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Series fiction makes its own gravy. After getting to know the characters and settings in the first book, the reader can see what happens after “happily ever after.” So it is that some of us, via the imagination of Alexander McCall Smith, have now made six visits to Precious Ramotswe and her No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency in Botswana. She’s a charming companion, this quick-witted, “traditionally built” woman with a tragic past—proof that cheerful people and leisurely plots can still entice readers. McCall Smith has also written novels about an American/Scots ethics expert and an oversized, eccentric philologist, but in January 2004, he took the cliffhanger approach to its next logical step: Inspired by a party chat with Armistead Maupin, the Edinburgh academician, novelist, and bassoonist dilettante created a daily serial for the Scotsman newspaper. The work, collected in 44 Scotland Street and its sequel, Espresso Tales, doesn’t move with the same zip as Maupin’s Tales of the City, nor does it create the sort of cultural time capsule Maupin did with the San Francisco Chronicle’s soaper. It’s a gentler sort of satire, featuring vainglorious social climbers, overambitious parents, and the idle rich. Given what McCall Smith has done with the lower and middle classes of rural Botswana and the middle and upper classes of Edinburgh, one wonders what he could do with the likes of Washington. Should the Post hire him to pen 2141 K St. NW? Find out when Smith helps the Smithsonian celebrate Tartan Week at 7 p.m. at George Washington University’s Lisner Auditorium, 730 21st St. NW. $25. (202) 252-0012. (Pamela Murray Winters)