Author: Cormac McCarthy.
Cormac McCarthy is becoming one of my favourite writers to read. This is my second book of his that I’ve read after The Road (2006). I’m sure everyone is aware of the story as there was an award winning 2007 film adaptation of the book. It is a thriller that chronicles the various characters that are somehow tied to a case full of drug money. It takes place in Texas close to the Mexico border.
The characters were vast and well developed (even the minor one’s were realistic). Llewellyn, one of the main characters, accidentally finds the case in the desert and takes the money. This sets off a chain of events wherein which he has to travel cross country in order to escape the drug dealers who are after his life. Sheriff Ed Tom Bell was in charge of investigating the violence surrounding this case. He followed the murders while struggling with his impending retirement. He was also dealing with some PTSD that he seems to have gotten during his time while serving in Vietnam. Chigurh was a terrifying, bone chilling villain who had no reservations about killing people.
I was a real fan of the writing style. McCarthy uses a minimalist style of prose, which I’m quite fond of because I write in a similar fashion. He doesn’t over-embellish or use poetic language; there’s no exposition; it’s all very matter of fact. The events are presented to us and the readers make their own conclusion. Now that’s not to say the writing is cold or detached because we do get very deep into the minds of the characters and we understand their feelings. McCarthy just writes in a very clean way. He uses words effectively to convey meaning, which shows that he works a lot on each and every phrase, and hence the book isn’t weighed down with laborious prose. He also doesn’t use any inverted commas for dialogue. It’s strange at first but you get used to it.
The story takes place in rural Texas and McCarthy wonderfully describes the open plains, and wide settings in order to present us with the bleak nature of rural crime. This ties in well with his minimal style, as we get this feeling of the wide, bleak landscape. McCarthy also effectively positions the story by utilising the Texas accent. To me it’s quite realistic and easy to understand.
The story itself is very compelling as the the tension and fear of Chigurh and his men is unending throughout the whole novel. There’s a constant sense of danger. What was also interesting was the philosophical subplots that tie into the novel, for example, Chigurh’s belief in fate. He often tosses a coin in order to make a choice, noting that our fates are out of our own hands, and what’s meant to be will be. This added some real depth to the character’s psychology. Sheriff Bell’s struggle with the past and his thoughts on good versus evil were quite interesting. His job of protecting the public was almost like repentance for the things he did in Vietnam. His thoughts also allowed an insight into the changing face of America and the lack of respect that he believes newer generations have. It really made the ageing sheriff an interesting protagonist to follow.
All in all, a compelling and violent thriller that shows the bleak nature of crime and drug trafficking in rural Texas. I can’t wait to pick up Blood Meridian (1985).