Monday, March 30, 2009

The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency

As unlikely as it sounds, a white, male, emeritus professor of law at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, named Alexander McCall Smith, has created one of the most enduring black, African, female characters in all of contemporary popular fiction: Precious Ramotswe, proprietor of the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, which is the title of the first in his series of 10 books written over the last decade that feature her mostly low-key and utterly charming escapades as a "traditionally-built" gumshoe traipsing around her native Botswana in her beat-up van.
I've read the first nine of them and am awaiting the arrival of the tenth, but was in trepidation over the debut of the film (a TV mini-series, really) last night on HBO: I had such fixed images in my mind's eye about how these characters looked and acted, and I feared the actors would never live up to them. Well, credit the late director Anthony Minghella and executive producer, the late Sydney Pollack, for getting it right. And what a treat that they also captured on film broad panoramas as well as street-level views of life in this vibrant and proud nation, where Smith lived and taught.

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