I read Cormac McCarthy’s masterpiece (that’s not hyperbole), All the Pretty Horses, in more-or-less a single sitting today. The distinctive prose, the rich vocabulary, the elegiac atmospherics, the taut dialogue, the taciturn and entirely authentic characters; it is simply a joy to read McCarthy’s work. On this occasion, uncharacteristically, the basic story is a romance, though it is nevertheless hemmed around by the raw violence and savagery for which his novels are generally better known. The Guardian newspaper is quoted as declaring this book to be ‘one of the greatest American novels of this or any time’ and it is profoundly true that this could only be an American novel. Where, in Europe, are there wildernesses to ride off into? Mountains to traverse without seeing another human soul? I’ll cite just one passage to demonstrate McCarthy’s peerless imagery; ‘They slumped bleary-eyed in their saddles and looked at one another. Shrouded in the black thunderheads the distant lightning glowed mutely like welding seen through foundry smoke. As if repairs were under way at some flawed place in the iron dark of the world.’ Beautiful and brilliant.