Lazy Saturday Reads: True Detective and A Bit of Real News


Good Morning!!

Since it’s the weekend and most of us can probably use a little escape from reality, I thought I’d begin this post by writing a little about my latest obsession–the HBO show True Detective. Have you been following it? I don’t watch a lot of TV these days, but I had been hearing good things about this show; and a few days ago I decided to take the plunge. I ended up watching the first five episodes in three nights. Episode 6 will debut tomorrow night at 9PM, and HBO will repeat Episode 1 tonight at 10PM. I don’t want to ruin the series for anyone who hasn’t seen it yet, so I’m not going to go into a lot of detail about it. I’ll post some interesting reading and try not to include too many leave it up to you if you want to read them now or later. I guess I’m hoping some other Sky Dancers will be interesting enough to watch the show too, so we can discuss it here.

True Detective combines two elements that have always fascinated and attracted me–mystery stories and occult horror. The story is set in Cajun country–south-central Louisiana. The two main characters are Rust Cohle and Martin Hart, played by Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson respectively. Cohle and Hart are homicide detectives who catch the case of a lifetime–a murder that combines sadistic cruelty with bizarre symbolism. Cohle is convinced from the beginning that they are dealing with a serial killer who has likely committed previous murders and who will commit more in the future if he isn’t stopped. They are then drawn into a 17-year investigation that powerfully affects both of their lives.

Nic Pizzolatto

Nic Pizzolatto

The show’s creator, writer, and producer is Nic Pizzolatto, a Louisiana native who, until 2010 was a professor at DePauw University in Indiana.  According to the Indy Star,

In fact, DePauw University in Greencastle served as a launch pad for his Hollywood career….

Before he moved west, Pizzolatto held a tenure-track post as a DePauw English professor. In 2010, his book “Galveston” was published. That summer, he decided he could not return to academia, he has said in interviews.

“I’d want to bring a flamethrower to faculty meetings,” Pizzolatto told the Los Angeles Times earlier this year. “The preciousness of academics and their fragile personalities would not be tolerated in any other business in the known universe.”

The award-winning novelist sold the film rights to “Galveston” [his first novel] and moved his wife and young family to southern California to try to break into another industry, not known for its own lack of preciousness and fragile personalities.

I want to thank Dakinikat for getting me interested in watching True Detective.  Awhile ago, I had sent her a long article about a series of murders in Louisiana: Who Killed the Jeff Davis 8? (I recently posted the link in a morning reads post too, but I don’t know how many people saw it.) Dak said she thought True Detective was based on those cases. Here’s another article about the murders–still pretty long: Jennings 8: Unsolved murders haunt town, police

Pizzolatto kind of confirmed that by tweeting the link to the article on January 28. So you might want to take a look at it. The author, Ethan Brown describes a series of murders of 8 prostitutes, some of whom knew each other. The police have investigated the cases as if they were committed by one serial killer, but Brown argues that there is more than one murderer and what connects the cases may be that members of law enforcement were involves in each of them. Similarly, there are hints in True Detective that powerful people may be involved in the cases Cohle and Hart are investigating.

HBO's "True Detective" Season 1 / Director: Cary Fukunaga

As I mentioned above, the show is in some ways a typical police procedural that explores conflicts between two homicide detective partners with very different personalities. Marty Hart (Woody Harrelson) is a seemingly ordinary guy, married with two daughters, who acts self-destructively by getting involved with other women and neglecting his family. Rust Cohle is a strange fellow who hasn’t been with the police department very long. He drives his partner and other detectives nuts with his obsessive approach to the case and his tendency to spout bizarre nihilist philosophies. But with each succeeding episode, the series moves more into the horror genre, as the detectives try to understand the bizarre symbolism that keeps cropping up in their cases–such as repeated hints about a “yellow king” chasing people through the woods and a spiral tattoo that appears on victims’ backs–and as the show reveals more about Cohle’s past history.

Now for a few reads that will give you a sense of why True Detective is so fascinating. You could endlessly chase the literary connections that Pizzolatto has planted in his tale. Start with this interview with author Nic Pizzolatto in the Wall Street Journal: Writer Nic Pizzolatto on Thomas Ligotti and the Weird Secrets of ‘True Detective’. It turns out Pizzolatto is a connoisseur of the weird horror tales of H.P. Lovecraft and his predecessors–as well as modern practitioners of the genre.

Horror and mystery go hand in hand on HBO‘s “True Detective.”  The hit series…is rich in dread similar to the kind inherent in the work of H.P. Lovecraft, and it has featured words and imagery derived from Robert W. Chambers‘ story anthology “The King in Yellow.” As a result, the show has opened up the worlds of weird fiction and cosmic horror to broader audiences.

Executive producer and writer Nic Pizzolatto, responding through email, commented to Speakeasy about some of the more ominous literary and philosophical influences on  ”True Detective,” as well as some of his favorite horror writers.

yellow king

Read Pizzolatto’s recommendations for further reading at the link.

