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No Country for Old Men

No Country for Old Men

4.2 235
by Cormac McCarthy

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In No Country for Old Men, Cormac McCarthy simultaneously strips down the American crime novel and broadens its concerns to encompass themes as ancient as the Bible and as bloodily contemporary as this morning’s headlines.


In No Country for Old Men, Cormac McCarthy simultaneously strips down the American crime novel and broadens its concerns to encompass themes as ancient as the Bible and as bloodily contemporary as this morning’s headlines.

Editorial Reviews

Cormac McCarthy's Border Trilogy (All the Pretty Horses; The Crossing; Cities of the Plain) was hailed as "an American classic to stand with the finest literary achievements of the century" and "a miracle in prose, an American original." Now, for the first time since the 1998 completion of the trilogy, McCarthy returns to the scene of that triumph.
Walter Kirn
Such sinister high hokum might be ridiculous if McCarthy didn't keep it moving faster than the reader can pause to think about it. He's a whiz with the joystick, a master-level gamer who changes screens and situations every few pages. The choreographed conflicts, set on a stage as big as Texas but as spiritually claustrophobic as a back-room cockfight ring, resolve themselves with a mechanistic certitude that satisfies the brain's brute love of pattern and bypasses its lofty emotional centers. Like Bell, we can only sit back and watch the horror, not wishfully influence its outcome. The clock has been wound, the key's been thrown away, and the round will not end until the hands reach midnight. The book leaves the feeling that we don't have long to wait.
— The New York Times
Jeffery Lent
… this is an entertaining novel from one of our best writers. Often seen as a fabulist and an engineer of dark morality tales, McCarthy is first a storyteller.
— The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
Seven years after Cities of the Plain brought his acclaimed Border Trilogy to a close, McCarthy returns with a mesmerizing modern-day western. In 1980 southwest Texas, Llewelyn Moss, hunting antelope near the Rio Grande, stumbles across several dead men, a bunch of heroin and $2.4 million in cash. The bulk of the novel is a gripping man-on-the-run sequence relayed in terse, masterful prose as Moss, who's taken the money, tries to evade Wells, an ex-Special Forces agent employed by a powerful cartel, and Chigurh, an icy psychopathic murderer armed with a cattle gun and a dangerous philosophy of justice. Also concerned about Moss's whereabouts is Sheriff Bell, an aging lawman struggling with his sense that there's a new breed of man (embodied in Chigurh) whose destructive power he simply cannot match. In a series of thoughtful first-person passages interspersed throughout, Sheriff Bell laments the changing world, wrestles with an uncomfortable memory from his service in WWII and-a soft ray of light in a book so steeped in bloodshed-rejoices in the great good fortune of his marriage. While the action of the novel thrills, it's the sensitivity and wisdom of Sheriff Bell that makes the book a profound meditation on the battle between good and evil and the roles choice and chance play in the shaping of a life. Agent, Amanda Urban. (July) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
McCarthy has reached the pinnacle of literary success, with critical recognition, best-seller status, and cult-author cachet. It is a difficult position to maintain, and it doesn't help that his idiosyncratic prose style, which tries to wrest poetry from hardscrabble lives, has become increasingly mannered. In his latest novel, McCarthy stumbles headlong into self-parody. Llewelyn Moss is a humble welder who hunts not for sport but to put food on the table. Tracking a wounded antelope one morning, Moss finds an abandoned truck filled with bullet-ridden corpses, sealed packages of "Mexican brown," and $2 million in cash. He leaves the dope behind but takes the money, changing in that moment from hunter to prey. Moss is tailed by Anton Chigurh, an updated version of the satanic Judge Holden from Blood Meridian (1985). Straight-arrow Sheriff Bell, the old man of the title, tries his best to save young Moss, but Chigurh is unstoppable. McCarthy lays out his rancorous worldview with all the nuance and subtlety of conservative talk radio. It is hard to believe that this is the same person who wrote Suttree (1979). A made-for-television melodrama filled with guns and muscle cars, this will nonetheless be in demand; for public and academic libraries. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 4/1/05.]-Edward B. St. John, Loyola Law Sch. Lib., Los Angeles Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
From the Publisher
“Profoundly disturbing and gorgeously rendered.”
The Washington Post

“Feels like a genuine diagnosis of the postmillennial malady, a scary illumination of the oncoming darkness.”

