Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Book 3: Corduroy Mansions

Alexander McCall Smith is, undoubtedly, one of my favourite authors. His gentle rambling through the thoughts of his characters never ceases to entertain me. I was first introduced to him when I moved to Zambia, being presented with The No 1 Ladies Detective Agency. It was love at first read: the book captured so much of the essence of Africa, with its sunsets and scenery, its lazy days and lazy people, its hard work to procure a living, its poverty and its wealth. From then on I was addicted.

So it was an utter delight to pick up Corduroy Mansions from the library. Its origin is a daily story printed in The Daily Telegraph, all 100 episodes being collated together for the book. Having already read the 44 Scotland Street series that he produced for The Scotsman I knew the type of tale to expect. The stories centre around the inhabitants of Corduroy Mansions, described as 'crumpled': a slightly run down block of flats in Pimlico (but, after all, it is Pimlico, so not that run down).

There are uncomfortable similarities to the 44 Scotland Street stories - there is a man with a dog, there is a mysterious, lost painting, it ends with a bizarre poem - but nevertheless the characters are fresh and realistic. Undoubtedly my favourite (despite his meagre appearances) is Oedipus Snark 'possibly the first ever nasty Liberal Democrat MP' whose evil permeates the book through his employee, his girlfriend and his mother. Yet my biggest laugh-out-loud moment was with Terence Moongrove and his attempt to recharge his car battery, and subsequent choice of replacement vehicle.

It is an art to write a story every day of about 1000 words which not only follows on from the previous day but also can be read independently. It makes Corduroy Mansions an easy book to pick up and put down but also, as a writer, a fascinating exercise in introducing characters and storylines. Sometimes it is clunky but usually it flows remarkably easily.

I realise that AMS has produced a second series of stories for the newspaper, some of which I read online at the time, but I look forward to catching up on the whole family of characters when published together in a book. It is light, easy reading, and if you enjoy AMS's philosophical wandering through life you cannot be disappointed with this series.

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...