A couple more links on the literary references in the show:

Allyssa Rosenberg at Think Progress: The Crazy Mythology That Explains ‘True Detective’

Lincoln Mitchell at Buzzfeed: A “True Detective” Reading List: dark, weird, and southern gothic books that every fan of HBO’s True Detective should read.

A review of the first episode by Daniel Lefferts at Policymic:

‘True Detective’ Premiere: This is the Next Great American TV Show

More detailed reading about the “yellow king” mythology (some spoilers in these)

Gilbert Cruz at The Vulture: True Detective: Who Is the Yellow King? Here Are Some Theories

An outstanding article by Michael M. Hughes at io9: 

The One Literary Reference You Must Know to Appreciate ​True Detective. An excerpt:

Two episodes into the series, True Detective dropped a reference to one of the strangest, most compelling tales in the canon of weird fiction: Robert W. Chambers’ The King in Yellow, a collection of short stories published in 1895. Knowing this book is key to understanding the dark mystery at the heart of this series.

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.


Watch the official trailer here.

The music on True Detective is fantastic!

From Policymic: The Secret Sauce of ‘True Detective’ is its Awesome Soundtrack

There is tons more stuff out there, including great discussions by “experts” as well as amateurs in the comments sections of reviews and other articles. I have a feeling people will be talking about True Detective for a long time. The show will continue into a second season with different actors and a new storyline.


Now, before I run out of space, here’s some real news, in link dump fashion.

Washington Post: Obama to award Medal of Honor to two dozen veterans, including 19 discrimination victims Florida man shocked to learn of Medal of Honor

USA Today: Team USA vs. Finland: How to watch Olympic bronze medal showdown

NY Daily News Ukraine Live Blog: Kiev, Ukraine: Protesters versus police in civil war revolt

CNN: Is Vladimir Putin really the puppet-master in Ukraine’s crisis?

Newsday: In Ukraine and Syria, Vladimir Putin wants to work with dictators

Radio Free Europe: Yanukovych Denounces ‘Coup,’ Not Resigning

BBC News: Venezuela leader Nicolas Maduro seeks talks with Obama

Christian Science Monitor: California in six easy pieces? A bid to let voters decide. 

Those are my offerings for today. What’s on your mind?

42 Comments on “Lazy Saturday Reads: True Detective and A Bit of Real News”

  1. Fannie says:

    You’ve got me completely interested in the True Detective. I am going to check that out. It’s about time that the veterans are honored, I love those stories too.

  2. RalphB says:

    I’ve watched all the True Detective episodes thus far and it really is a very good series. I only wish Matthew McConaughey was more nuanced. He seem to be overacting to me at times. I switched from DirectTV to U-verse and don’t have HBO now, so I’ll have to catch the show from Netflix now I guess.

    • bostonboomer says:

      I’ve really enjoyed McCanaughey’s acting. He is really intense, but his character is supposed to be weird–maybe even slightly insane. He even has hallucinations that he has to try to ignore.

      • RalphB says:

        Yep, I just think that it would be much more effective like Anthony Hopkins played Hannibal Lector. Very sane appearing then, Boom, he drops the mask and the insanity shows through. Of course, Cohle may not be insane just perpetually weird.

    • Fannie says:

      I don’t have HBO either, tells you how much I watch tv………..and just checked on Netflix and they will not release it either. Must be the money wars going on with these channels. Strange enough I can’t even get to my cable until Monday to see what cost it would be, or another contract. Here we are 21st century, and I have to wait, while I have there phone, their internet, and there cable tv……pisses me off.

      • bostonboomer says:

        You can watch it on demand if you do get HBO. But I’m surprised you can’t upgrade by phone or internet. You should even be able to do it from your TV.

      • dakinikat says:

        You can go to HBO to go and check the subscription from there. I got a deal for $5.99 a month from Cox. I will most likely hold it for the six months and then decide what to do. Doctor daughter has been trying to get me to watch Game of Thrones.

      • List of X says:

        I don’t think HBO releases any of their shows or movies to Netflix. However, HBO’s CEO is apparently ok with people sharing the access on their HBO Go app:
        So all you need is to find a friend with HBO willing to give you the HBO Go app name and password 🙂 Of course, there are good reasons not to:
        Comcast somehow gave me HBO, and since I never bothered to connect the cable TV, I use HBO Go myself (though I’m binging on Veep for now). And it’s a much better way to watch HBO than actually watch HBO on TV – it’s almost exactly like Netflix in a sense that you can watch any show or movie that’s in their database. So you could even binge-watch Sopranos, Sex and the City and other old shows.

  3. Pat Johnson says:

    OMG, another follower of this series!

    Both McConaghy and Harrelson are fabulous in these roles. In fact, Matthew is downright scary!

    Watching great actors deliver an awesome written script means that quality t.v. has not completely disappeared by replacement crapola masquerading as “entertainment”.

    Each week another episode takes us further and further into the mind of madness and does it with class.

    Thanks, bb, for including this as a post. Both actors are topnotch and I see awards coming down the road for their great performances that are layered with nuance.

