Well, this is disappointing. As we all watched and marveled over the first season of HBO’s True Detective, there were two things everyone was impressed by: the acting and the writing. And as Matthew McConaughey told anyone who interviewed him, he was completely taken in by Nic Pizzolatto’s writing — it’s what convinced him to take the television role. Viewers caught the series creator/writer’s obvious references to Robert W. Chambers (The Yellow King) and Ambrose Bierce (An Inhabitant of Carcosa), and many of us got carried away with speculation over what the references meant; perhaps we should have kept digging. Others did. When one writer references another by quoting him, or openly discussing that he’s paying homage to someone, it’s generally accepted as complimentary. But it certainly seems Pizzolatto may have gone way beyond those overt references, possibly doing his best to avoid giving another writer due credit, or outright trying to hide any connection between the majority of Rust Cohle’s dialogue and writer Thomas Ligotti.
Jon Padgett, founder of Thomas Ligotti Online and Mike Davis, who runs The Lovecraft Ezine got together after discovering that many of Rust Cohle’s True Detective monologues sounded very familiar (as noted early on by The Wall Street Journal’s Michael Calia, who wrote about the “shocking” discovery). Padgett and Davis did some deep digging, and together they’ve written a damned compelling article accusing Nic Pizzolatto of “blatant plagiarism.” Rather than make any attempts to summarize, I suggest you read the article and follow-up editorial in full, there is video and plenty of dialogue/writing to compare. Padgett and others also note that the only time Pizzolatto has minimally acknowledged what he calls “Ligotti’s influence” at all is when the writer “had no choice.”
While some people seem to have no problem with (what appears to be) outright lifting or paraphrasing of Ligotti’s distinct writing — wondering if the evidence would hold up in court — as Davis notes, “Nic Pizzolatto may or may not have done anything illegal. But what he did was certainly wrong. He went too far. It’s one thing to borrow someone’s ideas. It’s quite another thing to borrow someone’s ideas and their phrasing, their words, and to acknowledge that writer only when one is forced to do so.” Meanwhile, Pizzolatto has been nominated for an Emmy (Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series). It’ll be interesting to see where this all goes.