“He is nothing less than our greatest living writer, and this is a novel that must be read and remembered.”
Houston Chronicle

“Riveting. . . . A harrowing, propulsive drama.”
The New York Times

“This is a monster of a book. . . . It will leave you panting and awestruck.”
—Sam Shepard

Product Details

Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
Vintage International Series
Edition description:
Vintage International Edition
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.10(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.70(d)

Read an Excerpt

No Country for Old Men

By Cormac McCarthy

Random House

Cormac McCarthy
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0375406778

Chapter One


I sent one boy to the gaschamber at Huntsville. One and only one. My arrest and my testimony. I went up there and visited with him two or three times. Three times. The last time was the day of his execution. I didnt have to go but I did. I sure didnt want to. He'd killed a fourteen year old girl and I can tell you right now I never did have no great desire to visit with him let alone go to his execution but I done it. The papers said it was a crime of passion and he told me there wasnt no passion to it. He'd been datin this girl, young as she was. He was nineteen. And he told me that he had been plannin to kill somebody for about as long as he could remember. Said that if they turned him out he'd do it again. Said he knew he was goin to hell. Told it to me out of his own mouth. I dont know what to make of that. I surely dont. I thought I'd never seen a person like that and it got me to wonderin if maybe he was some new kind. I watched them strap him into the seat and shut the door. He might of looked a bit nervous about it but that was about all. I really believe that he knew he was goin to be in hell in fifteen minutes. I believe that. And I've thought about that a lot. He was not hard to talk to. Called me Sheriff. But I didnt know what to say to him. What do you say to a man that by his own admission has no soul? Whywould you say anything? I've thought about it a good deal. But he wasnt nothin compared to what was comin down the pike.

They say the eyes are the windows to the soul. I dont know what them eyes was the windows to and I guess I'd as soon not know. But there is another view of the world out there and other eyes to see it and that's where this is goin. It has done brought me to a place in my life I would not of thought I'd of come to. Somewhere out there is a true and living prophet of destruction and I dont want to confront him. I know he's real. I have seen his work. I walked in front of those eyes once. I wont do it again. I wont push my chips forward and stand up and go out to meet him. It aint just bein older. I wish that it was. I cant say that it's even what you are willin to do. Because I always knew that you had to be willin to die to even do this job. That was always true. Not to sound glorious about it or nothin but you do. If you aint they'll know it. They'll see it in a heartbeat. I think it is more like what you are willin to become. And I think a man would have to put his soul at hazard. And I wont do that. I think now that maybe I never would.

The deputy left Chigurh standing in the corner of the office with his hands cuffed behind him while he sat in the swivelchair and took off his hat and put his feet up and called Lamar on the mobile.

Just walked in the door. Sheriff he had some sort of thing on him like one of them oxygen tanks for emphysema or whatever. Then he had a hose that run down the inside of his sleeve and went to one of them stunguns like they use at the slaughterhouse. Yessir. Well that's what it looks like. You can see it when you get in. Yessir. I got it covered. Yessir.

When he stood up out of the chair he swung the keys off his belt and opened the locked desk drawer to get the keys to the jail. He was slightly bent over when Chigurh squatted and scooted his manacled hands beneath him to the back of his knees. In the same motion he sat and rocked backward and passed the chain under his feet and then stood instantly and effortlessly. If it looked like a thing he'd practiced many times it was. He dropped his cuffed hands over the deputy's head and leaped into the air and slammed both knees against the back of the deputy's neck and hauled back on the chain.

They went to the floor. The deputy was trying to get his hands inside the chain but he could not. Chigurh lay there pulling back on the bracelets with his knees between his arms and his face averted. The deputy was flailing wildly and he'd begun to walk sideways over the floor in a circle, kicking over the wastebasket, kicking the chair across the room. He kicked shut the door and he wrapped the throwrug in a wad about them. He was gurgling and bleeding from the mouth. He was strangling on his own blood. Chigurh only hauled the harder. The nickelplated cuffs bit to the bone. The deputy's right carotid artery burst and a jet of blood shot across the room and hit the wall and ran down it. The deputy's legs slowed and then stopped. He lay jerking. Then he stopped moving altogether. Chigurh lay breathing quietly, holding him. When he got up he took the keys from the deputy's belt and released himself and put the deputy's revolver in the waistband of his trousers and went into the bathroom.

He ran cold water over his wrists until they stopped bleeding and he tore strips from a handtowel with his teeth and wrapped his wrists and went back into the office. He sat on the desk and fastened the toweling with tape from a dispenser, studying the dead man gaping up from the floor. When he was done he got the deputy's wallet out of his pocket and took the money and put it in the pocket of his shirt and dropped the wallet to the floor. Then he picked up his airtank and the stungun and walked out the door and got into the deputy's car and started the engine and backed around and pulled out and headed up the road.

On the interstate he picked out a late model Ford sedan with a single driver and turned on the lights and hit the siren briefly. The car pulled onto the shoulder. Chigurh pulled in behind him and shut off the engine and slung the tank across his shoulder and stepped out. The man was watching him in the rearview mirror as he walked up.

What's the problem, officer? he said.

Sir would you mind stepping out of the vehicle?

The man opened the door and stepped out. What's this about? he said.

Would you step away from the vehicle please.

The man stepped away from the vehicle. Chigurh could see the doubt come into his eyes at this bloodstained figure before him but it came too late. He placed his hand on the man's head like a faith healer. The pneumatic hiss and click of the plunger sounded like a door closing. The man slid soundlessly to the ground, a round hole in his forehead from which the blood bubbled and ran down into his eyes carrying with it his slowly uncoupling world visible to see. Chigurh wiped his hand with his handkerchief. I just didnt want you to get blood on the car, he said.

Moss sat with the heels of his boots dug into the volcanic gravel of the ridge and glassed the desert below him with a pair of twelve power german binoculars. His hat pushed back on his head. Elbows propped on his knees. The rifle strapped over his shoulder with a harnessleather sling was a heavybarreled .270 on a '98 Mauser action with a laminated stock of maple and walnut. It carried a Unertl telescopic sight of the same power as the binoculars. The antelope were a little under a mile away. The sun was up less than an hour and the shadow of the ridge and the datilla and the rocks fell far out across the floodplain below him. Somewhere out there was the shadow of Moss himself. He lowered the binoculars and sat studying the land. Far to the south the raw mountains of Mexico. The breaks of the river. To the west the baked terracotta terrain of the run- ning borderlands. He spat dryly and wiped his mouth on the shoulder of his cotton workshirt.

The rifle would shoot half minute of angle groups. Five inch groups at one thousand yards. The spot he'd picked to shoot from lay just below a long talus of lava scree and it would put him well within that distance. Except that it would take the better part of an hour to get there and the antelope were grazing away from him. The best he could say about any of it was that there was no wind.

When he got to the foot of the talus he raised himself slowly and looked for the antelope. They'd not moved far from where he last saw them but the shot was still a good seven hundred yards. He studied the animals through the binoculars. In the compressed air motes and heat distortion. A low haze of shimmering dust and pollen. There was no other cover and there wasnt going to be any other shot.

He wallowed down in the scree and pulled off one boot and laid it over the rocks and lowered the forearm of the rifle down into the leather and pushed off the safety with his thumb and sighted through the scope.

They stood with their heads up, all of them, looking at him.

Damn, he whispered. The sun was behind him so they couldnt very well have seen light reflect off the glass of the scope. They had just flat seen him.

The rifle had a Canjar trigger set to nine ounces and he pulled the rifle and the boot toward him with great care and sighted again and jacked the crosshairs slightly up the back of the animal standing most broadly to him. He knew the exact drop of the bullet in hundred yard increments. It was the distance that was uncertain. He laid his finger in the curve of the trigger. The boar's tooth he wore on a gold chain spooled onto the rocks inside his elbow.

Excerpted from No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher
“Profoundly disturbing and gorgeously renderedÉ. The most accessible of all his works.” –Washington Post

“A narrative that rips along like hell on wheels [in a] race with the devil [on] a stage as big as Texas.” –The New York Times Book Review

“Expertly staged and pitilessly lightedÉ. It feels like a genuine diagnosis of the postmillennial malady, a scary illumination of the oncoming darkness.” –Time

“A cause for celebrationÉ. He is nothing less than our greatest living writer, and this is a novel that must be read and remembered.” –Houston Chronicle

Meet the Author

Cormac McCarthy is one of America’s most honored writers. He has won both the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award. His most recent novel, The Road, received the Pulitzer Prize.

