Arts & Culture

Tales of the City, Netflix's Buzzy New Show, Is Based on Armistead Maupin's Beloved Books

Here's what you should know about the decade-spanning, nine-book series.
IMAGE NINO MUNOZ / NETFLIX
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Since Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City premiered on Netflix in June, the limited series has sparked a renewed interest in its source material: a series of nine books, written over decades by the beloved writer and LGBTQ activist Armistead Maupin. Here, what you should know about the books.

THE STORIES WERE FIRST SERIALIZED IN A NEWSPAPER.

Starting in 1974, Maupin began publishing what would become Tales of the City in the Pacific Sun, a Bay Area alt-weekly newspaper. Two years later, the column moved to the San Francisco Chronicle, and readers fell in love with Maupin's characters and slice-of-life, San Francisco-based stories.

MAUPIN PUBLISHED THE FIRST TALES OF THE CITY BOOK IN 1976.

His columns were compiled into a series of novels. Later, Maupin would publish more sequels, some of which focus in on a single character. The latest book, The Days of Anna Madrigal, was published in 2014.

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MARY ANN (LAURA LINNEY) AND ANNA MADRIGAL (OLYMPIA DUKAKIS) BOTH STARRED IN THE ORIGINAL PBS SHOW, AND RETURN IN NETFLIX’S NEW LIMITED SERIES.
Photo by NINO MUNOZ / NETFLIX.

THE PLOT CENTERS ON A CLOSE GROUP OF FRIENDS LIVING IN SAN FRANCISCO.

Anna Madrigal (Olympia Dukakis), a weed-loving transgender woman, serves as something of a matriarch for her tenants at 28 Barbary Lane. Among the other main characters are Mary Ann (Laura Linney), Brian Hawkins (Paul Gross), and Michael Tolliver (Marcus D’Amico, Paul Hopkins, Murray Bartlett). Maupin has termed the group a "logical family."

THIS ISN'T THE FIRST TIME THEY'VE BEEN ADAPTED ONSCREEN.

PBS aired a landmark 1993 adaptation, starring Laura Linney and Olympia Dukakis. Despite high ratings and critical acclaim, PBS ultimately decided not to renew the series, amid an intense conservative backlash. Although the show was tame by today's standards, right-wing activists were incensed by its portrayal of LGBTQ lives, and even threatened to cut PBS's public funding over Tales of the City.

Showtime would pick it up eventually for two more miniseries, More Tales of the City (1998) and Further Tales of the City (2001), before Netflix's recent reboot.

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'Tales of the City' Books

SHOP NOW: Tales of the City, amazon.com, $12.34

SHOP NOW: 28 Barbary Lane: Tales of the City Books 1-3, amazon.com, $17.99

SHOP NOW: Back to Barbary Lane: Tales of the City Books 4-6, amazon.com, $17.31

SHOP NOW: Goodbye Barbary Lane: Tales of the City Books 79, amazon.com, $18.99

*This story originally appeared on Townandcountrymag.com

*Minor edits have been made by the Townandcountry.ph editors

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