Want a good sense of how obsessive HBO's True Detective fans are getting in order to figure out the identity of the "Yellow King"? The 1895 book The King in Yellow is now an Amazon bestseller.
Sales of the collection of "weird fiction" short stories by Robert Chambers rose 71% over a 24-hour period on Wednesday, the Wall Street Journal reports, on the back of a monstrously important fifth episode of the HBO show. “We’ve seen the most significant spike in sales after this last episode, episode five, aired,” a books editor at Amazon told WSJ. Previously, the show had made oblique references to a "Yellow King" and a place called "Carcosa." Those references took center stage in the most recent episode, which buoyed the book toward the top of Amazon's charts.
Those sales were egged on by close show-watchers, too. "Knowing this book is key to understanding the dark mystery at the heart of this series," i09 wrote last week with screenshots of the references. "Read ‘The King in Yellow,’ the ‘True Detective’ Reference That’s the Key to the Show," a headline in The Daily Beast blared.
The references aren't a coincidence; True Detective show-runner Nic Pizzolatto is a fan of the original book and its meta references to the essence of what a story is. In Chambers' writing, The King in Yellow is a play within his world of short stories that causes any of its readers to go insane. Those works had a major influence on H.P. Lovecraft and his Cthulhu Mythos stories, and have had lasting influence on horror writing.