Seventy today, Armistead Maupin's legacy is doubly assured: Begun forty years ago, his important, enduring, and always readable Tales of the City series concluded with its ninth installment, The Days of Anna Madrigal, this January, the same month his Mary Ann, actress Laura Linney, and her husband welcomed their first child, Bennett Armistead Schauer. Those film adaptations in the early 90s were widely praised and greatly loved, and, inevitably, attacked by conservatives, especially because the first film was shown on PBS. Several state legislatures in the South officially condemned the series. No surprise, the frightened suits at PBS ignored the record breaking ratings and awards, and cancelled the sequel. Enter Showtime, which produced the next two adaptations and earned six additional Emmy nominations. Maupin's bravery in print was matched in action, fighting aids and for gay rights. Author of two novels outside the Tales series (Maybe the Moon and The Night Listener), he has written the screenplays for four adaptations of his work and wrote the excellent narration to The Celluloid Closet. After a twelve-year relationship with Terry Anderson, Maupin met and married photographer Christopher Turner. They left their beloved San Francisco and have established themselves in Santa Fe.
A contemporary heir to Patrick Leigh Fermor's genius in travel writing, Bruce Chatwin's literary talent was matched by his personal panache. So brilliant, so handsome, so acclaimed, so willing to buck British convention, yet so tormented by his own prejudices. Unable to accept that he was gay, he married a woman, Elizabeth Chanler, in 1965, when he was twenty-five, and exclusively pursued men throughout their fifteen years of marriage. (She didn't mind, although she did ask for a separation in 1980.)
Chatwin's reflex for making up cover stories appears to have extended into his nonfiction. The local people of his marvelous travel books like In Patagoniaand The Songlines disputed the accuracy of some of his writing, claiming he embellished or created characters and conversations described as fact. Many episodes in those essays only make sense if you realize he is sleeping with the men he meets. Although there's nothing outright gay in his much loved first novel On the Black Hill, it concerns two long-time bachelor brothers who sleep in the same bed for decades. Even when he was dying at forty-eight in 1989, he remained so closeted he said he had a rare, fatal blood disease contracted in China from a bat bite, rather than say he had aids. One of his lovers was Jasper Conran; Chatwin died in the South of France in a house owned by Jasper's mother, Shirley Conran, and his ashes were scattered near Leigh Fermor's home in the Peleponnese.
Rupert Smith's output is so big and versatile he needs three names to cover it. His own literary fiction includes most recently the award-winning Man's World which follows two storylines of gay Londoners decades apart, both revolving around a trio of similar types made memorable by individual quirks: a quieter man whose best friend is screamingly camp and whose off-again-on-again lover is a hot bloke with serious self-acceptance issues. As in The Swimming-Pool Library, the historical characters (and the old men they become) are more interesting than the funnier but shallower contemporary club denizens. Rupert James is his name for swift, swirly Shirley Conran-ish fiction like Silk and Step Sisters. And James Lear delivers gay erotica in clever settings with actual wit: a country house whodunit (The Back Passage), a murder on a long journey aboard the legendary train The Flying Scotsman (The Secret Tunnel), a Civil War romance between a spoiled white heir and a runaway slave (Hot Valley), a Robert Louis Stevenson-style romp through Scotland in the 1750s (The Low Road), and a new work in the vein of Lee Child (The Hardest Thing). Generously, Rupert has posted on his site a list of his 101 favorite novels with a wonderfully opinionated paragraph about each. Later this year comes his new novel Interlude.