Author Cormac McCarthy Dies at 89


Cormac McCarthy, © Beowulf Sheehan.

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Cormac McCarthy died on June 13 of natural causes at his home in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He was eighty-nine years old. His death was confirmed by his son, John McCarthy.

McCarthy was one of the world’s most influential and renowned writers, His career spanned nearly six decades and several genres, including fiction and drama. His work has entered the modern canon and won several prestigious literary awards, including the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, and the National Book Critics Circle Award.

Born in 1933 in Providence, Rhode Island, McCarthy was raised in Knoxville, Tennessee, and briefly attended the University of Tennessee where he began crafting short fiction and received the Ingram-Merrill Award for creative writing. Frequently compared to William Faulkner, McCarthy was known for his spare writing style and epic themes of apocalyptic danger, the nature of evil, and the fragility of the human condition. He set many of his novels amid the landscapes of the American Southwest and wrote all of them on an Olivetti Underwood Lettera 32 typewriter.

McCarthy published his first novel, THE ORCHARD KEEPER, in 1965 at Random House where he would work with legendary editor Albert Erskine over the next twenty years. His second novel, OUTER DARK was published in 1968, followed by CHILD OF GOD (1973), SUTTREE (1979) and BLOOD MERIDIAN (1985).

Long hailed a “writer’s writer” with a dedicated fan base of critics and readers, McCarthy became a best-selling author with the publication of his sequence of novels collectively referred to as THE BORDER TRILOGY, which includes ALL THE PRETTY HORSES (1992), THE CROSSING (1994), and CITIES OF THE PLAIN (1998).  NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN was published in 2005, and THE ROAD, which was selected as an Oprah’s Book Club pick (resulting in his only televised interview), in 2006. His final two novels, THE PASSENGER and STELLA MARIS (2022), are interconnected books questioning the notions of God, truth, and existence.

Nihar Malaviya, CEO of Penguin Random House, said, “Cormac McCarthy changed the course of literature.  For sixty years, he demonstrated an unwavering dedication to his craft, and to exploring the infinite possibilities and power of the written word.  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’s other works include THE GARDENER’S SON (screenplay, 1977), THE STONEMASON (play, revised 1994), SUNSET LIMITED (novel in dramatic form, 2006) and THE COUNSELOR (screenplay, 2013). His works adapted to film include ALL THE PRETTY HORSES, THE ROAD, and NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MENwith the latter receiving four Academy Awards, including the award for Best Picture.

McCarthy was the recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship “genius grant” in 1981 and began to attend MacArthur functions where he immersed himself in the worlds of science, mathematics, and psychology. He later became a member and trustee of the Santa Fe Institute. McCarthy was also the recipient of an American Academy of Arts and Letters traveling fellowship, the Texas Institute of Letters Lon Tinkle Lifetime Achievement Award, and a Rockefeller Foundation grant. His ninety-eight boxes (forty-six linear feet) of complete papers are housed in the Southwestern Writers Collection, The Wittliff Collections at Alkek Library, Texas State University – San Marcos.

Notoriously press-shy, McCarthy granted few interviews over the course of his career. In 1992 he told The New York Times, “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.”


July 20, 1933 – June 13, 2023

Posted: June 13, 2023