoon. He respects religion, and is cautious of offending Glasgow, but otherwise, anything goes, even though his targets can get miffed: "the vegans don't like my joking about them, I don't know what their beef is. Oh, sorry".

He plans to launch a new series of novels next year, which he said would be called The Department of Sensitive Crimes, and be set in Sweden. It wouldn’t be Scandi-noir, however, more “Scandinavian blanc”. “I do suffer from a condition, for which there’s no cure, it’s called serial-novel-ism. It manifests itself in writing serial novels. You write serial novels, and then you die,” he said. “I started writing serial novel after serial novel, that’s what I now do, and I’m quite happy doing it.”

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