True Detectives of Hazchem Network Rugby

22 April 2014

Some of you maybe aware of our Managing Director Ali Karim’s fascination with Detective Fiction, as evidenced in our recent appreciation of AMC’s TV series Breaking Bad, a surreal fusion of crime fiction and chemistry.

In between evaluating submissions for The Crime Writer’s Association [as Ali Karim is a published writer and literary judge for the highly coveted CWA Gold Dagger as well as other crime-fiction and thriller awards], our Managing Director has been obsessed by the HBO TV 8-part miniseries TRUE DETECTIVE. He’s not the only one at Hazchem Network that has been engrossed by this dark and philosophically challenging series; as Shift Controller Kieran Harper, our Network Coordinator Kerry Rayner and HW Coates Property Director Richard Perry have also been captivated by TRUE DETECTIVE. The HBO series concluded its run on Sky Atlantic last Saturday, to much critical acclaim in both the US as well as in the UK and Ireland.

Ali Karim has often conjectured that an avid interest in Detective Fiction is very helpful when you work in Logistics, as it helps the cognitive process in problem solving. Ali was interviewed by the BBC Culture Show for world book night in 2011 at Hazchem Network’s hub. In this excerpt Ali explains why reading disturbing crime fiction is a good release when working in the fast moving world of logistics

With only a few minor issues, we consider TRUE DETECTIVE to be a ‘picture perfect’ crime thriller; combining existential philosophy, gothic horror, and serial killers into a tale of troubled men, investigating a very troubling series of killings along Louisiana’s coast in a post-Hurricane Katrina world.

The genesis of TRUE DETECTIVE comes from literature professor and writer Nic Pizzolatto who took a big risk in life, something that must be admired. Nic wrote a novel entitled GALVESTON a few years ago. It was critically acclaimed including praise from Shutter Island’s Dennis Lehane. The problem was it didn’t sell well, and was not published in the UK, but is now available as an ebook from Little Brown for Kindle and other platforms. Our MD considers this debut novel to be very good, but also very dark and a perfect antidote for those suffering from withdrawal symptoms due to the end of TRUE DETECTIVE.

Following Pizzolatto’s disappointment that his debut novel Galveston didn’t sell well, his literary agent mentioned that a colleague asked ‘can this writer, craft a screenplay?’ Pizzolatto stepped up to the plate, resigned from his academic tenure and packed his family up and headed off to Los Angeles. He managed to get a job writing screenplays for the US remake of the Danish TV thriller THE KILLING [for AMC] and speculatively worked on his own original screenplay TRUE DETECTIVE. The submitted scripts provoked a bidding war, due to the unusual nature of the narrative structure, with HBO winning out against AMC and many others.

If you’ve read GALVESTON or watched TRUE DETECTIVE you’ll realise that Pizzolatto was influenced by Vince Gilligan’s BREAKING BAD. However what makes TRUE DETECTIVE a "game changer" in terms of TV crime-fiction, is its background in the gothic, and the weird. It is far from a conventional serial killer drama, for it combines existential philosophy, and ponders upon the true nature of consciousness and reality, referencing writers such as Arthur Schopenhauer, Emil Cioran, Immanuel Kant, Friedrich Nietzsche, Albert Camus, Jean-Paul Sartre among others – with the cosmic horror of Thomas Ligotti, Laird Barron, John Langan, Simon Strantzas and especially Howard Philips Lovecraft and the curious novel THE KING IN YELLOW by Robert W. Chambers. Our Managing Director as a teenager was an avid reader of the subgenre, ‘weird fiction / cosmic horror’ from writers such as Robert Bloch, HP Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith, August Derleth, William Hope Hodgson, Ambrose Bierce amongst many, many others.

The Wall Street Journal and I09 were the first, to realise that there was more to TRUE DETECTIVE than just a TV Cop show, as the influence of ‘cosmic horror’ was very evident -

This is a detective show, but the echoes of the bleak tradition of weird fiction don’t stop with Ligotti or Lovecraft. We learn in "True Detective" that the murder victim, Dora Lange, had said she had met a "king," and that she kept a diary in which she mentioned "the Yellow King" and "Carcosa." These come from Robert Chambers’ 1895 collection of weird stories, "The King in Yellow," in which several of the stories are connected by a fictional play, about the titular ruler, which drives to insanity whoever reads it. (Chambers, likewise, took Carcosa from an Ambrose Bierce short story.) Chambers’ writing inspired Lovecraft’s work on what came to be known as the "Cthulhu Mythos." Lovecraft even co-opted parts of Chambers’ mythology to include in his monstrous pantheon of "gods" and otherworldly locations.

Read More Here

Our Managing Director lets people know that perhaps his eccentricity is related to having read Robert W Chamber’s 1895 collection of weird stories [collected as THE KING IN YELLOW] as a teenager. Some of these peculiar stories reference a forbidden [and fictional] play THE KING IN YELLOW; that if read or performed, makes the reader / viewer insane, such is the disturbing content of the narrative. That’s what our Managing Director jokingly attributes to his eccentric nature, having read THE KING IN YELLOW as a young boy.

