Inspiration for the Netflix Limited Series, Tales of the City The third novel in the beloved Tales of the City series, Armistead Maupin’s best-selling San Francisco saga. The calamity-prone residents of 28 Barbary Lane are at it again in this deliciously dark novel of romance and betrayal. While Anna Madrigal imprisons an anchorwoman in her basement, Michael Tolliver looks for love at the National Gay Rodeo, DeDe Halcyon Day and Mary Ann Singleton track a charismatic psychopath across Alaska, and society columnist Prue Giroux loses her heart to a derelict living in a San Francisco park.
Armistead Maupin was born in Washington, D.C., in 1944 but grew up in Raleigh, North Carolina. A graduate of the University of North Carolina, he served as a naval officer in the Mediterranean and with the River Patrol Force in Vietnam.
Maupin worked as a reporter for a newspaper in Charleston, South Carolina, before being assigned to the San Francisco bureau of the Associated Press in 1971. In 1976 he launched his groundbreaking Tales of the City serial in the San Francisco Chronicle.
Maupin is the author of nine novels, including the six-volume Tales of the City series, Maybe the Moon, The Night Listener and, most recently, Michael Tolliver Lives. Three miniseries starring Olympia Dukakis and Laura Linney were made from the first three Tales novels. The Night Listener became a feature film starring Robin Williams and Toni Collette.
He is currently writing a musical version of Tales of the City with Jason Sellards (aka Jake Shears) and John Garden (aka JJ) of the disco and glam rock-inspired pop group Scissor Sisters. Tales will be directed by Jason Moore (Avenue Q and Shrek).
Maupin lives in San Francisco with his husband, Christopher Turner.
Having read the two previous books in this series, Further Tales of the City was exactly what I've come to expect from Armistead Maupin. It's a dramatic, fast-paced soap opera with unexpected twists and turns, and diverse characters whom I enjoy reading about.
In fact, my only quibble with this book is that one of my favorites, Mona, wasn't in it. I'm hoping she makes a reappearance in the next story.
Further Tales of the City is an easy escape from reality as the characters work, enjoy their leisure time, and navigate the difficult paths of relationships in the modern era. If you're looking for a getaway from the real world, this might be a good choice for you.
If you can, do start with book one, Tales of the City. It is possible to enjoy each book as a stand alone, but Maupin weaves previous incidents from his characters lives seamlessly into the new stories. I feel like readers might miss out on the full experience if you don't pick the tale up from the beginning.
Armistead Maupin makes doppelgangers of his beloved characters, plays them out beautifully like a Chess Magician, and Michael and Co. move graciously to the background-- until you need them to be in the narrative, and then they pretty much save the day! Talk about complete reader fidelity. Because the clashes with actual 80's Americana (historical events mostly) are in such garish, odd taste (like talking about a topic way too early...AIDS, plane crashes, whathaveyou), it takes a while for the palate to become entranced with this much kitsch! But it's worth it, heartburn and all.
Maupin messes with previous dimensions of scope, ambition & historical precision. Instead of boring us with the folks that had already felt completely believable (and, what's more, readable) in the previous City novels, he lets the stew simmer exactly right. "Further" is somehow made more audacious than the others, more risky, even a bit more--deep? Sure. I will venture to say #3 is the best in the series (out of 3 thus far) for me. Getting all these books is my next ambition.
It took me 21 months to read this third volume. When Maupin comes up with a totally unbelievable plot line involving a resurrected Jim Jones, his kidnapping of two four-year-old children from an Alaskan cruise and then perhaps through Little Diomedes (a US island) to Big Diomedes (a Russian island) and then on to Nome which is "over eleven hundred miles from here [Diomedes]" Mary Ann says, right off the top of her head, the last half of this volume turns into a ridiculously thriller. And not even a drug-induced one via Mrs. Mardigal's magical backyard plants! Finally, Maupin returns to form by having Jon (Micheal's ex-doctor/lover) show up at 28 Barbary Lane while Father Paddy and Officer Rivera enjoy an afternoon delight behind park shrubbery. I'll read the rest of this series but I hope Maupin sticks to what he does best: love, sex, and lovesexdrugsdisco in San Francisco of the 1980s.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Uh-oh, I think this might be the book where the wheels start to come loose from the wagon. First off, and most importantly, Frannie Halcyon is referred to as “The Matriarch” at LEAST 200 times. I don’t understand why. It’s not like she’s going to be confused with another character if you just say FRANNIE.
