About The Border Trilogy
"'Cowboys loved to sing about people dying,'' the cowboy Teddy Blue once wrote. ''I guess it was because they was so full of life themselves.'' Cormac McCarthy testifies to the passing not only of individual cowboys but an entire way of life. And if his characters sometimes seem drawn to violence, that may be because it's all that seems ineluctable and real in our appearances-driven world. His men are never more alive than when confronted with death."
-- Sarah Mosle, New York Times Book Review on The Border Trilogy
Dubbed the Shakespeare of the West, Cormac McCarthy has become the voice of a land in rapid transition. While most writers of classic Westerns concentrate on the heady beginnings of the Western frontier, McCarthy writes about something else. He writes about a way of life, a way of cowboy being, coming to an end in modern times. His cowboys are broken characters trying to hang onto a sense of honor and freedom that are no longer celebrated in America. His characters are men - or boys - of action and yet McCarthy is firmly in the tradition of authors who use the novel to explore deeply every aspect of human life, from heroism and friendship to philosophy and theology. His tales are survival tales - but his heroes don't just want to endure, they want to do so with moral integrity, honor and, if not their dreams, than at least their sense of justice left intact.
This is especially true of his most ambitious work, The Border Trilogy, a series of three linked novels set in Texas and Mexican border towns, of which ALL THE PRETTY HORSES forms Part One. With ALL THE PRETTY HORSES, McCarthy set the precedent for laying out high-adventure stories without simple resolution, stories that resonate with the power of myth.
ALL THE PRETTY HORSES was followed by The Crossing, the story of Billy Parham, another young journeyer to Mexico who attempts to preserve the life of a she-wolf; and most recently by Cities on the Plain, which continues the saga of John Grady Cole and brings him together with Billy Parham.
Throughout The Border Trilogy, landscape is a major character. McCarthy is as taken with the wildness of the terrain as he is by human wildness and unpredictability. The desolate land and blood-red skies of Texas and Mexico become a lyrical tapestry that constantly informs the storytelling in unexpected ways. In his carefully wrought words, the deserts of the American Southwest and Northern Mexico take on a terrible, but irresistible beauty.
The landscape also tends to reflect the hearts of his characters throughout The Border Trilogy. Both John Grady Cole and Billy Parham have wild dreams that have been scarred by modern times yet still keep them moving onwards towards something unnamable - a journey that begins with ALL THE PRETTY HORSES.