Cormac McCarthy Biography

(One of the Greatest Contemporary American Writers Who is Known for His Graphic Depictions of Violence)

Birthday: July 20, 1933 (Cancer)

Born In: Providence, Rhode Island, United States

Cormac McCarthy is an American author, playwright, and screenwriter, best known for his Western characters and historical settings in his novels. He served the U.S. Air Force briefly, while studying at the University of Tennessee. He wrote for the university magazine and won the Ingram-Merrill Award. After publishing his first novel, The Orchard Keeper in 1965, he set off for Ireland on a traveling scholarship. He was mostly poor throughout his early writing days but traveled a lot. He won the Rockefeller Foundation Grant, the Guggenheim Fellowship, and the MacArthur Fellowship. In 2007, he won the Pulitzer Prize for Literature for this post-apocalyptic novel The Road. Some of his other notable works are Blood Meridian and The Border Trilogy. He got married and divorced thrice and now lives in New Mexico.

Quick Facts

Also Known As: Charles Joseph McCarthy Jr.

Age: 91 Years, 91 Year Old Males


Spouse/Ex-: Annie DeLisle (m. 1967–1981), Jennifer Winkley (m. 1997–2006), Lee Holleman (m. 1961–1962)

father: Charles Joseph McCarthy

mother: Gladys Christina (née McGrail)

siblings: Cullen McCarthy, John McCarthy

Born Country: United States

Novelists American Men

Height: 5'10" (178 cm), 5'10" Males

U.S. State: Rhode Island

Ancestry: Irish American

City: Providence, Rhode Island

More Facts

awards: 2007 · The Road - Pulitzer Prize for Fiction
1992 · All the Pretty Horses - National Book Award for Fiction
1981 · Fiction - MacArthur Fellowship

1969 - Guggenheim Fellowship for Creative Arts
US & Canada
1992 · All the Pretty Horses - National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction
2009 · The Road - Tähtivaeltaja Award
2006 · The Road - James Tait Black Memorial Prize - Fiction
2007 · The Road - Quill Award for General fiction

Childhood & Early Life

Cormac McCarthy Jr. was born on July 20, 1933, in Providence, Rhode Island, U.S., to Charles Joseph and Gladys Christina McGrail McCarthy.

McCarthy was the third of the six children and the eldest son of his parents. He grew up with three sisters and two brothers.

He was initially named Charles (after his father). However, McCarthy renamed himself “Cormac” after King Cormac of Ireland.

Other reports state that McCarthy’s family had legally changed his name to the Gaelic version of “son of Charles.”

In 1937, at the age of 4, McCarthy moved to Knoxville with his family. His father served the Tennessee Valley Authority as a lawyer.

In 1967, the family shifted from Knoxville to Washington, D.C., where McCarthy’s father worked as the principal attorney of a law firm.

McCarthy grew up in a Roman Catholic family and went to the Catholic High School in Knoxville.

He joined the University of Tennessee in 1951 and pursued a major in liberal arts.

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In 1953, Cormac McCarthy joined the U.S. Air Force. He worked there for 4 years and spent 2 of those years in Alaska, where he was the host of a radio show.

In 1957, McCarthy went back to the university. There, he wrote two stories, titled Wake for Susan and A Drowning Incident, for the university literary magazine, The Phoenix. He used the pseudonym “C. J. McCarthy, Jr.”

In 1959 and 1960, he was awarded the Ingram-Merrill Award for creative writing, at the university

After leaving the university eventually, he moved to Chicago. He worked as an auto mechanic to sustain himself while writing novels.

The Orchard Keeper, published in 1965, was his first novel. It was about a Tennessee local and his mentors. Prior to its release, McCarthy had earned a traveling fellowship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. By then, he was already married and divorced.

In 1965, using his fellowship, he set off for Ireland, on the liner Sylvania. He met Anne DeLisle, his future second wife, on the vessel.

McCarthy then received the Rockefeller Foundation Grant (1966–1968). After touring England, Switzerland, France, Italy, and Spain, he settled on the island named Ibiza with Anne (to whom he was married by then). McCarthy finished revising Outer Dark there.

In 1967, they went back to the U.S. and settled in Rockford, Tennessee, near Knoxville. The following year, Random House published Outer Dark, and it was favorably received.

In 1969, Cormac McCarthy received the Guggenheim Fellowship for Creative Writing. He and Anne then moved to a barn located in Louisville, Tennessee.

