The strange book behind "True Detective"


I’m having mixed feelings about this. On one hand I’m glad that the general public is being exposed to more of the Mythos than just Cthulhu (and yes, while the KiY predates Lovecraft, it has been incorporated into the shared mythology of Lovecraft and his successors), but on the other hand, it isn’t like True Detective really does that much with it other than name drop.

Don’t get me wrong, I watched True Detective after hearing about it here on Boingboing and it is a well made show, but don’t watch it for the Mythos shoutouts or you’ll be disappointed. My fear is that if anyone else actually uses the King in Yellow for something more relevant they’ll be accused of ripping off True Detective.


Additionally, the Classic Tales podcast has had readings of at least 2 chapters of this book over the last year. They’re deliciously creepy. B. J. Harrison, who does the podcast, makes his professional-quality audiobook readings available for free, and they’re well worth checking out.

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i’m glad i set up all of those The King In Yellow accounts and user names a decade ago when it was cool…to me. now maybe a higher power (hbo) will come and take them away without my permission.

unfortunately this means that any future accounts i want to make will be next to impossible.

I’ve had that book cover embedded in my memory for what seems nearly a lifetime. I had the paperback but lost track of it ages ago. For some reason I’d as much associated it with Jack Vance as Lovecraft (Vances’s opera were similarly paperbacked, some of them in flip-over double books I’d bought from a shop in a Holiday Camp when a kid). And now it figures in a TV series I won’t be watching until it’s released into the non-subscription TV wild? Hah!

Anybody find the Project Gutenberg logo a little creepy today in light of the linking circumstances?

Oh, thanks for that. I don’t care much for TV and hadn’t bothered watching the show. I was starting to wonder if I should because really since I first read Dreamquest of Unknown Kadath as a child I was hooked to the whole oeuvre and anything somewhat similar.

“The Repairer of Reputations” sounded a lot like modern internet services that claim to get the embarassing stains out of your personal history.

The part where he describes the wonders of the coming 20th century was cute - mounted cavalry, no cars, no airplanes. Chambers was no Jules Verne! The weirdest line was where he said Americas new age of prosperity and peace was the result of expelling all the Jews!

Like Delta Green was accused of ripping off the X-Files even though it came out a year before

I found True Detective too boring and pretentious to watch past the first half of the first episode (and do we need another serial killer leaving women’s corpses with antlers? It was just done in Hannibal; is this a thing now?), but I’ve always been a big fan of the book, since I was a kid in the 60s and obsessed with the Cthulhu mythos. The book was given to me by a relation of his (nephew? grandson? something), Bill Chambers, who was a Stage Manager in New York, and a friend of my mother’s. He saw my falling-apart Armed Services Edition of Lovecraft, and gave me the King in Yellow. Fantastic. I’m glad to see it get more attention.


You seem to not know what the show is actually about…

I’ve kind of half watched True Detective. My attention always wanders during TV so I’ve missed a lot.

I did pick this book up last week though because I was in need of something to read. Enjoying it thus far. A massive improvement on what I had been slogging through (The Count of Monte Christo).

The weirdest line was where he said Americas new age of prosperity and peace was the result of expelling all the Jews
“foreign born Jews” if I recall. I guess he was okay with ones born here. Plus, Chambers has African-Americans living in the new state of Suanee, but it isn’t clear if that was a voluntary thing or it was some sort of obligatory imprisionment. Although you have to realize that all these descriptions of future America are coming from the narrator, not necessarily Chambers’ mouthpiece. The future America also has “suicide centers” where people can easily end their lives, so it might not be as Utopian as the narrator implies.

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Yes, from interviews I remember that John Tynes was really annoyed that reviewers kept calling Delta Green the “X-Files Role-Playing Game”.

He kept mentioning the mounted cavalry in their fancy uniforms on the city streets, which was common during Civil War, and he extrapolates that into the 20th century.

…also he is using the device of the Unreliable Narrator

“You just show that your first-person narrator was actually in an insane asylum and then OH MY GOD, did it actually happen? Who can say? Here, I can say. It didn’t happen because your narrator was just no good. Listen. Never lend an unreliable narrator money.”
— Dinosaur Comics, “Literary techniques comics: Unreliable Narrator”

there’s a good papperback edition here ( cheap and with nice photographic illustrations that capture the mood.

Absolutely right, after half of Episode 1 I really don’t know what it is about, yet despite that (or maybe because of that) I still found it tedious and annoying. Although it has long been a credo in commercial writing that you’re expected to make it clear in the first ten pages what something is “about,” that may be an old-fashioned notion in this age of binge-watching. Whatever… Also, I am starting to tire of yet more shows featuring manly, inexpressive men relating to each other over dead women. This is no knock on the actors, who I think are doing as well as they can be expected to with the writing.

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I will just point out that there is a reason that show is getting so much acclaim and that you may not be really giving it a chance. As to the “dead women,” you’re characterizing an entire show by one 10 minutes incident in the very first episode and seeming to think it is indicative of the show’s overall content. It isn’t.