I am on a Cormac McCarthy binge at the moment. Following hard on the heels of All the Pretty Horses, No Country for Old Men was my ferry book yesterday and today and just fitted the trip. I’d seen the film, which is faithful to the book, but only by (inevitably), peeling the story down to its dark, stark core; the hunting down of an opportunistic thief by a sociopathic hitman. In the book there is far more about the thoughts of Sheriff Ed Tom Bell and his motives in trying to protect the opportunistic thief, Llewelyn Moss, and his young wife, Carla Jean. This novel is not on a par with Pretty Horses or Blood Meridian, but it’s a cracking good read nonetheless. I have become fascinated by the way McCarthy pulls off his literary tricks. One, I realise, is by leaving no sort of hiatus whatsoever between a scene and the next (in other words, he can be even more parsimonious with scene changing than the tautest film director). The reader gets used to doubling back briefly to ascertain that a scene change has occurred and is then dragged forward by the collar into the next scene. It’s a very effective way of keeping the story galloping forward. The sociopath, Anton Chigurh, is a chilling invention and yet he is all too recognisably human, and it is this awful realisation that spurs Ed Tom Bell to retire, rather than to continue to try to track him down. This brave new world is one in which he does not want to live.