cover image Sure of You

Sure of You

Armistead Maupin. HarperCollins Publishers, $18.95 (262pp) ISBN 978-0-06-016164-4

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.)