“True Detective” Season Two’s Setting is Based on Real Life Corruption

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True Detective Season Two
Vince Vaughn in “True Detective”
Photo: HBO

The fictional city of Vinci serves as the setting of the noir that is “True Detective” season two. Vinci is a place built on corruption and graft and despite having a minuscule population, money moves through the local government at an alarming rate. Nic Pizzolatto’s city is actually based on a real place – Vernon, California (via The Hollywood Reporter).

Based on a 2010 census data, Vernon had a population of 112 residents but more than 1,800 businesses called the city home. Corruption in the city dates back to the 1940s with a specific focus on the city’s founder, John Leonis. Any charges leveled against him were eventually dropped before his death in 1953 which allowed his grandson, Leonis Malburg, to take power.

While serving as mayor for more than 50 years, Malburg led a city council that saw uncontested elections every year from 1980 to 2006, and operated on an annual city budget of $300 million. For a bit of perspective, that is more than the operating budgets of Beverly Hills, Manhattan Beach, or Culver City. Malburg would eventually be convicted of voter fraud in 2009 but the California state legislature was unsuccessful in its proposal to dis-incorporate the city a year later.

The “True Detective” season premiere sees a corrupt city manager murdered just as federal scrutiny would be placed on the city during the deal for a high speed rail system. In 2012, a former Vernon city administrator was found dead after an audit revealed his performance fell short of of his $1 million annual salary (his death was eventually ruled an accident).

All together these real-life details provide the perfect backdrop for a story like the one season two of “True Detective” is set to tell. So perfect in fact, some of the scenes are actually shot within the city limits. In a statement given to the L.A. Times, Frederic MacFarlane, a Vernon city spokesman said, “‘True Detective’ will have some settings that look like the city, sound like the city and feel like the city. But it’s not going to be the city of Vernon.”

I have to wonder if Pizzolatto originally wanted to set this season in Vernon but was met with obstacles from a city trying to rehab its image. Regardless if it is set in Vinci or Vernon, the investigation into the murder of Ben Caspere is sure to unfold in interesting and unexpected ways with the city playing a vital role in the proceedings.