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No Country for Old Men - Cormac McCarthy

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Author: Cormac McCarthy / Format: Paperback / Date of publication: 01 January 2010 / Genre: Modern & Contemporary Fiction / Publisher: Pan Macmillan / Title: No Country for Old Men / ISBN 13: 9780330511216 / ISBN 10: 0330511216 / Alternative EAN: 9780330440110

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      10.07.2009 20:45
      Very helpful



      A well written, simple story, with great characters in what the Old West has become

      "Sometimes you have a little problem and you don't fix it and then all of a sudden it aint a little problem anymore. You understand what I'm tellin you?"

      Near the Rio Grande in the near-deserted bush, Llewlyn Moss is hunting antelope with his long-range rifle when he comes across a drug-deal gone sour.

      A number of off-road vehicles are scarred with gunfire and the place is littered with bodies, guns and shell cases.

      A vast quantity of heroin is left unguarded and a way off a dying man has crawled away with a large case of money containing millions of dollars.

      Moss knows the decision he is about to make is going to change his life forever, whichever way he looks at it, and he decides to risk taking the money.

      Meanwhile, roaming the countryside with his trusty cattlegun, which he is happy to use to open doors or open people's heads, is Anton Chigurh, a psychotic assassin who's been employed to recover the money.

      Willing to go to any lengths to do his job, he leaves a bloody trail behind him, killing both those that get in his way and innocent bystanders alike, a force of evil like none other.

      Unable to comprehend the extreme violence and horrific nature of these new villains is the through-and-through Texan and county Sheriff Ed Tom Bell.

      Always one step behind and nursing an old secret from his war days, Bell feels he owes it to the people he protects to both find Moss and stop Chigurh before more people die.

      But can he catch up with the slippery Moss and the shadowy Chigurgh before it's all too late?

      There's little doubt that I probably would never have picked up this novel if I hadn't first seen the Coen brothers' big-screen adaptation released a couple of years ago, but still I'm very glad I did.

      McCarthy's novel is an excellent piece of work, very enjoyable throughout, and written in such a way that you more or less have to put on your best Texan accent when reading it.

      Written with a heavy drawl, it has some brilliant pieces of dialogue, if a little *heavy* philosophical-wise in places to seem a little unrealistic, but it's done in such a way that you won't find any inverted commas or much other punctuation.

      While I first felt this was a bit arty farty, it suits the style of writing very well, where conversations flow in and out of the third person narrative seamlessly.

      Chapters are book-ended by first person narration from the character of Sheriff Bell who reminisces about his past and thinks a lot, coming up with sayings and proverbs that only old Texans can.

      It's easy to envisage a beaten old copper sitting out on the porch watching the world go by, mumbling to himself, and that's exactly who Bell is - an old man trying to make sense of the world he's found himself in.

      Meanwhile, Llewlyn Moss is the man that has taken the risk to steal the bag of money and go on the run from the drug-lords that want it back.

      In his mid thirties, he comes across as fairly realistic, even though he is a very logical man who has decided to do a very stupid thing.

      His reasoning behind taking the money and his plans to get away with it aren't properly discussed, to the point where it seems like a sudden impulsive decision he can no longer back away from.

      On his trail is the evil Chigurh, a man with no soul who performs his job to the letter while leaving a string of bodies behind him.

      Thankfully the character is not overly ridiculous and is not invincible either, making him appear as far removed from a human as you can possibly get, but still ultimately human.

      His discussion with a shop clerk over how much he has ever bet on the toss of a coin is truly chilling.

      One of the main criticisms from most people about the movie is that the finale was never properly explained and was more or less left up to your imagination - I wanted to see if the book could shed any light on this.

      The answer is no.

      The way the book is written allows for sudden changes in perspective between the three lead characters, so that what might seem to be important scenes can sometimes be skipped over and only talked about in the past tense by a character who later comes along and puts the pieces together.

      It's a very clever way of doing it, but I can recognise why some might find it annoying even if I did not.

      "No Country For Old Men" is a simple story written in a fabulously detailed way, coming across as believable in an ultra-viscious way, and never too ridiculous not to be taken seriously.

      The ending might be a little too drawn out, but there's enough pay-off here to make it worthwhile.

      [The book can be purchased from play.com for £4.99 (including postage and packing) at time of writing]


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