The King in Yellow

Robert W. Chambers
The King in Yellow Cover

The King in Yellow


For years now I've been working through three books of "The 100 Best" book in the genres of Fantasy, Horror, and Science Fiction. Although my own tastes going into these lists leaned towards horror, I have to admit that reading the SF list has been a suprisingly rewarding experience, and as I'm working my way through that list in publication order as well, I think I may be getting more out of those reads as well.

The horror list has been a bit more hit and miss for me – unlike the other two books, the selections are not actually made by one person, but are instead books recommended by other horror authors – in the introduction It was stated that they each had to pick individual titles or it would simply be called "Why these 100 authors love Dracula".

This month I read the book recommended by H.P. Lovecraft (who wrote of a review of the book well before this top 100 title, or even its editors existed), called The King in Yellow, by Robert W. Chambers. The book, published in 1895, contains ten short stories, the first bunch of which are connected to a fictional play called "The King in Yellow", a being called The King in Yellow, and mention of something called "The Yellow Sign". These stories are both really readable, and pretty darn creepy, which was a delight for me after sludging my way through weeks of Melmoth the Wanderer last month.

The concepts of these stories, and especially a play which after being read or viewed drives its audience crazy, was used by H.P. Lovecraft in his Cthulhu-mythos based stories, as well as in the recent HBO series True Detective and in all sorts of games, stories, and music throughout the various genres I enjoy.

Although the book was a little tricky for me to track down, it was definitely worth the read (even the romance stories in the end were kind of fun), and will sit on my purchase list until I come across it in a used-bookstore run.