My First King in Yellow and an Interesting True Detective Coincidence

UPDATE: Okay, now my mind is blown even wider—it’s NOT a coincidence at all. See end of this post. 

My first meeting with the King in Yellow was in this book: Dying of Fright: Masterpieces of the Macabre, edited by Les Daniels and illustrated by Lee Brown Coye:

Dying_of_fright

It contained Robert W. Chambers’s short story “The Yellow Sign.”

Yellow_sign_toc

There were many other great stories from such notables as Poe, M. R. James, Arthur Machen, Algernon Blackwood, Robert Bloch, Ray Bradbury, and Richard Matheson. It was my introduction to many of these writers, and it had a profound influence on me.

Since the onset of what I’m now calling “Carcosa Fever” (thanks to HBO’s True Detective and my io9 article), I’ve been thinking about my childhood fascination with Chambers’s work and the Yellow King. So I dug out this book last night, and as I was re-reading “The Yellow Sign” I came across Lee Brown Coye’s illustration of the doughy, sinister “repulsive young man”  who keeps asking the narrator “Have you found the Yellow Sign?”:

yellow_sign

Do you see what I see?

Let’s compare this illustration with a sketch from Rust Cohle’s notebook:

cohle_sketchbook

Now before I get accused of being utterly lost in Carcosa, let me state right now that I do not think Nic Pizzolatto read this same book, saw that illustration, and got his idea for the stick lattices. But it is certainly a very cool coincidence. I have no idea what the wooden sculpture/stick thing is in the Coye illustration is, but damn if it doesn’t look like one of those cult symbols hanging from the tree in True Detective. 

Weird, huh?

THE “LOST IN CARCOSA” UPDATE: Well, guess what—it’s not a coincidence at all. Harold Sands, via Facebook, alerted me to the provenance of the short story “Sticks” by Karl Edward Wagner, which Nic Pizzolatto referenced in an interview with Arkham Digest. Wagner’s story was heavily influenced by . . . you guessed it: the art of Lee Brown Coye, who was an illustrator for Weird Tales as well as two volumes of fiction for Carcosa Press in which Wagner’s stories were published.

So one of the books that influenced the creative trajectory of my life contained not just a Chambers story about the King in Yellow, but the an illustration of the bizarre stick lattice imagery that is now an iconic feature of True Detective. I am definitely lost in Carcosa now.

Michael Hughes
Written by Michael Hughes

Michael M. Hughes is a writer and performer. He lives in Baltimore, Maryland.

2 Comment responses

  1. Avatar
    February 22, 2014

    A WHOLE lotta coincidences happening, Michael!

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