Second, Prue Giroux drove me nuts, so abandoning Mona in favor of an entirely ridiculous mystery plot involving Prue didn’t thrill me either. If you’re going to take up with a man living in an abandoned shack in the park, don't you have to at least be prepared for the possibility that he might be a famous cult leader who faked his own death and is trying to exact revenge on one of his former followers? I mean, really.
On the other hand, some stuff that was awesome? MARY ANN AND BRIAN. Not only do I love that they’re together (because it’s all lovey dovey now, but I bet it ends horribly) but that it was so “oh, by the way, Mary Ann and Brian are sleeping together in Mary Ann’s gray, metallic 1980s apartment” with no explanation of how they ended up together. Fantastic.
Also awesome: Mrs. Madrigal locking an anchorwoman in her basement and then trying to get her stoned. The random appearances by Rock Hudson. Jon Fielding showing up on another cruise. I <3 Jon. I’m worried he might not survive the next decade. =(
I can see the train wreck of the 1980s coming, but I feel strangely compelled to keep reading. Onwards to the next title!
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
This is the last of the 'lighthearted' Tales of the City books, as the fourth will usher in the beginning of the AIDS crisis and the hardening of Mary Ann Singleton. Sometimes when re-reading this book I want to stop and pretend it ended there, so I can hold onto more cherished memories of the characters we have grown to love so much. The wacky plots may continue, but there's a darkness from hereon out that tends to overshadow it all.
The first three books in the Tales of the City are the best. They are all an unbeatable combination of plot, setting and character. And of the first three books, my personal favorite is #3, Further Tales of the City. It's the most inventive and memorable and the most page-turn-able--Maupin at his finest!
Meanwhile, it took me a long time to read this one because I read a few books between it. Partly I was miffed that it left the characters I most love out of the story, but I suppose it *may* become important for me to know more about these characters I thought were "side characters at best" before this book. All of that, of course, will depend on what happens next in the series.
I realized that having read these before, what I most remember is the second book, and I hope that doesn't mean it's the best of the series because we've got several more to read.
These books are like literary cotton candy, and I love that. At the same time that they were cutting edge when I first read them (I seem to recall them not being allowed in some friend's house,) they seem so dated now, and it's kind of a blast from the past and a warm and fuzzy feeling rereading them - combined with a sort of horror that this was ever the world that gave me hope.
This one failed to shine a light on San Francisco and that, combined with the lack of Anna Madrigal for big chunks were problematic. I adore Anna Madrigal and want to BE her. She did finally come through...
The problem with this "installation" is that it went way too far - jumped the shark just like Happy Days did in 1977 (a year imprinted on my brain for many reasons - that episode is one of them. Even as a child I could see how bad that was. I never missed Happy Days as a 10-yr-old kid. Tuesday nights at 8, followed by Laverne & Shirley. Also, Saturdays were Love Boat & Fantasy Island right in a row.) Why am I talking about TV? This book fell apart on a par with these shows, and that is not a good thing now that I'm allowed out of the house after dark.
It just didn't hold together, and despite the hilarity, it was all just a bridge too far for me, but I may evaluate this differently once I've read more of the series. Perhaps it was important to see Didi et al more fleshed out. The issue all of these characters have is that they fall into caricature relief when they are not front and center. I think this one may have simply been a blip, and honestly those years were horrible. The characters remain beloved to me, and I thought the ending was actually perfect. The kids are growing up, and with Rock Hudson featured here (along w/ the Reagan admin) I know we're headed to much less carefree joy and darker themes ahead. So I will keep reading and if necessary adjust my rating/review after I've finished.
Frances McDormand is the perfect narrator for Tales of the City which never lets too many pages go without the waft of a lit joint. Further Tales continues to delight. These books are so much fun to listen to on audiobook whether you hear the originals from author Armistead Maupin or the updated versions with hip celebrity readings. Love, love, love this series. My absolute favorite.
While these books are really about personal relationships between these wonderful characters, you do also get a thrilling story to go with each one. I'm enjoying this series much more than I ever thought I would because the writing is just so engaging.
This book plays much better (for me) than the film adaptation I watched years ago when I saw all the Tales movies in order even though I'd only read the first book. There's a certain edge to camp that seems to be hard to get on screen but is still quite charming in text.
