Tales of the City

Armistead Maupin


Why Tales of the City and Mount Diablo

I first read the original four books of the Tales of the City series when I moved to Los Angeles in 1994 and met BJ. It’s a fun, light read that captures a the spirit of a city at a moment in time. I also saw the mini-series starring Laura Linney and Olympia Dukakis. It reminds me of a time when my life was taking off in a new direction and I was living in a new place for the first time in my life.

More About Tales of the City

Tales of the City is a series of nine novels written by American author Armistead Maupin. The stories from Tales were originally serialized prior to their novelization, with the first four titles appearing as regular installments in the San Francisco Chronicle, while the fifth appeared in the San Francisco Examiner. The remaining titles were never serialized, but were instead originally written as novels.

The series opens with the arrival of Mary Ann Singleton, a naive young woman from Cleveland, Ohio, who is visiting San Francisco on vacation when she impulsively decides to stay. She finds an apartment at 28 Barbary Lane, the domain of the eccentric, marijuana-growing landlady Anna Madrigal. Mary Ann becomes friends with other tenants of the building: the hippyish, bisexual Mona Ramsey; heterosexual lothario Brian Hawkins; the sinister and cagey roof tenant Norman Neal Williams; and Michael Tolliver, a sweet and personable gay man known to friends as Mouse (as in Mickey Mouse).

Beyond the house, lovers and friends guide Mary Ann through her San Franciscan adventures. Edgar Halcyon, Mary Ann’s and Mona’s boss; Edgar’s socialite daughter DeDe Halcyon-Day; and DeDe’s scheming bisexual husband Beauchamp Day all provide a glimpse into a more affluent Californian class. Mother Mucca, Mrs. Madrigal’s mother and owner of the Blue Moon Lodge brothel, brings mystery and comic relief. D’orothea Wilson returns from a modeling assignment in New York to resume an affair with Mona. Jon Fielding, Michael’s lover and DeDe’s gynecologist, becomes part of the social group. Michael’s lovers later in the series include Thack Sweeney and the significantly younger Ben McKenna.

In 1993 the first book was made into a television miniseries, produced by Channel 4 in the UK and screened by PBS in the U.S. the next year. It was one of the first roles for Laura Linney in the key role of Mary Ann. The second and third titles in the series made their television debuts in 1998 and 2001 on Showtime.