The moment a man in a parachute fell from the sky in the opening scene of Tuesday's season premiere of Justified, many Central Kentucky TV viewers knew exactly what inspired the story line.
In 1985, the body of Lexington narcotics officer-turned-drug dealer Andrew "Drew" Carter Thornton II showed up on a lawn in Knoxville after his parachute failed; his plane was later found crashed in woods. On Thornton's body was found 75 pounds of cocaine, $4,800 in cash, two automatic weapons, several knives, rope, night-vision goggles, and six South African gold coins called Krugerrands.
The discovery led to an investigation that uncovered a scandal of drugs and murder among Central Kentucky high society. The tale was told in Sally Denton's 1989 book The Bluegrass Conspiracy.
In his weekly episode post-mortem with Entertainment Weekly's website, EW.com, Justified producer Graham Yost acknowledged that Thornton's story is the inspiration for the latest episode of the TV show. The show, set in Kentucky, is in its fourth season.
Premium content for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
In the FX drama's season premiere, the story line seems to involve the family of Justified's lead character, Deputy U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens. A bag that the parachutist was carrying is found in Givens' family home, provoking a strong reaction from his imprisoned father.
Yost also mentioned inspiration straight out of Harlan, including the story of a pretty girl distracting Raylan so her boyfriend can steal his car, and that of a snake-handling preacher giving out souvenir $1 million bills to promote his church.
Justified is not filmed in Kentucky, but writers from the show make regular visits in search of story lines and local color.
The Bluegrass Conspiracy is sold at Joseph-Beth Booksellers in Lexington and through e-book retailers, including Amazon.com and iTunes.