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'True Detective' writer accused of plagiarism

By Todd Leopold, CNN
updated 1:34 PM EDT, Fri August 8, 2014
Nominations for the 66th Annual Primetime Emmys were announced on Thursday, July 10. HBO took a chance on submitting "True Detective" as a drama rather than miniseries, and it's paid off. The show's first season, which starred Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson, gets a nod for <strong>Outstanding Drama Series </strong>alongside <strong>"Breaking Bad,"</strong><!-- -->
</br><strong>"Downton Abbey," "Game of Thrones," "House of Cards"</strong> and <strong>"Mad Men."</strong><!-- -->
</br><!-- -->
</br>Read on for more nominations in the top categories. Nominations for the 66th Annual Primetime Emmys were announced on Thursday, July 10. HBO took a chance on submitting "True Detective" as a drama rather than miniseries, and it's paid off. The show's first season, which starred Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson, gets a nod for Outstanding Drama Series alongside "Breaking Bad,"
"Downton Abbey," "Game of Thrones," "House of Cards" and "Mad Men."

Read on for more nominations in the top categories.
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Emmy nominations 2014
Emmy nominations 2014
Emmy nominations 2014
Emmy nominations 2014
Emmy nominations 2014
Emmy nominations 2014
Emmy nominations 2014
Emmy nominations 2014
Emmy nominations 2014
Emmy nominations 2014
Emmy nominations 2014
Emmy nominations 2014
Emmy nominations 2014
Emmy nominations 2014
Emmy nominations 2014
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • "True Detective" writer Nic Pizzolatto accused of plagiarizing
  • In essay, e-zine editor says Pizzolatto took from author Thomas Ligotti
  • Pizzolatto and defenders say he was drawing from many philosophers
  • "True Detective" up for seven Emmys, including one for writer

(CNN) -- Rust Cohle's pessimistic "True Detective" monologues expressing the meaninglessness of life have proved meaningful to one online author -- and he's accusing "True Detective's" writer, Nic Pizzolatto, of plagiarizing from other sources.

On Monday, Mike Davis -- the editor of a site devoted to horror writer H.P. Lovecraft and Lovecraft's "Cthulhu Mythos" -- published a long conversation with Jon Padgett, who oversees a website devoted to the reclusive horror writer Thomas Ligotti. In the piece, the pair compare phrases from Cohle's "Detective" speeches with Ligotti's work and conclude that Pizzolatto plagiarized from Ligotti, lifting or paraphrasing from a Ligotti work called "The Conspiracy Against the Human Race."

Pizzolatto has been nominated for an Emmy for his script, one of seven nominations received by the HBO series. Star Matthew McConaughey, who played Cohle, is also up for an Emmy. (HBO, like CNN, is a division of Time Warner.)

"Writers work hard to produce original ideas, stories, and dialogue, and it is unfair for another writer to pawn off those ideas as their own. Mr. Pizzolatto has been nominated for an Emmy for writing 'True Detective,' while Thomas Ligotti labors in near obscurity. Though I have agonized over whether I should write this article, in the end I felt that morally I have no choice," Davis wrote.

Davis and Padgett's allegations were picked up by others, notably a Reddit conversation that had people on both sides of the issue.

"After reading all the examples, nothing really seemed that terrible," wrote lord_allonymous.

Matthew McConaughey\'s Rust Cohle is down on the world.
Matthew McConaughey's Rust Cohle is down on the world.

"Rust's first speech, the human consciousness one, is all lifted in practice from Ligotti's material. It is barely paraphrased. So yes, Nic P is a plagiarist," responded Voduar.

Other observers have also doubted Davis and Padgett's conclusions as the story has made its way around the Web.

Pizzolatto said there was no plagiarism involved.

"Nothing in the television show 'True Detective' was plagiarized," he said in a statement. "The philosophical thoughts expressed by Rust Cohle do not represent any thought or idea unique to any one author; rather these are the philosophical tenets of a pessimistic, anti-natalist philosophy with an historic tradition including Arthur Schopenhauer, Friedrich Nietzsche, E.M. Cioran, and various other philosophers, all of whom express these ideas. ... The ideas within this philosophy are certainly not exclusive to any writer."

He's freely admitted Ligotti's influence in an interview with The Wall Street Journal, as well as that of other authors.

HBO stood by Pizzolatto.

" 'True Detective' is a work of exceptional originality and the story, plot, characters and dialogue are that of Nic Pizzolatto," the network said in a statement. "Philosophical concepts are free for anyone to use, including writers of fiction, and there have been many such examples in the past. ... We stand by the show, its writing and Nic Pizzolatto entirely."

Of course, as Sean O'Neal of the Onion A.V. Club observed -- channeling Ligotti, Nietzsche and other philosophical wet blankets -- "who's to say what is 'theft' in a cold and empty universe?"

For their part, the Redditors are already pessimistically downgrading their expectations for Season 2, which some noted has similarities to the movie "Chinatown."

"My suspicion is we get a bad season 2 and never hear from Nic P again," wrote Voduar. "He doesn't have the time, he is plagiarizing a less likeable work, and for f**ks sake Colin Farrell."

'True Detective' season finale: Did you love it?

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