The last of the six volumes of Armistead Maupin’s hugely successful Tales of the City appeared in 1989. Now he has produced what is, he insists, not an addition but a pendant to it. To allay any possible disappointment, the jacket declares that ‘a reassuring number of familiar faces appear along the way’. But these faces are more likely to bewilder than reassure anyone either unfamiliar with the series or, after so many years, possessing no more than wisps of recollection of it.
Michael Tolliver, protagonist of Tales, once more occupies the central role. Witty, kindly and tolerant, he remains both loveable and believable. Having survived, thanks to the new anti-retroviral drugs, what appeared to be a death-sentence when he was first found to be HIV positive twenty years back, he is healthy enough to continue to work as an upmarket San Francisco gardener and to maintain a hectic social and sexual life – even if his youthful lover, a joiner called Ben, has to inject him with testosterone to ginger him up as a prelude to their love-making.
The other major revenant from the series is the transsexual earth mother Anna (formerly Andy). Michael is much closer to her than to his own mother, a fundamentalist who, until she meets and is charmed by Ben, strongly disapproves of her son’s references to ‘my husband’. When Michael is on