That said, I don't think this book is quite as strong as the first two, and the simple reason for that is that the world changed. The first chapter makes it very clear that it's the 80's. 1981 to be specific. And, especially for the unique and quirky inhabitants of 28 Barbary Lane, it's a darker world. Part of that has come with age, they've grown; older as well as apart in some cases. This is also the first of the books where the mystery/villain involved is as sinister. Although it's never revealed if Luke, the charming/crazy/mysterious man who lives in the woods really IS Jim Jones, the fact is he's potentially associated with the REAL death of 900+ people. While revolting, the cannibal cult in the second book is probably the most innocuous of the evil groups in the first three books because they were only eating body parts which had been amputated legally and (one assumes) with the owner's permission (for the parts to be amputated, not lunched on). With Norman as a child pornographer in the first one, it's certainly a dark spin the reader does not expect and not something to be lightly dismissed, but the shadows of 900 dead people ups the ante pretty steeply. Plus his death is a shot in the head, much more intense than Norman's Disney-esq death of falling off a cliff.
There's also the added darkness of Brian and Michael being brutally gay-bashed toward the end of the book. This is the first time in the series there's ever been a real (and physical) cost for the main set of characters, and it's not nice.
Of course there's still some delightfully fun, classic Tales moments. The brief affair with the classic Hollywood celebrity referred to as _____ _____ (a thinly veiled reference to Rock Hudson), the bitchy A-Gays, some very romantic moments with Mary Ann and Brian and Michael and Jon, and even a news reporter held captive in the basement. And while Mary Ann's arc seems to be continuing on a steady rise, DeeDee's drastic change over the books from spoiled socialite to strategiezing, risk taking, mother and fighter is quite rewarding.
Ultimately the book holds up pretty well. It's an enjoyable ride of mystery and fun adventure. I'm looking forward to reading the rest of the books, especially since their plotlines are still a mystery to me.
Come to think of it, if the characters from the first book could have rated the world they were to inherit in the 80's, they probably wouldn't have given it all 5 stars either....
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
I fell deeply in love with the Tales of the City series when I read the first two installments as required reading in my Gay and Lesbian Lit class last semester. Maupin's prose is sparse yet surgical, his dialogue is lively and enjoyable, and he's able to create the type of characters that actually make me give a shit what happens to them; something that perhaps dazzles me more than it should as I spend so much of my time reading books where characters and plot are more-or-less secondary to theme. In short, I thought I had finally found the crazy book series I could connect to the way people connect to Young Adult series titles.
Which is why I was pretty saddened that the third installment, Further Tales, felt more like a slog than anything else. There are still occasional glimmers of the light-on-its-feet brilliance of the first two books here and there, don't get me wrong, but something about this one feels unfocused in a way the last two never did. It's almost as if Maupin wasn't sure where he was going with it while it was being serialized, so he would just keep spinning his wheels for installments at a time reiterating the predicaments of his characters over and over until he could think of what to do next. What's more, the book feels so far removed from Barbary Lane and one of the main characters is the new and incredibly difficult to care about Prue, when it could have just as easily been a pre-existing character we already have a relationship with as an audience like Frannie. Also what the fuck happened to Mona in all of this?
Great, my criticism has been reduced to fanboy complaining. But really, the book is mostly just a drag. I'll still be moving on to Babycakes eventually, as I'm interested in how the Tales series takes on something like the AIDS crisis (if it does at all), but as of this last book I'm sorry to report that I'm really in no big rush.
It's not exactly awful, but it could have and should have been a hell of a lot better.
As I continue my 2013 re-read of the Tales of the City series, I am guessing I will have to say less and less about it. Obviously I enjoy it very much, and while I recall the series "tail"-ing off at some point -- and thought it may have started here with the 3rd installment -- Further Tales of the City -- such was not the case. Although I had some trepidation at the start as I did not recall having fond memories of the emergence of Prue Giroux and the whole Guyana subplot, but alas it all charmed me in the end (even if it seemed to be at the expense of Mrs. Madrigal taking a bit of a backseat in this one).
So while the story has moved into the 1980s, it is still zipping right along. Very easy breeze-y reading as I read this one at the fastest clip yet, ~70-pages a day (tho my fellow Tales fans realize that is not that hard to do!). I feel a change a'coming and as I said I am not sure it is for the good, but I look forward to reading the next book in August.
