If You Like True Detective, You Might Like…
As you may have noticed, FilmDispenser.com has a case of True Detective Obsession. We’ve been covering the show in the form of reviews, podcasts, and analysis. The season ended Sunday, and we’re all pretty happy with the outcome. However, what in the world are we supposed to do in the absence of Rust Cohle and Marty Hart? Who can we look to for great investigation, dark plots, moody palettes, and high quality entertainment? Well, Scott has teamed up with Spencer to bring you a list of 13 things* that might inspire at least a portion of the reverie of True Detective? Together, Howard and Phillips hope to answer the circular cosmic conundrum of our time. If you like True Detective, you might like….
*Scott’s findings are found in numbers 1 through 6. Spencer covers 8 through 13. They both put 7 on their lists, so it joins them in the middle. Also, all links go to Amazon. If you pick up something via one of these links it will go a little way toward supporting the site.
1. The Charlie Parker Novels By John Connolly: Charlie Parker may be the only protagonist in crime fiction that makes Rust Cohle look like the life of the party. That’s not a criticism, simply an observation. Tormented by the unsolved murders of his wife and daughter, the former NYPD detective tracks a serial killer known as The Traveling Man in the opening volume of the series, Every Dead Thing. Although True Detective mostly hinted at the world of the occult, supernatural occurrences begin to creep in as the series progresses, but it never undermines the events unfolding on the page. If you’re a fan of crime fiction, the Charlie Parker series is required reading. (The 12th installment, The Wolf in Winter, will be released on October 28, 2014.)
2. Murphy’s Law: This crime series from the U.K. stars James Nesbitt as Tommy Murphy, an Irish undercover cop who repeatedly walks into the criminal underworld of London, risking his life to take down his target. Motivated by a death wish and duty, Murphy pushes himself to the edge as the series progresses, giving Murphy’s Law the same dark grittiness we have come to love in True Detective. Nesbitt may be best known in the U.S. for his role as one of the principal dwarves in The Hobbit trilogy, but he has been a talented leading man on U.K. television for over a decade. His latest series, The Missing, will premiere on the BBC’s TV-1 this fall.
3. Tightrope: This 1984 Clint Eastwood thriller stands apart from his usual Dirty Harry fare. Eastwood plays Wes Block, a detective on the trail of a serial killer who lurks in the underworld of the S & M sex trade. As he follows this predator, Block finds himself drawn into the dark, kinky world he is investigating. When the killings take an unexpected new direction, he finds himself not only the investigator, but also one of the prime suspects.
4. Manhunter: I previously wrote an entire column on this amazing 1986 crime thriller from director Michael Mann. It’s still my favorite motion picture in the Hannibal Lecter/Lecktor canon. With a supporting cast featuring Brian Cox, Tom Noonan, Joan Allen and Dennis Farina, there isn’t a single bad performance or creative misstep in this meticulously created crime film. The southerners out there will enjoy seeing familiar Atlanta locations. Who knew the High Museum of Art was really a prison for the criminally insane? This isn’t some slice-and-dice thriller, but rather a surprisingly realistic look at the hunt for a madman. It features one of my favorite “solves” in the history of crime films.
5. The Dave Robicheaux Novels by James Lee Burke: If you want to stay in the humidity-drenched bayous of Louisiana for a while longer, then you should crack the spine on James Lee Burke’s novels about cop and private investigator Dave Robicheaux. The series is on its 20th installment, Light of the World, and it remains one of the best-written crime series out there. Whether he’s navigating corrupt Southern cops and politicians or taking on backwoods criminals, Robicheaux is one of the most memorable protagonists in the genre. Start with 1987’s Neon Rain or grab a couple of the handy 3-in-1 volumes out there. You have a lot of catching up to do.
6. Wire in the Blood: This U.K. crime series starring Robson Green is based on the long-running series of crime novels by Val McDermid. Green plays Dr. Tony Hill, a psychologist who gets inside the minds of both killers and victims to aid the police in solving gruesome serial killings in Northern England. The 31 episodes ran from 2002 to 2008 and are available season by season or as a complete series. It would be hard to binge watch a series this dark, but there’s no arguing the talent behind, and in front of, the camera.
7. Zodiac: This 2007 film by director David Fincher is one of the most apparent influences on the first season of True Detective. Based on the Zodiac killings that terrified San Francisco in the 1970s, the film follows the investigation that lasted decades and never resulted in an arrest. The point of the film is not “whodunit”, but rather the self-destructive pull of obsession and the impact the case had on the men who refused to abandon it. While Seven packs more of a gut punch, Zodiac is Fincher’s masterpiece.
8. Torso: Brian Michael Bendis may now be synonymous with Marvel Universe sameness, but the dude has some serious chops. Look no further than his true crime graphic novel Torso. The story follows Elliot Ness, you know him as Kevin Costner in The Untouchables, on the hunt for the first documented serial killer in America. It’s a fascinating and dark investigation brought to life with tight dialogue and stark black and white art.
9. House Of Leaves: The single freakiest reading experience of my life. That’s right, freakiest. A book, within a book about a house physics ignored. You know all of those visions Rust had? They were of the house at the center of this book. I want to tell you about it, but that could ruin it. Logically, I know it wasn’t real. But I still hate thinking about it in the dark of the night. The investigative tone and creepy supernatural vibe of the book might satisfy any of you who wanted a more fantastic conclusion to True Detective.
10. The Straw Men: Child kidnapping and murder. An investigation fueled by the loss of a daughter. A conspiracy hard to imagine or expose. The are the elements that make up both the central tract of True Detective and the exciting thriller The Straw Men. It’s a quick read, just as True Detective will be a quick binge for future watchers. The big difference here? The Straw Men has two sequels if you want to see how it all pans out.
11. Seven: David Fincher makes the list again! Whereas the above mentioned Zodiac focuses on the force of investigation, Se7en, focuses on the audience’s favorite question, “who did it?” This time around, if you don’t know, you’re in for a treat. This is a once a year watch for me, but it may have just gotten replaced with a once a year viewing of True Detective. Detectives Mills and Sommerset offer an interesting dynamic of youth vs. experience which plays well against the religion themed murders.
12. Memories of Murder: My single favorite murder mystery film…ever. The story of South Korea’s first serial killer and the new v old investigative strategies. The characters are as rich, if less philosophical, as Cohle and Hart. This film focuses much more on rural police work and how the changing times force crime and its hunters to evolve. Memories of Murder is more Zodiac than Se7en, and more like True Detective than a first watching might reveal.
13. Illinoise – Sufjan Stevens: Besides being a great album, I vote this as the theme song for next year. The song title may be a bit on the nose, but the lyrics are perfect: