True Detective, the original HBO series starring Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson, has already wrapped up on TV months ago, but I only discovered it through friends recently. I have managed to watch up to episode 5 (thank God for whatever little extra time I find for squeezing it in) and so far, I like it. So when I read this article saying there's one literary reference a True Detective viewer must know in order to appreciate the series, I downloaded the book right away (free on Amazon, yay!). Hello there, The King in Yellow.
I've never heard of The King in Yellow nor of its author, Robert W. Chambers, before. The article says the book belongs to the genre weird fiction, and I can't really say I've read a lot of those (except for, perhaps, a few short stories from Neil Gaiman I'd classify as "weird"). But anyway, I was curious, so I read on. I thought perhaps I needed to finish the book before I continue watching True Detective.
The King in Yellow was originally published in the late 1800s. It is a collection of short, very weird stories with a central, common element in them: the King in Yellow himself and his kingdom of Carcosa. There are ten (10) stories in this collection: The Repairer of Reputations, The Mask, In The Court of The Dragon, The Yellow Sign, The Demoiselle d'Ys, The Prophet's Paradise, The Street of the Four Winds, The Street of the First Shell, The Street of Our Lady of the Fields, and Rue Barree. The stories are horrifying at best and dragging at worst, and I will take the former over the latter any day.
In fact, the first four stories are the ones that I liked best, with The Yellow Sign as the clear frontrunner for favorite. These are the most readable stories, they could actually be treated as your Halloween horror tale -- most especially The Yellow Sign. (Oh, that was ooh-la-la crrrrrreepy.) Reading it felt like a repeat of what happened to me when I read Susan Hill's The Woman In Black a couple of years ago: goosebumps all over, prickling at the back of my neck, imagination running wild, and getting scared sh*tless. And believe me when I say that it's the best thing about this book - had I known how difficult and dull the rest of the stories are, I would have stopped when I had the chance. I was sufficiently and deliciously creeped out by the first few stories, and then somewhere along the halfway mark, Chambers and The Yellow King lost me. It was all downhill from there.
I'm still not done watching True Detective, but I'm enjoying it because, true to what the article promised, I can completely understand and relate to what's going on in the show, especially with the references to the Yellow King, Carcosa, the black stars, the spiral, and who knows what else in the next episodes. But I would concede one thing: I wouldn't have read The King in Yellow if it weren't for True Detective.
Book Details: Kindle edition