This starts off as a bit of a frustrating installment. A few years have passed from More Tales and there's some re-arranging of the main characters' lives as they previously ended from being happy couples. This is all about girl-power with Mary Ann teaming up with DeDe Day (and to a lesser extent, ditzy social columnist Prue Gireaux) as they investigate the mysterious happenings of a charismatic cult leader who might have survived the real-life Jonestown massacre in 1978. Michael Tolliver sadly gets shunted into the background for most of the book as he attempts to recuperate from his breakup with Jon Fielding by sleeping with anything that moves. It feels like the weakest installment yet as the central mystery is the most far-fetched so far and feels much less like an ensemble of intertwined lives as it used to be. And where in the hell is Mona?
This time, there is much more action, including violence. At the same time, we continue to see the growth of the characters and how this "family" grows and changes. As always, there is a lot of wit and compassion. I lived in the San Francisco Bay Area for a lot of the time Maupin wrote about, and it captures the times as I remember them quite well.
This was my least favorite so far of the Tales of the City series. While I found it enjoyable there was something a bit off in the third installment that made it resonate with me less than the previous two.
What I loved was that, true to form, Further Tales of the City offers an almost soap opera storyline that takes twists and turns unexpectedly. I think Maupin has a knack for taking his characters in the most absurd yet entertaining paths throughout the narrative.
I love that Michael, Mary Anne and Brian have created this little threesome of a friendship that just continues to build with each collection.
Despite all that, however, I felt like the absence of key characters from before like Mona and even Dorothea impacted the story. There wasn’t much explanation for Mona’s departure and it made me wonder why Maupin chose to cut the character. I also felt like Ana Madrigold was in the story far less then previous. She really was only in two spots and that is far too little of the landlady! She is by far the standout character and I would have preferred to read more about her then any of the newer characters who got more time like Prue and Mrs Halcyon.
I also think that for some reason, this book felt far less funny then previous ones. In prior books I laughed a lot, at the absurd news, the shenanigans, the wit, etc. yet in this one I didn’t really find myself laughing all that much. There was an air of seriousness underscoring the entire book that felt a bit out of character for lack of a better term.
Still despite my hang ups, i find that it’s always nice to visit Barbery Lane and the characters that inhabit this fictionalized San Fransisco! While being my least favorite of the series so far, I still enjoy the series as a whole and have every intention of finishing them all.
I'm half-way through rereading the original six Tales of the City books, so I can dig into the three recently published sequels.
Further Tales of the City is my least favourite of the first three books, for two reasons.
First, the plot is preposterous. Armistead Maupin pulls his usual trick of juxtaposing characters through unlikely coincidences, but that's not the most annoying part. My main complaint is that the central plot is plain silly, constructed from an unbelievable premise, abrupt twists and turns, unlikely settings, and implausible resolutions.
Second, I don't like the character of Michael Tolliver. This is the book where we're supposed to fall in love with Michael, to embrace him as the symbolic totem for gay men in America, to salute his brave struggle for love and understanding. I can't get there. I find him glib, flippant, and self-pitying. Now that said, I know that Babycakes is the next book in the series, and I remember it as the best and most moving of the six, so maybe my opinion of Michael will evolve.
3.5 for content, 4 for enjoyment. I was home sick and desperate for cozy reading material when I remembered I had a stack of these in the basement.
Tales of the City is charming as always, and I really enjoyed Michael's storyline in particular; his search for emotional connection is sympathetic and heartfelt without being sentimental.
That said, for an ostensibly comic novel, there's a lot of darkness in this book. Most of it was deftly handled, but the main plot was slightly odd and dated, with the Jonestown massacre as a backdrop for a suspense narrative. I understand the impulse to explore a story that loomed large in San Fransisco at that time, but I'm still not quite sure if Maupin pulled it off.
Our heroes have entered the eighties, and while the references to culture and fashion make me smile, I want to wave my hands at them and shout, No! Go back, it's a trap! Hoping the author doesn't break our hearts too much in the next couple volumes (although it will be perfectly appropriate if he does).
My favorite so far. I couldn't go to bed until I finished it. Although I did miss Mona, the extreme drama kept me on the edge of my seat. It even exacerbated the creep-factor of a certain historical event that I've always been intrigued with. A lot to take in, but definitely my favorite.
Perfect beach/summer read- like reading a soap opera, and following along to see what happens. I love how the characters are all intertwined and you never know how they are going to pop up again throughout the series of 3 books.