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No Country for Old Men 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 235 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Gory, Intense, Engrossing, and Beautiful. Those are the first words coming to mind when I hear No Country For Old Men by Cormac McCarthy. This novel is near perfect. Cormac’s unique writing style suits the book entirely well and does the story itself justice. Aside from the superb writing, the story is entrancing and entertaining. The non-stop action and bizarre protagonists can keep even the smallest attention span intrigued. Lleweyn Moss finds millions of dollars in the desert and decides to keep it for himself. Little does he know that the most brilliant hit man in the entire south is right on his tail. Moss tries to keep his wife and the money safe at the same time, although has trouble juggling the two. We find Moss often times trying to find unique contortions and contraptions to hide the money but this brutal hit man isn’t falling for any of it, killing almost everyone he comes in contact with in order to obtain his prize. Alongside This hit man is the entire Mexican drug cartel, striving to conceive this case of money. Moss has a run in with all of these people and continues to survive these intense scuffles but when he realizes he has to leave the sate is when he also realizes that his luck may be running out. Detective Bell, a long time Sherriff in a small county in Texas is on these men’s tail also trying to get to the bottom of all the murders and guns fired in his once small, peaceful community. A true tail of cat and mouse that will have you biting your nails to the last flip of the page. Get ready for some late nights because it will be very hard for you to put down this book until you have turned all 350 pages of this seemingly easy read. 5 stars. Fantastic.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The story was a little odd but really a fun read. McCarthy has such a unique writing style that challenges the reader but also adds to this short novel.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Sure this book isn't the typical book we are acustomed to reading. By that I refer to the style it is written and the way it speaks to you. Cormac does an excellent job at throwing you into a unknown world and making you believe it exists. I watched the film adaption of the book first and when i heard there was a book to it I bought it as soon as possible. Because as we all know film adaptions tend to skim on things. To my surprise the book was alot like the film minus the character development and more filling details the film did not provide. Plus the different ending. Interesting story to say the least.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Do you enjoy suspense? What about gunfighting? What about the desert? If you answered yes, then No Country for Old Men is definately for you! Cormac McCarthy uses detailed words and descriptive verbs to make you feel as if you are right there, first-handedly witnessing every event. The story realistically portrays the happenings of an extremely murderous fugitive and a wandering cowboy with a suitcase full of cash. McCarthy uses his words and imagery to paint lush landscapes and many crafty techniques to paint crafty pictures of the small Washington town in which the story takes place. The suspense of the novel comes from the seclusive nature of the events; You know something extreme could happen at any minute, but it stays unclear as to exactly when or how it may happen. This factor drew me to the novel greatly. The novel is unlike any other, in that it switches between two stories: One of the fugitive, and the other of the cowboy. It shows the paths they take, as those paths cross, one ends, and the other carries on. There are many unexpected events, such as suprise shootouts, random input from the sheriff on the hunt for the fugitive, and personal dilemnas, all leading up to an abrupt ending that will leave you completely and totally breathless. No Country For Old Men is a great story for any reader who loves action, suspense, vivid scenery, and much more. Cormac McCarthy has done great work in this novel, and I would highly recommend it to any reader who fits in any age group between young adult and elder. This is an exceptional piece of writing, and if I were you, I wouldn't hesitate to dig into it!
ryanmd More than 1 year ago
No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy, is a thriller novel. The story occurs in 1980, along the United States, Mexico border. The book was originally published in July 19, 2005 by Publisher: Alfred A. Knopfd. The main characters are: Llewelyn Moss, A young hunter who stumbles upon a drug deal gone wrong in the middle of the desert, along with a briefcase filled with over 2 million dollars in cash. Anton Chigurh, A serial killer who will do anything in his power to get the money back, and Sheriff Ed Tom Bell, who is the protagonist throughout the story putting his life at risk to protect the main character, Llewelyn Moss. I would give this book a rating of 4 out of 5.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The story is kind of slow at first, but, it picks up and lead to an unexpected ending.
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archetype67 More than 1 year ago
McCarthy tells the story of several lives that interact because Moss, a Vietnam Vet, while out hunting comes upon a drug deal gone bad and takes a case of money.  He ends up pursued by drug dealers, the law and a philosophical killer named Chigurh.   The story moves quickly and the bodies pile up.  Woven throughout are the thoughts of Bell, the Sheriff who investigates the whole thing and tries to help Moss.  Bell reflects on his life and how the world has changed as he finds himself always two steps behind and unable to do what he sees as his job.   The prose is tight, moves quickly, and the dialog helps build the characters.  (I listened to the audio version and the narration was well done, just adjusting enough for each character to be distinct.)   Chigurh is creepy and yet intense in his own philosophical outlook on life and death.  Moss is sympathetic and Bell holds it all together.  McCarthy doesn't write happy endings, but it is a good story that questions the ideas of honor, and luck, and how personal codes can drive individuals to extremes that end up lead to a sense of inevitability . McCarthy intersperses Bell's first person thoughts with the third person narration of the remainder of the book.  Even the narrative distance moves in and out depending on who the focus is - Chigurh most distant, while Moss and Bell are in tight, giving a sense of connection that adds to the strange, frightening sense of doom that Chigurh brings.   Overall, I enjoyed the book and having seen the movie years ago, will say that the film managed to bring a difficult story to the screen.  
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Sometimes hard to follow, but enjoyed the story
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I don't no if the Author did the wording on spite. Like add words that should not be there or no one proff read the book. Or that's how he wanted the people to speak Anyway its a good story. Guess I'm gone to have to watch the movie.
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basketballbrad More than 1 year ago
The impact of this book hit me every chapter. The violence shook me as well as the insights of the sheriff. The veracity strung my soul out and made me taught. I won't forget it.
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