When the first volume in the Tales of the City series was published in 1978, Armistead Maupin tells us disarmingly in his new memoir, it flopped. Yet the series, which had begun as a newspaper serial in 1974, continued for a decade, with three more recent books bringing us up to date on the fate of the major characters. Meanwhile, Tales of the City led to several television miniseries starring Laura Linney and Olympia Dukakis. (Netflix is making a new version, with both those actors.) Along the way, Maupin became one of the best-known gay authors in the world.
The premise of the series was deceptively simple: take an extended household of characters living through a period of rapid social change, and relate their interwoven stories. Tales reflected the rise of San Francisco as the gay centre of the world, and played a pioneering role in popular culture in confronting shifts in the sexual and gender Zeitgeist.