Thanks to True Detective, it seems like The King in Yellow is the most talked about eldritch entity of 2014 - a high honour indeed. Robert Chambers, the book's author, is one of my favourite authors, so I thought I'd share a few fun-facts and links to further reading. You too can be a Chambers hipster!
The first album was not better. The King in Yellow (1895) was Chambers' second book. His first, In the Quarter (1894) was a novel loosely based on Chambers' own experiences as an art student in Paris. (Chambers was an art student - and professional illustrator - before he was a writer. His fellow student included Charles Dana Gibson, who even wound up illustrating a few of Chambers' books.) In the Quarter is mercifully hard to find and, honestly, a bit poo. The King in Yellow, however, was an instant sensation.
Chambers wasn't a horror author. He wrote almost a hundred books, of which maybe 6 or 7 contained elements of the supernatural or bizarre. And only a couple of those were even intended to be 'spooky' in any way. The other ninety-odd books? Romances, historical thrillers, war novels, children's books, fishing manuals, you name it. (For reviews of a few of Chambers' other books, check out my slightly-stalled "Repairer of Reputations" project.)
He didn't regret it, either. Lovecraft famously abused Chambers as a "fallen Titan" - praising The King in Yellow and moaning that Chambers had turned his back on supernatural horror. Meanwhile, here's the house that writing three decades of best-selling fiction built. (25 bedrooms!) One of the reasons I like Chambers so much is that he was unrepentantly commercial, but that still didn't keep him from tackling hot topics such as adultery, alcoholism, the stock market crash or World War I. Chambers didn't write the books that Lovecraft wanted him to write; Chambers wrote the books he wanted to write. (More on this here.)