The KING IN YELLOW was a huge influence on HP Lovecraft on crafting his "Cthulhu Mythos." Lovecraft referenced his own forbidden [and fictional] work the dreaded book "The Necronomicon".  It was first mentioned in Lovecraft's 1924 short story "The Hound", written in 1922, though its purported author, the "Mad Arab" Abdul Alhazred, had been quoted a year earlier in Lovecraft's "The Nameless City". Among other things, the work contains an account of the ‘Old Ones’, their history, and the means for summoning them.

Apart from the weirdness, TRUE DETECTIVE features stunning visuals, an amazing title sequence [featuring the cult band HANDSOME FAMILY track ‘Far from any Road’], eclectic soundtrack, outstanding acting performances, edge of seat narrative and cinematography that takes your breath away, like the single-shot 6 minute sequence of the attack at the stash house in the "Projects" with Ginger and The Iron Crusaders that closes episode 4 – click here to view but have the Valium handy as it will shred your nerves.

Much has been written about the Rust Cohle character, played magnificently by Matthew McConaughey and his nihilism / pessimism about the human condition. It is obvious that Cohle has read, and is an advocate of Thomas Ligotti’s non-fiction philosophical work THE CONSPIRACY AGAINST THE HUMAN RACE.

When interviewed by the Wall Street Journal, Pizzolatto stated -

I read "The Conspiracy Against the Human Race" and found it incredibly powerful writing. For me as a reader, it was less impactful as philosophy than as one writer’s ultimate confessional: an absolute horror story, where the self is the monster. In episode one [of "True Detective"] there are two lines in particular (and it would have been nothing to re-word them) that were specifically phrased in such a way as to signal Ligotti admirers. Which, of course, you got.

The philosophy Cohle promotes in the show’s earliest episodes is a kind of anti-natalist nihilism, and in that regard all cats should be unbagged: "Confessions of an Antinatalist," "Nihil Unbound," "In the Dust of this Planet," "Better to Have Never Been," and lots of Cioran were all on the reading list.

This is before I came out to Hollywood, but I knew that in my next work I would have a detective who was (or thought he was) a nihilist. I’d already been reading E.M. Cioran for years and consider him one of my all-time favorite and, oddly, most nourishing writers. As an aphorist, Cioran has no rivals other than perhaps Nietzsche, and many of his philosophies are echoed by Ligotti. But Ligotti is far more disturbing than Cioran, who is actually very funny. In exploring these philosophies, nobody I’ve read has expressed the idea of humanity as aberration more powerfully than Cioran and Ligotti.

Read the full interview with Nick Pizzalotta here

Our Managing Director has read Thomas Ligotti’s THE CONSPIRACY AGAINST THE HUMAN RACE, and found it most enlightening, but issues a warning – it should not be read by anyone suffering from clinical depression, because it reveals much about our plight as beings with a "deep consciousness" which is a blessing as well as a curse, because from our consciousness springs what we term Mortality Salience [or ‘Terror Management’]; as well as living and being aware that the random universe we inhabit is far from benign in nature. It also examines strategies to cope with the deep consciousness we’re bestowed with.

The series concluded with a wonderfully melancholic song ‘THE ANGRY RIVER’, specially commissioned for the series, which HBO released as a video, which choreographs the dark lyrics of T Bone Burnett to some startling imagery.

Though we must issue a ‘spoiler warning’ in case you haven’t seen TRUE DETECTIVE [and are waiting for the DVD release] as the video contains elements spliced from all of the 8 episodes.

THE ANGRY RIVER by "The Hat" [featuring Father John Misty & S. I. Istwa)]

Music by T Bone Burnett, Rhiannon Giddens and Gabe Witcher
Lyrics by T Bone Burnett
Produced by T Bone Burnett

Such is the acclaim for Nic Pizzolatto’s work that HBO have given the green light for a second season, though it will feature different characters and a different storyline, and when asked about what he has in store, we were amused to read that it features logistics at its core as stated in an interview -

Nic Pizzolatto "This is really early, but I'll tell you (it's about) hard women, bad men and the secret occult history of the United States transportation system"

Read more here about Nic’s thoughts now that season one of TRUE DETECTIVE has run its course, burning itself into our psyche and what lies ahead in season two.

So when it comes to looking for a logistics organisation that is the UK and Ireland’s only palletised and parcel network for Dangerous Goods, then perhaps you should contact the True Detectives of Hazchem Network, Rugby – because like Rustin Cohle and Martin Hart – we’re here to help.

If you wish to explore some of our Managing Director’s most recent published non-fiction work relating to crime and thriller fiction, we would indicated that Ali Karim contributed to -

Dissecting Hannibal Lecter ed. Benjamin Szumskyj [McFarland Press] a critical examination of the works of Thomas Harris

The Greenwood Encyclopedia of British Crime Fiction [ed. Barry Forshaw]

ITW 100 Thriller Novels ed. David Morrell and Hank Hagner [Oceanview Publishing].

All are available from bookstores and online.