Tag Archives: Serial Killers

Book Review: Blood Meridian, Or, The Evening Redness in the West

McCarthy, Cormac. Blood Meridian, Or, The Evening Redness in the West. 2010 Modern Library Edition ed. New York, NY: Modern Library, 2010. Print.

 

Many consider Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian too violent to read. Violence begins onGUEST_e7b7a5bd-5894-4e82-907d-da212ef1d4e8 the second page and continues unabated to the end. McCarthy delivers a treatise on man’s inhumanity to man in the form of genocide. Blood is a constant theme as blood is spilled in one senseless massacre after another. Blood is not the result of conflict, but the reason for it.

McCarthy weaves what could be a series of short stories describing the worth or lack of indigenous people’s lives in the latter half of the nineteenth century west. The story, seen through the eyes of the narrator, follows the Kid and a gang of killers. McCarthy’s narrator never allows the reader inside the mind of the characters. We learn only what McCarthy wants as he develops his characters. He forces the reader to imagine one’s vision of the murderous thoughts. He is masterful in constructing his performers while forcing his readers to judge them.

McCarthy uses understated allegory to deliver messages that express what the characters are or what they represent. Spitting is used throughout as a symbol of the low regard the men have for anything, including human life. The insult of the act says more than dialogue could deliver. Wolves are symbolic actors. Almost daily, we see wolves. The humans and the wolves are representative of hunters looking for easy prey. The only difference, wolves kill for survival.

Glanton and his gang are inherently immoral, evil, clichés of bad guys in black hats. The governments of Mexico and the United States, equally evil, legitimatize genocide. This allowed for the ferocious and persistent murder and attempted extermination of the native peoples of both countries.

Genocide is the predominant theme. Except for the Delaware’s, the Indians are shown as savages. This holds even when the Diegueño Indians rescue the Kid and the ex-priest. “They would have died if the indians had not found them” (312). The narrator refers to these people as savages, as aborigines. “they saw the halfnaked savages crouched…” (312).

Two central characters, Glanton and the Judge, build upon the theme of genocide. Glanton, when he kills an old Indian woman sitting in the square of an impoverished Mexican village. When he sees three of his men squatting with her, he dismounts and kills her. “The woman looked up. Neither courage nor heartsink in those old eyes. He . . . put the pistol to her head and fired” (102). On the very next page, he confirms his complete contempt for life when he tells the only Mexican in his band to scalp the woman’s corpse with these chilling words, “Get that receipt for us” (103). She is nothing more than a hundred-dollar bounty.

The reader becomes almost inured to the violence. Once the butchery began, it seems as though there can be nothing more disturbing—there is—the Judge is evil incarnate. The gang surprises and attacks a large Indian encampment, “the partisans [Glanton’s men] nineteen in number bearing down upon the encampment where there lay sleeping upward of a thousand souls” (161). The Judge leaves the devastated village with a captured child, a ten-year-old boy. He treats the child humanely, and the boy becomes somewhat of a mascot. Three days later, the depth of the Judge’s evil is shown. “Toadvine saw him with the child as he passed with his saddle, but when he came back ten minutes later leading his horse the child was dead and the judge had scalped it” (170). The reader is left to wonder if the Judge killed the boy because he thrives on murder, or if he defiled the child and killed him afterward.

McCarthy’s colorful and graphic language adds significantly to the ability of the reader to see, understand, and experience the scenes and settings. Short and straightforward, his portrayal of the gang as they cross the desert, conveys in a few easy to read lines, in which the reader can feel, and smell the riders. “They rode on, and the wind drove the fine gray dust before them and they rode an army of graybeards, gray men, gray horses” (259).

The Kid, born into a violent world, dies a violent death forty-five years later. Some assume that the Judge, a pedophile, and sexual deviant, rapes the Kid and leaves him for dead. We’ll never know the answer.

McCarthy’s final message to the reader, evil cannot be eradicated; it lives forever.

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15 Things I’d Like To Ban From Contemporary Crime Fiction – Adrian McKinty

Adrian McKinty is an Irish novelist currently living in St. Kilda, Australia. Below is a posting from his blog I found interesting and want to share. For the complete article click on http://adrianmckinty.blogspot.com/ and scroll down to Sunday, May 12, 2013.

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15 Things I’d Like To Ban From Contemporary Crime Fiction

Crime fiction has gotten very dull lately hasn’t it? I should know because I get inundated with galleys and review copies and most of them are beyond tedious, without a spark of wit or a well turned phrase in any of them. And the cliches, Jesus the cliches. And the violence. Especially violence towards women and children…It’s almost impossible to read some of this stuff and it makes me wonder how and why these authors ended up writing it. Were they pressured by editors or a feeling that this is what the market demands? I wonder if they ever get embarrassed. I know I get ashamed when I find myself falling into cliche or hacky situations or when the dialogue sounds tinny and false. I’m guilty, I’ll admit it, but I can’t be the only one, can I?

1. Clever serial killers
2. Stupid serial killers
3. Child Murderers
4. Serial Rapists
5. