by Anna Russell)
How did an obscure collection of supernatural short stories from 1895 become an Amazon bestseller seemingly overnight? Well, Matthew McConaughey doesn’t hurt.
HBO’s “True Detective,” which stars Mr. McConaughey and Woody Harrelson as detectives investigating a ritualistic murder, has a distinctive literary bent. The show’s writer, novelist Nic Pizzolatto, has sewn steady references to “The King in Yellow,” a collection of short stories by Robert Chambers, into the show’s early episodes. From verbatim quotes to a motif of black stars, the links have already been obsessively chronicled by fans.
Yesterday on Amazon, “The King in Yellow,” shot up 71% over 24 hours to number seven on Amazon’s bestselling books list. The paperback version was published by Amazon’s CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform in September, 2013, and the company has seen the book on the Kindle bestseller list.
“We’ve seen the most significant spike in sales after this last episode, episode five, aired,” said Seira Wilson, a books editor at Amazon, “If you look at sales history, it has really gained momentum over the last two episodes.” Episode five, which aired Sunday, contained a plot twist that explicitly referenced the “Yellow King.”
Chambers’s book of short stories is often categorized as weird fiction, a subgenre salad popular around the turn of the 20th century that blends science-fiction, fantasy, and supernatural elements. The stories in “The King in Yellow” are linked together by their references to a fictional play, also called “The King in Yellow,” which plunges its readers into despair or drives them out of their minds (and not with pleasure). The book was an influential work for the horror writer H.P. Lovecraft.
In an earlier interview with Speakeasy, Mr. Pizzolatto named Thomas Ligotti and Karl Edward Wagner as more recent writers who have worked in the same tradition. “What could be more hardboiled than the worldview of Ligotti or [Romanian philosopher E.M] Cioran?” Mr. Pizzolatto said, “They make the grittiest of crime writers seem like dilettantes.”