Savidge Reads… Serializations

Well I think that it’s quite exciting. The other day I had a lovely email from some lovely people who are working alongside The Telegraph and the new serialisation that Alexander McCall Smith is working on. Last year, after the success of a serialization or two in The Scotsman (which became the 44 Scotland Street series of books), McCall Smith did a new series which became Corduroy Mansions a series based in my current homeland of London. Now he is back with the sequel ‘The Dog Who Came in From The Cold’ which I think has possibly one of my favourite titles of the year! 

Anyway I have been asked if I will take part as one of the ‘Online Blogger Book Club’ Members which was a very delightful email to get on a rather random Wednesday (I went and saw a well known medium on Tuesday night which blew my mind and yet left me feeling quite odd and unsettled so was slightly out of sorts and this was a lovely moment) and how could I say no? I do really enjoy McCall Smith’s books (the No.1 Ladies Detective Agency Series in particular) and have been meaning to give all of his other works ago.  I have also noticed that Cornflower is doing this too, is anyone else? If you want to know more about the previous series or McCall Smith and this collaboration with The Telegraph then have a look here.

I know with Sensation Season this is another big project but actually they link in a way. After all werent all of the great sensational novels brought out to the public in serial form? Plus as readers of my blog there will be competitions and things for all of you from The Telegraph via me, so as far as I can see its win win!

Now I have been lucky enough to get the first five chapters before it all kicks off on Monday. Now I know there is a synopsis of the first book on the website, but you know me – I must read everything in order, and so now will have to break my book ban to get my mitts on a copy of ‘Corduroy Mansions to try and devour in one sitting on Sunday… hmmm where in London can I get a good second hand copy? My library is out of them… I shall have to go hunting, but for that book alone and no other.

Did you read Corduroy Mansions, how was it? Are you a McCall fan or do you think he is McCallful (do you see what I did there)? What is your favourite series he has brought out so far, am I missing some great ones? Will you be reading this series, do tell all?


Filed under Book Thoughts

27 responses to “Savidge Reads… Serializations

  1. That’s very exciting, Simon.

    Sadly, I’m not a McCall fan. I read one of those detective agency thingies a few years back and thought it was woeful. On that basis I very much like your little joke — McCallful! 😉

  2. Snap! I’m participating too. They are sending me a copy of Corduroy Mansions and I’m going to try and catch up online in the meantime. Should be fun!

    • They are sending me one too but I can’t do series in the wrong order it just makes me really confused. Well I probably use that as an excuse I bet I could read them in wrong order I just dont like it. Plus now have two copies will be able to give one away.

  3. Simon, If you’re still looking for a copy of “Corduroy Mansions”, it is available for £4.99 (+ £3.50 p+p) from, though you would then have to wait for it to turn up in the post, which is not much good if you need it for tomorrow.

    I am a big fan of McCall Smith, despite having initially been put off the Lady Detective series by a Radio 4 afternoon play adaptation that I found rather dull. No offence intended to anyone involved, it just did not work for me at the time. Months later, on my daily commute, I found myself sitting next to a rather sweet looking young woman who was reading the first volume of the Scotland Street series. This prompted me to get hold of a copy. I loved it and have followed the series and the author ardently ever since. As for the girl, well I did get talking to her on another occasion, though not about the book. I’ve not seen her again.

    Perhaps one of the reasons I like Smith’s books is that they make up in some way for the absence of a certain type of acquaintance that I wish I had in my own life. I wouldn’t mind sitting next to many of the Scotland Street characters on a train. The precocious toddler Bertie and his over-bearing mother and hen-pecked father are highly entertaining. The art dealer Matthew is harmless and well-meaning, though he doesn’t really know anything about art and is seemingly drifting through life. Aside from his wealthy background he reminds me a lot of myself. I have to admit that I am also jealous of him because later in the series he get’s together with the charming Elspeth Harmony, an Edinburgh school teacher who – with the possible exception of a moment of madness that has big implications for her career – is a far cry from Miss Jean Brodie. She (Elspeth not Jean Brodie) is currently the character in literature I would most like to marry.

    The Scotland Street books have thus become firmly established as my favourite McCall Smith franchise, closely followed by his other Edinburgh series, featuring philosopher-cum-amateur sleuth Isabel Dalhousie. Both these series portray friendly communities of comfortably-off untroubled types. They are a fantastic read for those occasions when one simply wants to be entertained and amused. Even the “bad guys”, like chartered surveyor Bruce have a certain raffish charm. I have since read most of the Botswana books too. Whilst I don’t love them with the same intensity I do the Edinburgh books, they still make for an enjoyable light read.

    I am currently in the process of listening again to the audio version of Corduroy Mansions, in order to reacquaint myself with the characters ahead of the start of the new series. The audio version, read by Andrew Sachs, was available as a free daily podcast. In these days when all media companies aside from the BBC appear to be struggling to break even, I’m surprised the Telegraph haven’t attempted to do more to “monetise” this “content” (to use the lingo I hear media types brandishing about these days). Not that I’m complaining about that, far from it, I am looking forward to the first new episode in a couple of days time.

    I am finding that I am enjoying Corduroy Mansions more on my second listen. When I first read and heard it, none of the characters really stood out for me. It made me wonder if I found Edinburgh types more appealing than London residents. Now I am really enjoying hearing again about the odious MP Oedipus Snark and the art students Caroline and James. McCall Smith clearly has a thing about art students and the art world in general, there is an art student and a portrait painter in 44 Scotland Street too.

