Blood Meridian (1985)
by Cormac McCarthy
I don't often rush home and write a book review, but Blood Meridan is the kind of book that stays with you- for better or worse, depending on your capacity to derive aesthetic satisfaction from a nihilistic western set among a band of Indian scalp hunting American rejects plying their trade in Northern Mexico. Based on the real life Blanton gang, McCarthy infuses the already incidinerary subject matter with an eye to style, scene and theme. The bleak southwestern landscape receives a treatment at the hands of McCarthy which is 180 degrees from the lionizing landscapes from painters like Georgia O'Keefe and others from the Taos/Santa Fe area. The simple truth is that the desert southwest is heathen territory, always has been, always will be. Blanton's gang though, operates outside any conceivable definiton of morality, behaving in a rapacious fashion that is so disturbing it probably explains why Blood Meridian has never been made a film.
For example, Judge Holden, a quasi-historical member of the Glanton gang, is described as a hairless, seven foot tall man who is able to wield a howitzer like a handgun. He also probably abducts, rapes and murders several young girls, although this is never explicitly confirmed in the text. It's clear that Holden is an otherwordly, likely demonic presence, and he ends up being one of the more memorable characters of 20th century fiction.
Ultimately, I would argue that Blood Meridian is a stylistic triumph, with McCarthy's unique combination of Southern Gothic and genre fiction plot mechanics with old testament inspired language. It is a heady mixture, leaving the reader full satiated at the end of the novel. Probably my favorite read of the year.