  4. RalphB says:

    Federal Court Rules Against Notre Dame’s Birth Control Appeal

    A federal court ruled against the University of Notre Dame on Friday in a lawsuit challenging the Affordable Care Act’s birth control mandate, the Associated Press reported.

    The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago upheld a federal judge’s previous ruling that denied Notre Dame’s request for an injunction to prevent it from complying with the birth control mandate. The court noted in its decision that Notre Dame already notified the administrator of its employee plan as well as the insurer for students that the university would not pay for contraception coverage.


  5. RalphB says:

    BBC: LIVE: Ukrainian MPs vote to oust President Yanukovych

    Head spinningly rapid movement in Ukraine.

  6. bostonboomer says:

    The US hockey team didn’t even win the Bronze.

    UPDATE 1-Olympics-Ice hockey-Selanne, Finland humble US to take bronze

  7. bostonboomer says:

    Arizona pizza place post a sign saying “We reserve the right to refuse service to Arizona legislators.”

  8. bostonboomer says:
  9. dakinikat says:

    A Schizophrenic, a Slain Worker, Troubling Questions

    Something weird going on with Mass. Mental Health care … via Mary Luke

    • bostonboomer says:

      What do you mean by weird? Horrible mental health care is standard operating procedure just about everywhere. Unfortunately, Massachusetts is probably a lot better than most other states. Can you imagine what Gov. Jindal is allocating to mental heath care? Can you imagine the treatment people get in Alabama, Mississippi, or Tennesee?

      Mental health treatment has been deteriorating everywhere since Reagan. You can’t force people into treatment in most cases and you can’t force them to take medication without a court order. To get a court order, you’d need heavy pressure from the family and caregivers.

      This is a horrendous story, and I hope it wakes Gov. Patrick up. He’s like Obama, a technocrat. Actually really a bit more liberal than Obama. Stories like this make me so angry. There is no way that young woman was qualified to do the job she was given! And no one–man or woman–should be left alone in with a violent schizophrenic patient–my god!

  10. RalphB says:

    Don’t need HBO to watch this winner. The Ol’ Stripper music in the trailer is perfect. 😉

    TBogg: Sarah Palin’s Heavy Metal Grandma Show for animal killers is coming. You should be excited.

    Former John McCain novelty act and english-as-a-third-language-when-saying-stuff word mangler Sarah Palin has another new teevee show starting real soon.

    It is called Amazing America With Sarah Palin and it is the story of a small town girl who grew up and went to six or seven jucos and slightly bigger cosmetology schools so that she could talk sports on ActionNewsTeam-Wasilla, but instead she became the mama grizzly mayor of the meth capital of the Mat-Su valley, and then briefly the governor of that state that looks like Canada’s hemorrhoid.

  11. RalphB says:

    Fruit and vegetable prices could skyrocket.

    Federal water allocation for drought-stricken California farms cut to zero

    The worsening drought in California will force a first-ever complete cutoff of federally supplied irrigation water to most farm districts throughout the state’s Central Valley heartland this year, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation said on Friday.

    The projected 2014 zero allocation to all but a handful of agricultural districts supplied by the federally run Central Valley Project comes three weeks after forecasts of similarly drastic cuts were announced by managers of a separate water-delivery system operated by the state.

    California grows roughly half of all U.S. fruits and vegetables, most of that in the Central Valley, and ranks as the No. 1 farm state by value of agricultural products produced each year.

  12. RalphB says:

    In maximum hypocrisy, the explanation offered for this is just absurd.

    ExxonMobil CEO sues to block fracking project near his home

    As ExxonMobil’s CEO, it’s Rex Tillerson’s job to promote the hydraulic fracturing enabling the recent oil and gas boom, and fight regulatory oversight. The oil company is the biggest natural gas producer in the U.S., relying on the controversial drilling technology to extract it.

    The exception is when Tillerson’s $5 million property value might be harmed. Tillerson has joined a lawsuit that cites fracking’s consequences in order to block the construction of a 160-foot water tower next to his and his wife’s Texas home.

  13. RalphB says:

    Grantland: ‘True Detective’ Precap: A Million Yellow Kings Dancing on the Head of a Pin

    Alex Pappademas: Four of the stories in Robert W. Chambers’s 1895 book The King in Yellow are about a play whose second act makes people go insane. I’m still not convinced that True Detective isn’t actually a media virus that causes outbreaks of hysterical Doc Jensen–ism.

    … “Doc Jensen moment” — the point in the run of a mystery-based TV show when the building leaves Elvis, so to speak, and the story the actual show is telling gets eclipsed by the story the show’s fan base is telling itself about the show.

    May have reached the moment as some of these are really funny,

    • bostonboomer says:

      OK, that was hysterical. I hope the show isn’t ruined for me now though.

      My biggest fear is that it is going to have a “fight club” ending after I watched the preview for Episode 6 and Cohle said to Hart “There is no you without me.” If that happens, I will personally hunt down Nic Pizzolatto and beat the crap out of him.

  14. bostonboomer says: