No matter what author Armistead Maupin says on his website about Michael Tolliver Lives not being a sequel to Tales of the City, the book takes readers back to old friends in San Francisco. Check out the cover of which Maupin says, "The cover is meant to look cheerful but battered, a hopeful survivor of the Seventies like its protagonist (and its author, for that matter.)"
Tales of the City was the first in Maupin's series of books that were published in the late 70s and the 80s. The television mini-series of the work appeared on PBS, but moved to Showtime for the sequels because of controversy over the homosexual themes, nudity and illicit drug use.
Anyone who complained must have failed to read the books. The early books featured Anna Madrigal, the landlady at 28 Barbary Lane and her tenants, including Michael Tolliver, known then as "Mouse." In the later books in the series, "Mouse" was HIV-positive, and not sure he would survive his years of a gay lifestyle in San Francisco.
However, Michael Tolliver Lives, and he lives very well twenty years later. He's using the drug cocktails that allow him to live the life of an aging gay man. He married his husband, Ben, at City Hall, and relates the story of their relationship. His former landlady, Anna Madrigal, is still around, and even encouraged Michael to go after Ben on the street.
Michael's friends from the early books are still friends, his "logical" family as he refers to them. That's in contrast to his "biological" family in Florida, people he doesn't respect. However, he's forced to deal with their feelings about him when his mother is near death in a retirement home. The readers can observe the contrast in relationships as Michael flies from San Francisco, where he has "family" and friends and is loved, to Orlando, where his actual family doesn't understand him at all.
Armistead Maupin's characters have all changed over twenty years, and he doesn't hesitate to show their age. Any readers who loved them in their wild years in San Francisco will love them even more in their older years. They've matured into warm, loving people, who still are unafraid to show how much they care. Yes, there's sex, controversial lifestyles and drug use, but there are wonderful people in these books. Thank heaven that Michael Tolliver Lives.
Armistead Maupin's website is www.armisteadmaupin.com
Michael Tolliver Lives by Armistead Maupin. HarperCollins, ©2007. ISBN 978-0-06-076135-6 (hardcover), 277p.