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He wrote Child of God, which was based on real events, in 1973. The book received mixed reviews and was made into a film in 2013.

From 1974 to 1975, McCarthy focused on writing the screenplay for a PBS film named The Gardener’s Son, based on actual events. The movie premiered in January 1977. Ecco Press later published a revised version of the screenplay.

In 1979, McCarthy wrote Suttree, his fourth novel, which was about a man’s obsession with death. By then, he had separated from Anne. Some consider it his best work to date.

McCarthy won the MacArthur Fellowship in 1981. In 1985, he published Blood Meridian, the tale of a 14-year-old boy who joins a gang of criminals. Over the years, it came to be known as one of the author’s finest works. McCarthy apparently went to all the destinations mentioned in the book and also learned Spanish to enrich his research for the book.

After editor Albert Erskine retired, McCarthy switched from Random House to Alfred A. Knopf. There, he worked with editor Gary Fisketjon. The New York Times Magazine was the only publication that got access to McCarthy’s interview back then.

In 1992, Knopf published All the Pretty Horses, the first volume of The Border Trilogy. The book, which was about a Texan named John Grady Cole, was a huge success and became a New York Times bestseller.

Back in the mid-1970s, McCarthy had written a play, which he revised and published as The Stonemason, via Ecco Press, in 1994.

Following this, Knopf released The Crossing, which was the second volume of The Border Trilogy. It revolved around the lives of Billy and Boyd Parham and was set against the backdrop of World War II. About 200,000 copies were printed initially. By the end of the first month, 25,000 more copies were printed.

In 1998, the third volume of The Border Trilogy, named Cities of the Plain, was published. The book brought John Grady Cole and Billy Parham together, as workers on a ranch in New Mexico.

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Around that time, he got married for the third time. McCarthy then joined the Santa Fe Institute as a writer in residence.

In 2005, he released No Country for Old Men, which was later made into an award-winning film by Ethan and Joel Coen.

The following year, Cormac McCarthy published The Road via Alfred A. Knopf. The book, which was a post-apocalyptic tale centered around a father-son duo, earned the Pulitzer Prize for Literature in 2007. It also earned the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for fiction. McCarthy agreed to an interview with celebrity TV host Oprah Winfrey, as Winfrey had selected The Road as one of the books in her Book Club. It was later made into a movie.

In 2006, he also wrote The Sunset Limited. It was commissioned by Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theater and premiered in May that year. HBO later turned it into a TV movie starring Tommy Lee Jones and Samuel L. Jackson.

In 2013, McCarthy declared that he had written the original screenplay for the movie The Counselor, directed by Ridley Scott. It was a tale about drug trafficking.

McCarthy’s works are usually known for their difficult narrative style, their Southern gothic features, and their violence.

Personal Life

Cormac McCarthy got married to Lee Holleman, a fellow student, in 1961. Apparently, McCarthy was struggling with poverty back then, and the couple moved to a shack with no running water, located between the Smoky Mountains, outside Knoxville. In 1962, they had a son, Cullen.

While Lee was already taking care of the baby and handling all chores, McCarthy apparently asked her to secure a day job so that he could write peacefully. Lee was angered by this and moved to Wyoming. She then filed for divorce (granted in 1962) and took up a teaching job.

McCarthy then met Englishwoman Anne DeLisle on the vessel Sylvania. She worked there as a dancer and singer. The couple married in England in 1966.

In 1969, they shifted to Louisville, Tennessee, where they bought a dairy barn. McCarthy refurbished the barn. However, they were apparently so poor back then that they had to bathe in a lake.

In 1976, Cormac McCarthy and Anne separated. They had no children. He then shifted to El Paso, Texas, and got legally divorced from Anne in 1981.

McCarthy then married Jennifer Winkley in 1997. In 1999, they had a son, John Francis. The couple later moved from El Paso to the Tesuque, New Mexico, situated near Santa Fe. They eventually divorced in 2006.

One of Cormac McCarthy’s favorite novels is Melville’s Moby-Dick. He dislikes giving interviews about his works or about writing in general.

McCarthy is also a teetotaler. He quit alcohol long back in El Paso, along with one of his girlfriends.

In 2016, a hoax, stating McCarthy had died, went viral on Twitter.

See the events in life of Cormac McCarthy in Chronological Order

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