Cormac McCarthy was born in Providence, Rhode Island, on July 20, 1933, the third of six children born to Charles Joseph and Gladys Christina McGrail McCarthy. He was originally called Charles after his father, but at some point changed his name to Cormac after an Irish chieftain of that name. In 1937, when he was four, the family moved to Knoxville. Tennessee, where his father became a lawyer for the Tennessee Valley Authority. In 1967 the family moved to Washington, D.C., where Charles was the principal attorney in a law firm.
McCarthy was raised a Roman Catholic. He attended a Catholic High School in Knoxville, and enrolled at the University of Tennessee in 1951-52 to study engineering. He left school to join the U.S. Air Force in 1953, serving for four years. He returned to the university in 1957, where he published short stories in the university magazine. He won the Ingram-Merrill Award for creative writing in 1959 and 1960. He left the university in 1960 without a degree in order to pursue a writing career. In 1961 he married Lee Holleman, with whom he had a son, Cullen. The marriage ended in divorce.
McCarthy’sfirst novel, The Orchard Keeper, was published in 1965 and met with immediate critical success, winning the William Faulkner Award. In the same year McCarthy was awarded an American Academy of Arts and Letters traveling fellowship to Europe and traveled to Ireland. He met his second wife, Anne de Lisle, on this trip, and they married in 1966 in England. Also in 1966 he was awarded a Rockefeller Foundation grant that enabled him to travel with his wife in England, France, Switzerland, Italy, and Spain. The couple settled in Ibiza, where McCarthy finished his second novel, Outer Dark (published in 1968).
McCarthy won a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1969 and moved with his wife to Louisville, Tennessee. His third novel, Child of God, appeared in 1974. Two years later he separated from his wife and moved to El Paso, Texas, the setting for many of his novels. He published his novel Suttree in 1979. Many critics believe it to be his finest work. In 1981 he was awarded the prestigious MacArthur Foundation Grant. While McCarthy was by this time a favorite of literary critics, his 1985 novel Blood Meridian, set in the Old West, was his first popular success.
All the Pretty Horses, McCarthy’s most famous novel, was published in 1992. It is the first of three novels making up The Border Trilogy, the others being The Crossing (1994) and Cities of the Plain (1998). The last two novels of the trilogy reunite the two protagonists of All the Pretty Horses. The Border Trilogy was published as one volume in 1999. All the Pretty Horses proved a great commercial success and won a National Book Award for fiction and a National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction, both in 1992.
In 1998 McCarthy married Jennifer Winkley, with whom he had a son, John. He subsequently published the novels No Country for Old Men (2005) andThe Road (2006). The Road won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for fiction, the Quill Award for general fiction, and the Oprah Winfrey Book Club selection, all in 2007. Another novel, The Sunset Limited: A Novel in Dramatic Form, appeared in 2006.
As of 2008 McCarthystill lives at El Paso, Texas. He rarely gives interviews, believing that everything that anyone needs to know about his work is on the pages of his books.
All the Pretty Horses: Biography: Cormac McCarthy