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Tales of the City , the author's six-novel chronicle of gay, straight, single and married life in San Francisco, comes to a smart, wistful conclusion in this final installment. The series' large cult readership will already be familiar with the cast: the gay couple Thack and Michael, who must now live with the possibility of AIDS; Brian and Mary Ann, whose marriage crumbles under the strain of her growing celebrity; and Mona, who searches for happiness on a visit to Lesbos. Maupin began the stories as a serial in local newspapers, and each novel is as much a product of its moment as a Doonesbury strip. This one is no exception; it's packed with references to everything from Barbara Bush's weight to a specific, infamous segment of Late Night with David Letterman. What makes the books work are Maupin's gifts as both a reporter and an social ironist, and his unerring ability to capture the exact tone of smart urban conversation, whether the topic is politics, sex, friendship or the latest movies. Only Mary Ann, a ferociously ambitious morning-show hostess whose series goes ``lower than Geraldo,'' is a caricature, albeit a wickedly funny one; the rest are full-blooded creations whose departures will be mourned. (Oct.)

This sixth, and final, volume of the Tales of the City series finds the now-former residents of 28 Barbary Lane dealing with the late '80s. Michael, after finally finding love with Thack, now must cope with being HIV-positive. Mary Ann's success as a talk-show host puts a fatal strain upon her marriage to Brian. Mona, with Mrs. Madrigal, vacations on the island of Lesbos searching for spiritual roots. Just as the characters have grown and matured over the course of the series, so, too, has Maupin's writing, producing a work that both serves as an appropriate ending for a terrific series and stands on its own as a novel. The publisher will repackage and re-issue the rest of the series upon the publication of this book. Recommended. Quality Paperback Book Club alternate. -- James E. Cook, Dayton & Montgomery Cty. P.L., Ohio

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