I do love Cormack McCarthy, “All the Pretty Horses” and “The Road” are up there in my top 50 books of all time, so I was excited when a friend recommended “No Country for Old Men” to me. That same friend told me that she hadn’t loved “The Road” because it was so bleak. “No Country for Old Men” is bleak too and maybe that’s what I like so much about McCarthy’s writing, I just love the gritty realism of it.
Like most of his novels, it is set in Texas and each of his novels in this setting hold onto the element that Texas is still quite a wild frontier. The novel is based on two main characters, Moss and Chigurh and has Sheriff Ed Tom Bell as the everyman character. To me Ed Tom was similar to the chorus in Greek theatre.
Out hunting, Moss stumbles across a drug deal gone wrong, only one man is still alive, but only just and he asks Moss for water, which Moss does not have. Moss walks away with the 2.4 million dollars he finds in one of the vehicles. He is haunted by the man’s request for water though, and later that night he returns with water. Leaving his car, people higher up the chain of the drug deal appear, take his car and an exciting chase takes place. Moss manages to escape, but knows that it won’t be long until they trace his car to him. He returns home and he and his wife beat a hasty escape, him in one direction and her to her mother’s house in another town.
Chigurh is a sociopath, the first time we are introduced to him, he escapes a county jail in the most evil manner. He kills all who stand in his way and his way is to get the money. The drugs have a tracking device and in the quest to obtain them there is a lot of blood lost and there is a third party looking for the money.
Sheriff Ed Tom tries to save Moss, he knows bad guys are searching for him and because he has guilt from his actions in the second world war, he tries to find Moss and help him.
There are lots of twists and turns in the novel, with more bad guys than most novels, but it all makes sense. The novel does not have a happy ending.
I can’t tell you any more without giving the story away. The thing I like about McCarthy’s novels is that, albeit pessimistic, they acknowledge the fact that there is evil in the world and sometimes good does not trump evil. We only need look at our own world politics to know that. As soon as I started reading this, I was hooked and I read it in two sittings.