Cormac McCarthy, the masterful prose stylist and Pulitzer Prize-winning author who plumbed the depths of violence and vengeance in novels such as "Blood Meridian," "No Country for Old Men" and "The Road," died Tuesday at his home in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
He was 89.
McCarthy's death was announced in a statement by his publisher, Penguin Random House. The company — citing the writer's son, John McCarthy — said he died of natural causes.
In language that ranged from brutally austere to dizzyingly complex, McCarthy told tales of the dark side of humanity set against the vivid backdrops of the American West and Appalachia. He wrote all of his novels on a Olivetti Underwood Lettera 32 typewriter, his publisher said.
"Cormac McCarthy changed the course of literature," Nihar Malaviya, the CEO of Penguin Random House, said in a statement.
"For sixty years, he demonstrated an unwavering dedication to his craft, and to exploring the infinite possibilities and power of the written word," Malaviya said. "Millions of readers around the world embraced his characters, his mythic themes, and the intimate emotional truths he laid bare on every page, in brilliant novels that will remain both timely and timeless, for generations to come."
McCarthy won some of the top accolades in modern literature, including the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, for the bleak post-apocalyptic saga "The Road," as well as the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award.
The literary critic James Wood, writing in The New Yorker in 2005, called McCarthy a "colossally gifted writer" and described him as "one of the great hams of American prose, who delights in producing a histrionic rhetoric that brilliantly ventriloquizes the King James Bible, Shakespearean and Jacobean tragedy, Melville, Conrad, and Faulkner."
McCarthy was famously averse to giving interviews, and spoke publicly only on rare occasions. In a 1992 interview with The New York Times, he suggested that his professional craft was only one of his driving passions in life, saying in part: "Of all the subjects I'm interested in, it would be extremely difficult to find one I wasn't. Writing is way, way down at the bottom of the list."
Charles Joseph McCarthy Jr. was born on July 20, 1933, in Providence, Rhode Island. He was raised in Knoxville, Tennessee, and briefly attended the University of Tennessee, where he started tinkering with short fiction. He published his debut novel, “The Orchard Keeper,” in 1965 at Random House, where he cultivated a deep relationship with the editor Albert Erskine that stretched across the next two decades, according to Penguin.
McCarthy’s style and thematic preoccupations drew from disparate influences, ranging from the haunting Southern Gothic prose of William Faulkner to the lyrical intricacy of James Joyce and the fire-and-brimstone intensity of Scripture. He developed a cult following with works such as “Outer Dark” (1968), “Child of God” (1973) and “Blood Meridian” (1985). “Blood Meridian,” a terrifyingly violent epic that revolves around bloodthirsty bounty hunters, is considered by some critics to be his crowning achievement.
He reached a wider audience with a trio of books known as the “border trilogy”: “All the Pretty Horses” (1992), “The Crossing” (1994), and “Cities of the Plain” (1998). Two novels published in the 2000s — “No Country for Old Men” and “The Road” — drew wide acclaim and found favor in Hollywood. “No Country” was adapted into a chilling Oscar-winning thriller directed by Joel and Ethan Coen; “The Road” got the big-screen treatment with Viggo Mortensen in the lead role.
McCarthy published his final two novels in 2022: "The Passenger" and "Stella Maris," interconnected narratives that grappled with morality, science and faith.
The novelist was married three times and had two children.