Compared to authors like William Faulkner and Herman Melville, Cormac McCarthy often sets his stories against the landscapes he knows best—the Appalachians nears Tennessee and the Southwest. His distinct descriptions and deeply disturbed characters—from a father and son trudging through the apocalypse to ranchers struggling on sprawling Southwestern plains—have captivated the imaginations of millions of readers.
Cormac was born in Rhode Island in 1933. He attended the University of Tennessee in the early 1950s, and joined the U.S. Air Force, serving four years, two of them stationed in Alaska. Cormac then returned to the university, where he published in the student literary magazine and won the Ingram-Merrill Award for creative writing in 1959 and 1960. Cormac next went to Chicago, where he worked part-time in an auto parts warehouse while writing his first novel, The Orchard Keeper.
The Orchard Keeper was published by Random House in 1965; Cormac's editor there was Albert Erskine, William Faulkner's long-time editor. Before publication, Cormac received a traveling fellowship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, which he used to travel to Ireland. In 1966, he also received the Rockefeller Foundation Grant, with which he continued to tour Europe, settling on the island of Ibiza. Here, Cormac completed revisions of his next novel, Outer Dark.
In 1967, Cormac returned to the United States, moving to Tennessee. Outer Dark was published by Random House in 1968, and Cormac received the Guggenheim Fellowship for Creative Writing in 1969. His next novel, Child of God, was published in 1973. From 1974 to 1975, Cormac worked on the screenplay for a PBS film called The Gardener's Son, which premiered in 1977. A revised version of the screenplay was later published by Ecco Press.
In the late 1970s, Cormac moved to Texas, and in 1979 published his fourth novel, Suttree, a book that had occupied his writing life on and off for twenty years. He received a MacArthur Fellowship in 1981, and published his fifth novel, Blood Meridian, in 1985.
After the retirement of Albert Erskine, Cormac moved from Random House to Alfred A. Knopf. All the Pretty Horses, the first volume of The Border Trilogy, was published by Knopf in 1992. It won both the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award and was later turned into a feature film directed by Billy Bob Thornton and starring Matt Damon and Penelope Cruz. The Stonemason, a play that Cormac had written in the mid-1970s and subsequently revised, was published by Ecco Press in 1994. Soon thereafter, Knopf released the second volume of The Border Trilogy, The Crossing; the third volume, Cities of the Plain, was published in 1998.
Cormac's next novel, No Country for Old Men was published in 2005. This was followed in 2006 by a novel in dramatic form, The Sunset Limited, originally performed by Steppenwolf Theatre Company of Chicago and published in paperback by Vintage Books. Cormac's most recent novel, The Road, was also published by Knopf in 2006.