The Best Thing That I Have Read Yet on True Detective

Writing for The Conversation, a terrific publication based in Australia, Rodney Taveira has written a wonderfully insightful article on the HBO series True Detective. The article is titled “True Detective Lassos the Yellow King in Hollywood South,” and it approaches the series in multiple, very nuanced ways.

Taveira, a lecturer in American Studies at the University of Sydney, first traces Nic Pizzolatto’s source materials to “The Repairer of Reputations” and three other stories in Robert W. Chambers’ collection The King in Yellow, published in 1895. Describing the stories in the collection as “horror stories and popular romances,” Taveira argues that despite the considerable differences in genre, style, and tone, the core motifs and themes of the stories in Chambers’ largely forgotten collection have been recycled first in some of the work of the speculative writer H. P. Lovecraft and then in Pizzolatto’s story for the HBO series. More specifically, Taveira highlights the elements of Nietzschean thought that inform these works and shows how all of these elements are brought together to great dramatic effect in Rust Cohle’s “special knowledge.” All in all, it is a fascinating piece of literary detective work on Taveira’s part.

Indeed, that identification and analysis of Pizzolatto’s source materials would have, in itself, made Taveira’s article worth reading. But his article provides much more.

Taveira offers some very succinct comments on the links between the development of psychology and police work, in particular the understanding of psychopathology and the practice of police profiling. He connects Pizzolatto’s story to the relatively recent adaptations of the detective formula in horror-genre novels about serial killers, in particular Thomas Harris’ Red Dragon.

Moreover, he places True Detective’s dramatic and thematic focuses not only within the conventions and traditions of the hardboiled detective genre but also within the conventions and traditions of the popular Western—in particular, identifying some very provocative parallels between Pizzolatto’s series and John Ford’s The Searchers.

And, lastly, Taveira also considers the large number of recent films and television series that have been shot on locations in Louisiana and segues into a consideration of the thematic impact of True Detective’s multiple settings. Although all of the action of the series occurs in Louisiana, Cohle talks at some length about his past experiences in both Alaska and Texas, and those recollections provide considerable “extra” dimensions to what occurs over several decades along the Fulf Coast of Louisiana. Indeed, although a great deal of critical attention has been paid to Pizzolatto’s juxtapositions of the events that occur across multiple temporal settings, Taveira is the first person that I am aware of who has paid equivalent attention to the less obvious but thematically significant juxtapositions of the series’ multiple settings.

Taveira’s complete article can be found at:



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