By People Staff
November 20, 2000 12:00 PM

by Armistead Maupin

In his first novel in eight years, the author of the enormously popular Tales of the City series has created a protagonist not unlike himself. Gabriel Noone, like Maupin, is a gay Southerner who lives in San Francisco and has written books with a devoted following. The Night Listener focuses on one of those fans—Pete, a 13-year-old who has suffered the vilest forms of sexual abuse and is dying of AIDS—and the tender relationship that develops between him and Gabriel, entirely on the telephone. That they never meet is the basis for some page-turning suspense when Gabriel begins to investigate whether the lad really exists.

Saying any more would ruin the story, and it has problems enough already. For one, Pete lacks much appeal, and his potty mouth makes him sound like one of those precocious tykes in a bad Neil Simon movie. The narcissistic Noone, with his relentless it’s-all-about-me attitude, is no more winning. That his last name could be read as “no one” is either an unintentional joke or some great irony. (HarperCollins, $26)

Bottom Line: Wails of self-pity