    • I didnt really ‘get’ the first Scotland Street one but maybe will think again after this series. I didnt dislike it but then again I didnt love it. I do like his other scottish one though, the old lady detective one. Not on the ball today.

      I did manage to get a copy of the book second hand but in mint condition today for a mere £6 but than you for the info on where could get one David.

  4. oh

    I only read the first McAll detective agency thingy. I think I got it from the library which is rare for me. i enjoy books I own so much better. (that’s stuff for another blog).
    Anyway, I thought the book was kind of “thin” and maybe the minimalism ,so to speak, goes hand in hand with the setting. Althugh I liked the seetting. I dunno. I felt like it was warming up to something more, which of course it did – several more books.
    I admire the author for his stuff getting out there. I just haven’t been much of a help.

    • I too enjoy books more if I own them. Thats very interesting and definately a blog for the future.

      I work with three people who are ardent McCall fans and are subesquently quite envious. I think the fact his books are so easy to involve your self in, read and devour is what works. I will ask them more about it over the next few weeks.

  5. I’m taking part too. I have to admit that I wasn’t a big fan of Ladies Detective Agencey and so hadn’t read any of his other books, but I have nearly finished Corduroy Mansions and think it is much better. I look forward to reading along with you.

    • It should be fun as so many of us are doing it. I like the Ladies Detective Series though read one recently that seemed to be the ‘filler’ of the series so far and had one mystery and no real plot I think he just needed to move the characters on.

  6. I am also taking part. I smell a really good marketing campaign somewhere, but am glad to have such great company. This should be fun! Happy reading!

    • Well no one has to buy anything so really what are they marketing? I think its great they are doing it and its gerat you are involved too Frances.

      • It’s a marketing exercise for The Telegraph – and Mr McCall Smith, of course, just as Dickens’ and Thackeray’s and Conrad’s serialisations were marketing exercises for the papers and magazines they published their work in at the time. No one’s saying this is a bad thing, but it’s naive to think that it’s not anything to do with marketing. It’s a way of getting the newspaper’s name and the book’s name mentioned on countless blogs…

        By their very nature, I would say serialisations are early attempts at marketing, even if they weren’t quite recognised as such at the time. They were designed to leave everyone on tenterhooks until the next installment came along, which meant everyone wanted to buy the next installment, which meant circulation figures went up and it was easier to sell the ad space in those editions. If that’s not very clever marketing, I’ll eat my hat! 😉

      • It is definitely a good marketing exercise, but it works both ways. The Telegraph will end up doing much better marketing for our blogs than we will individually give the Telegraph.

      • Definitely agree with Jackie there.
        It’s odd as we were discussing serialisations on one of your sensation posts and it will be interesting to see how it works.

      • Kim – agreed I think my lack of sleep and inundated deadlines sent me a bit doolally this weekend. I meant as in marketing the book as its free for punters to pop buy and see it. Total agreement on spreading the word of the Telegraph and the author and of course the advertising.

        Jackie – I will be interested to see how our blogs are promoted… I guess time will tell.

        Claire – It is interesting I have been saying am not good with serialised reads… and now I am doing one! Part of the attraction.

  7. How fun! I’ve never read anything by Alexander McCall Smith, but I love the idea of serialization. Looking forward to hearing what you think!

  8. How exciting for you, Simon!

    I have only listened to the first book of the Ladies #1 Detective Agency, and while I sincerely enjoyed the narrator, I just never got around to listening to any of the others.

    I did happen to find The Sunday Philosophy Club on sale for $2.00 yesterday and could not pass it up. Not sure when I will actually find the time to read it though.

    While I have not yet read Corduroy Mansions, I do remember hearing all about this modern day serialization and was very intrigued by the challenges that it offered the author.

    I can definitely see the tie-in of this assignment with your Seasonal Season focus.

    Have fun!

    • It’s not just me I think a few of the other book bloggers are getting involved, am wondering if its just UK ones because of the newspaper?

      I liked The Sunday Philsophy Club alot, though feel would have to read the first again to enjoy the second, I have most of the series in various TBR boxes!

      I like the idea of Corduroy Mansions as its only written a week or so in advance (if my informant is correct) as so McCall Smith allows readers to help chance the stories or events.

  9. Harriet

    I’m also taking part and though I did not much care for the Ladies Detective Agency (but loved it on TV, which many real fans of the books did not) I have really enjoyed these first chapters and must blog about it all myself soon. I am not as scrupulous as you about reading first books first, I’m afraid, though I will certainly give C Mansions a go.

    • I wish I wasn’t so pedantic and had to read everything in order, I really do. It’s just a habit I need to learn to break… one day, one day.

      So glad yu are doing this too Harriet, always love your thoughts on books!

  10. novelinsights

    Ooh, just a thought. Serialisations are appropriate given that you’re reading lots of Wilkie Collins and stories were often serialised in those days 🙂

  11. How exciting that they asked you to do this!

  12. Pre-blogging, I was a huge McCall-Smith fan. I read all the books he’d published (well, at least the fiction). But since I started blogging May 2008, I haven’t read or reread any of it! I’ll have to look in to the new series. I did enjoy 44 Scotland street, all though the last one I read of it seemed to feel a little Old.

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