I loved True Detective when it aired earlier this year. As I squee’d at the time it was heavily influenced by some of my favourite weird fiction -the works of RW Chambers and Thomas Ligotti– which elevated it from being a mere buddy cop drama into something rather unique in the world of television. Whilst I was aware of the Ligottian and Chambersian influences going into the show, what I only recently discovered was the extent to which the show’s writer and creator, Nic Pizzolatto, had directly lifted dialogue from Thomas Ligotti. Nor had I realised how assiduously he has avoided mentioning Ligotti in his interviews or elsewhere – to the point that there isn’t a single mention of Ligotti or Conspiracy Against the Human Race(US–UK)(the work from which Pizzolatto drew his most notable dialogue) in the commentaries on the DVD release of the series.
Thankfully Jon Padgett, of Thomas Ligotti Online, did the leg work and has pulled together some pretty damning evidence which shows how True Detective was less homage to Ligotti than it was blatant plagiarism. Over at the esteemed Lovecraft eZine Mike Davis interviews Padgett and presents the evidence for all to see.
I, personally, have a somewhat ambivalent attitude towards plagiarism. I don’t see an inherent problem with plagiarising work so long as one acknowledges where one has taken it from. All culture is, after all, built upon remixing and rewriting themes and tropes that date back to when we first became a species that creates. What I take especial umbrage with here is that Pizzolatto has wholesale lifted the work of an obscure author and made himself rich with it. If he had at least promoted the work of Ligotti in his interviews and in the show, it would not have been difficult to have CAtHR sat atop a pile of books in Rust Cohl’s apartment, so that some light may be shone upon Ligotti’s obscurity allowing him too to benefit from the show’s success.
To add insult to injury Pizzolatto has been nominated for an Emmy for writing True Detective.
Oh well, that’s me not enthusiastically promoting season two. Unless Pizzolatto comes clean and gives Ligotti, the true genius behind the show, some credit I shall remain completely silent about his next show. I hope that others will do the same and so deny Pizzolatto the free publicity we so generously give to creations and creators we admire. I also hope that many people will not watch the show on HBO/Sky Atlantic but will download it from pirate sites and so also deny him our patronage.