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No Country for Old Men is a 2005 novel by Americanmarker author Cormac McCarthy. Set along the United States–Mexico border in 1980, the story concerns an illicit drug deal gone wrong in a remote desert location. The title comes from the poem "Sailing to Byzantium" by William Butler Yeats. The book was adapted into the 2007 film No Country for Old Men, which won four Academy Awards, including Best Picture.


  • Sheriff Ed Tom Bell, the main protagonist, a laconic World War II veteran who oversees the investigation and the trail of the murders even as he struggles to face the sheer enormity of the crimes he is attempting to solve. His reminiscences serve as part of the book's narration.
  • Anton Chigurh, the main antagonist, a sociopathic assassin, prone to extreme violence and philosophical musings. He is in his 30s, and has eyes as "blue as lapis... Like wet stones". A man of dark and vaguely exotic complexion.
  • Llewelyn Moss, a welder and Vietnam War veteran in his 30s.
  • Carla Jean Moss, Llewelyn's young wife.
  • Carson Wells, another hitman, formerly a lieutenant colonel from the Vietnam War, who is hired to retrieve the money from Chigurh.
The plot involves a host of other characters of lesser importance, including other sheriffs, deputies, and other officials, as well as criminals and criminal leaders.


The plot follows the interweaving paths of the three central characters (Llewelyn Moss, Anton Chigurh, and Ed Tom Bell) set in motion by events related to a drug deal gone bad near the Mexican-American border in southwest Texasmarker in Terrell Countymarker.

While Llewelyn Moss is hunting antelope, he stumbles across the aftermath of a drug-related gun battle which has left everyone dead except a single badly-wounded Mexican. Moss finds a truck full of heroin and a satchel with $2.4 million in cash. Leaving the man alive, he takes the money and returns home. Later, however, he feels remorse for leaving the wounded man alone, returns to the scene with a jug of water for the Mexican, only to find that he has been executed; Llewelyn is seen in the process of returning to the scene, which sparks a tense chase by gunmen in trucks, further igniting a hunt for him that stretches for most of the remaining novel. Escaping from the gunmen at the scene of the battle, Llewelyn sends his wife, Carla Jean Moss, to her mother while he leaves his home with the money.

Sheriff Ed Tom Bell investigates the drug crime while trying to protect Moss and his young wife with the aid of other law enforcement. The sheriff is haunted by his actions in World War II, leaving his unit to die for which he received a Bronze Star. Now in his late 50s, Bell has spent most of his life attempting to make up for the incident when he was a 21-year-old soldier. He makes it his quest to resolve the case and save Moss. Complicating things is the arrival of Anton Chigurh, a hitman hired to recover the money. Chigurh uses a captive bolt pistol (called a "stungun" in the text) to kill many of his victims (and to destroy several cylinder locks in order to open doors), as well as a silenced shotgun. Carson Wells, a rival hitman and ex-Special Forces officer who is familiar with Chigurh, is also on the trail of the stolen money.

McCarthy tells the story in two voices. The bulk of the book is presented in third person, but this is interspersed with first-person reminiscences from Sheriff Bell. The reliance on dialogue and the sketchbook revelation of plot details lend a mystical air to the work. For example:

Intertextual links

In the final paragraph of the novel, Ed Tom Bell refers to a dream in which his father rides past him in the night carrying fire of moonlight color in a horn. This same theme of "carrying the fire" plays a large part in McCarthy's later novel, The Road.

Literary significance and criticism

William J. Cobb, in a review published in the Houston Chronicle (July 15, 2005), characterizes McCarthy as "our greatest living writer" and describes the book as "a heated story that brands the reader's mind as if seared by a knife heated upon campfire flames." On the other hand, in the July 24, 2005, issue of The New York Times Book Review, the critic and fiction writer Walter Kirn suggests that the novel's plot is "sinister high hokum", but writes admiringly of the prose, describing the author as "a whiz with the joystick, a master-level gamer who changes screens and situations every few pages."

Film adaptation

In 2007 Joel and Ethan Coen released a film adaptation of No Country for Old Men, which met with critical acclaim. On January 27, 2008, the film won the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture. On February 24, 2008, it won four Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Director (Joel and Ethan Coen), Best Adapted Screenplay (Joel and Ethan Coen), and Best Supporting Actor (Javier Bardem as Anton Chigurh). It also won three BAFTA awards and two Golden Globes.


  1. No Country For Old Men â€” Synopses & Reviews Powell's Books Retrieved on December 1, 2007.
  2. Texas Noir The New York Times Retrieved December 3, 2007

External links

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