Alexander McCall Smith, author of 'The No 1 Ladies Detective Agency', entertained a sell-out audience at a University of Birmingham lecture last night (24 May) by reading aloud a new short story which was written especially for the event.

The best-selling Scottish author read the: "happiest story he's ever written" to a 500-strong audience at the university's Baggs Memorial Lecture, an annual event where eminent speakers, including  Maureen Lipman and Robert Winston talk on the subject of happiness.

The short story about the world of Mma Precious Ramotswe in Botswana, was greeted with much happiness by the audience at the University's Medical School. Guests also met Alexander at a book signing prior to the event and everyone received a printed version of the short story.

Alexander McCall told the crowd: "I hope that each of us will go from this place this evening in a state of happiness, at least to some degree, That, I believe, is what the University of Birmingham sets out to achieve in this series of lectures; let other universities depress the public with lectures filled with predictions of doom – the University of Birmingham, alone amongst British Universities, at least tries to even the balance."

The Baggs Memorial Lecture began in 1976. Thomas Baggs was an alumnus of the University of Birmingham who went on to become a teacher, journalist and a war correspondent for the Daily Mail before pursuing a successful career in advertising and publicity for the USA automobile industry. When he died in 1973, Thomas bequeathed a substantial sum to the University to provide for an annual public lecture on the theme of "Happiness - what it is and how it may be achieved by individuals as well as nations."

Alexander McCall Smith was born in Zimbabwe in 1948. He worked as a Professor of Medical Law at the University of Edinburgh, and it was in this role that he first returned to Africa to work in Botswana, where he helped to set up a new law school at the University of Botswana. He is an international authority on genetics and, until recently, was advisor to UNESCO and to the British government on bioethics. He resigned from the University of Edinburgh in 2005 to concentrate on his writing.

'The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency' series was first published in 1998 and has now sold ten million copies in the English language. The series gained two Judges' Special Recommendations from the Booker Prize for Fiction judging panel, made the New York Times Bestseller list and was voted one of the International Books of the Year and the Millennium by the Times Literary Supplement.


Media information: Anna Dingley, 0121 415 8134/07769 952763,

Kate Chapple, 0121 414 2772/07789 921164,

Notes to Editor

The University of Birmingham has around 27,000 students and 6,000 members of staff and a turnover of £360 million. The University is home to 2.7 million books, along with 3 million archived items and manuscripts and each year 6,000 items are consulted in special collections. Visit