Famed for his newspaper-column Tales of the City
saga, Armistead Maupin has made the transition to fully fledged novelist with panache. Maintaining the wit and conversational duelling of the Tales
--indeed, sharp-eyed fans will find odd intrusions from the past here--Maupin's The Night Listener
is a gripping novel, brilliantly plotted and ultimately extremely moving, exploring "the chance to feel love without boundaries".
When yet another book manuscript drops onto Gabriel Noone's doormat craving his approval, the beloved late-night radio storyteller is sceptical--but this one is different. It's The Blacking Factory, the autobiographical tale of Pete Lomax, a child abused and sold for sex by his parents, who has survived, thanks to his adoptive mother, psychologist Donna. Flattered that this young boy is an inveterate night listener of his shows, Gabriel contacts Pete, and in time their telephone relationship blooms into something approaching father and son--until Gabriel begins to have doubts about who Pete is. At the same time, Gabriel's father falls ill and his life truly becomes "a loose confederation of uncertainties".
Perhaps this new emotional pull isn't altogether unsurprising beause like many others of his generation of gay writers--Edmund White, Andrew Holleran, Felice Picano--Maupin is now trading more explicitly in the raw materials of his own life. Gabriel Noone shares much with Armistead Maupin--a writer, whose fame is based on a popular form, raised in South Carolina, based in San Francisco, with a lover who leaves him when it becomes clear he's not about to die, and a same-named and difficult father. But Maupin has always been more cagey than his peers about revealing too much of himself--Noone, like his creator, is "a fabulist by trade", overly given to embroidering his stories, or "jewelling the elephant" as he puts it. And for all it reveals about Maupin the man, in its final pages The Night Listener protects its author's privacy--refusing to distinguish between fact and fiction, and refusing to allow that distinction to become important. --Alan Stewart
--This text refers to the
"'A tremendous, hugely satisfying read'" (Time Out
"'Absorbing, sophisticated, funny and touching'" (The Sunday Times
"'Elegantly conceived and executed, The Night Listener marks a long overdue return to fiction by one of America's best-loved writers...a real page-turner'" (Sunday Telegraph
"'His most mature, mellow and moving novel yet'" (Independent
"'A mystery studded with elegant twists and turns'" (The New York Times Book Review