True Detective is HBO’s newest crime drama series, starring Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson. Here’s how the show is described on Amazon:
HBO premieres a new drama series, True Detective, this season focusing on Martin Hart (Woody Harrelson) and “Rust” Cohle (Matthew McConaughey), two detectives and former partners who worked in Louisiana’s Criminal Investigation Division in the mid-1990s.
In 2012, for reasons not immediately revealed, the two are interviewed separately by investigators about their most notorious case: the macabre 1995 murder of a prostitute by a possible serial killer with disturbing occult leanings. As they look back on the case, Hart and Cohle’s personal backstories and often-strained relationship become a major focal point.
Hart, an outgoing native Louisianan and family man whose marriage is being frayed by work stress and infidelity, is (at least on the surface) the polar opposite of Cohle, a lone-wolf pessimist and former narcotics detective from Texas. While the plot is moved forward by their shared obsession to hunt down the ritual killer, the true drama centers around the mercurial nature of Hart and Cohle’s relationship and personalities, and how they affect each other as detectives, friends, and men.
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Fans are loving this twisty, dark, unpredictable show, and it’s generating plenty of talk both offline and on-. In particular, the show’s roots in an 1895 short story collection known as The King in Yellow. From Slate:
For those of you who didn’t know or see this already, the Yellow King stuff—which the meth-head drugstore killer brings up again, after its previous appearances in Dora Lange’s journal and Charlie Lange’s cellmate conversations with Ledoux—has a fictional history long pre-dating True Detective. It is a story, essentially, about another story that people read and that makes them go mad, a state maybe not all that dissimilar to Reggie Ledoux’s. Given that Reggie told Cohle “You’re in Carcosa now,” hopefully Cohle’s ramblings are not a sign of the same thing.
This collection of stories has influenced writers from H.P. Lovecraft and Raymond Chandler, to Robert Heinlein, Grant Morrison, Neil Gaiman and George R. R. Martin. The King in Yellow and his legendary city of Carcosa may be the most famous character and setting you’ve never heard of.
In fact, the more of the show you watch, and the more carefully you pay attention, you’ll find a number of Easter eggs aimed squarely at hardcore fans of the weird fiction genre. I’ll touch on a few of the more prominent ones, but I have a feeling the rest of the series will be a bonanza for true detectives of strange fiction.
This public-domain book is available in Kindle format in a few different editions, and it’s essential reading for fans of True Detective: