Monday, February 17, 2014

'True Detective' Shines a Light on 'The King in Yellow'

I think it’s safe to say that True Detective has replaced Breaking Bad as the show that everyone is talking about on the internet these days. Not only is it a superbly written, shot, acted and directed show, but it has drawn attention to one of the greatest horror works of all time--Robert W. Chambers’ The King in Yellow.

From what I’ve been reading on Twitter, it seems like a lot of people are surprised to learn that the King in Yellow and Carcosa are not creations of the show, but references to a book written over a century ago. I couldn’t be happier about that, as it’s drawing attention to a writer who often gets overlooked as a primary influence of H.P. Lovecraft.

It was because of his influence on Lovecraft that I first discovered Chambers and The King in Yellow years ago. I was so blown away by Lovecraft’s cosmic weirdness that I just had to read the work of someone that he had actually been inspired by.

The beauty of the The King in Yellow is that it is a collection of stories that make references to the titular play, but offers readers only glimpses into it. Like Lovecraft did in many of his stories, Chambers builds the horror in you as a reader by showing you what happens to those who are mad enough to lay eyes on the play itself. Because he leaves so much up to the reader, The King in Yellow is a book that you can revisit time and again, and come away with something new.

I was so enamored with The King in Yellow that I built my first horror novel around some of its concepts. My goal was to pay tribute to the original story and hopefully get people interested in going back to read it if they’d never done so before.

So as a horror fan and a huge fan of The King in Yellow, I am ecstatic that True Detective is so effectively weaving Chambers’ work into its murder mystery. I hope everyone goes out and downloads a copy of the book, which has been in the public domain for years (you can get a copy on Amazon here). And if this newfound interest leads some readers to check out Courting the King in Yellow too, well that’s just fine with me.