True Detective: reviving The Yellow King

An obscure 120-year-old book has risen to the top of Amazon’s charts this week thanks to references in US crime series True Detective

American crime series True Detective stars Matthew McConaughey as Detective Rustin Cohle on the trail of a serial killer in Louisiana. Sounds like pretty standard crime drama fare, at least until an obscure literary reference unlocks layers of nuance and sub-plot put in place by writer Nic Pizzolatto.

The book in question is Robert W Chambers’s The King in Yellow, a late 19th century collection of short horror stories featuring a fictional play, also called The King in Yellow, which will supposedly send any reader who ventures past the first act into a downward spiral of madness and despair.

Last month TV viewers in the US picked up on the subtle references in episode two of the eight-part series – quotations in a murder victim’s diary, recurring black star symbols appearing as tattoos and doodles, and talk of ominous black spirals and an unknown place called Carcosa – and have since been flocking en masse to Amazon to get their hands on a copy of Chambers’s book.

The King in Yellow is currently at number four in's overall best sellers chart and number one in the classic horror chart, with another popularity surge sure to follow this Saturday's UK premiere – not bad for a relatively unknown book written more than a century ago. The Yellow King is well and truly back.


Just one of the many ways that the McConaissance is making the world a better place to live in! When will your faves indirectly contribute to literacy rates? Bow.