Booked Up

The Return of Armistead Maupin

Celebrated author of Tales of the City returns with new novel based on his West Coast characters.

By - Feb 28th, 2014 02:21 pm
The Days of Anna Madrigal by Armistead Maupin

The Days of Anna Madrigal by Armistead Maupin

It‘s hard to believe that it’s been 40 years since Armistead Maupin first penned the adventures that morphed into Tales of the City (1976). Originally a serial in a Marin County paper, I first started reading the stories as a young vagabond in 1970’s San Francisco. By then, they were being published in the august San Francisco Chronicle. Serial fiction was a novelty to the newspaper readers of that time, but they hung on every word, often sending Xeroxed copies of the installments cross-country.

In Maupin’s new novel, The Days of Anna Madrigal, we are treated to all our favorite characters and more than our shares of surprises. If you are a newbie to these adventures, I’d like to state upfront that this book is probably not the best place to start. Like a new date at a family Thanksgiving, you may find yourself confused and more than a little bored. Try Tales of the City and come back to this book when you’re up to speed.

However, if you have fallen under the spell of the inhabitants of 28 Barbary Lane, The Days of Anna Madrigal will be like spending a wonderful weekend with your dearest friends. This is not to suggest that they behave themselves! Like a good West-Coast ménage, they prattle, pose, and even infuriate.  It is a tribute to the vivid characters that Maupin has created that we care so much about them.

Like a modern-day Charles Dickens, Maupin sketches amazing people, gives them outrageous experiences, and turns every plot back on itself. Sometimes the coincidences and happenstances defy credulity, but in this book they are all about tying up loose ends. In that regard they are very satisfying, as many mysteries and questions from Anna’s past are cleared up, if not explained completely. Many of the adventures and locales mirror Maupin’s recent migration from his beloved San Francisco to Santa Fe, New Mexico with his new husband.

Part of the magic of Tales of the City and its eight sequels comes from living the Bohemian lifestyle of San Francisco’s sybarites vicariously through Maupin’s characters. Perfect for an icy winter, this novel includes tours of Nevada’s “houses of ill repute,” much romantic activity, and an extended stay at the Burning Man Festival. These books are R-rated, with exploits to make even the most experienced blush, or at least raise an eyebrow.

After the long tales began to seem a little wild for his aging characters, Maupin started writing about our favorites in a more concentrated way. First came Michael Tolliver Lives about our dear “Mouse,” an aging Lothario who seeks to settle down. Then came Mary Ann in Autumn, a dissection of a good wife forever changed by Mrs. Madrigal and her crew. Finally, we have Mrs. Madrigal’s own story, complete with flashbacks to her youth and premonitions of things to come.

As I’ve already stated, this book will be a treasure to the legions of Tales fans, but it also stands on its own as an artifact of modern life and the way we have created our own families, of whatever kind, person by person. Maupin’s dialogue rings true, if a little trendy. His characters curse and describe their pansexual exploits without shame or hesitancy. We are after all, as Mrs. Madrigal might say, “in the 21st century.”


Upcoming area Book Events: 

Sunday, March 2 (3:00 PM): Historical Middle Grade Fiction Panel, with Wendy McClure author of “Wanderville,” and Rebecca Behrens, author of “When Audrey Met Alice,” and Gayle Rosengren, author of “What the Moon Said” at Boswell Book Company.

Monday, March 3 (7:00 PM): Lorrie Moore, author of “Bark: Stories” at Boswell Book Company.

Wednesday, March 5 (6:30 PM): Joelle Charbonneau, author of “Independent Study
at the Hales Corners Library, 5885 S. 116th Street in Hales Corners, Wisconsin.

Thursday, March 6 (7:00 PM): Charles Krauthammer, author of “Things That Matter: Three Decades of Passions, Pastimes, and Politics” at the Milwaukee Public Library’s Centennial Hall, located at 733 N. Eighth Street in Milwaukee. Co-sponsored by Boswell Book Company.

Friday, March 7 (7:00 PM): Michael Parker, author of “All I Have in This World” with Murray Farish, author of “Inappropriate Behavior: Stories” at Boswell Book Company.


Send your book club picks and author event information to me at  And good reading!

0 thoughts on “Booked Up: The Return of Armistead Maupin”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Sounds intriguing!

  2. Anonymous says:

    Never a dull moment, Jon! Indeed.

Leave a Reply

You must be an Urban Milwaukee member to leave a comment. Membership, which includes a host of perks, including an ad-free website, tickets to marquee events like Summerfest, the Wisconsin State Fair and the Florentine Opera, a better photo browser and access to members-only, behind-the-scenes tours, starts at $9/month. Learn more.

Join now and cancel anytime.

If you are an existing member, sign-in to leave a comment.

Have questions? Need to report an error? Contact Us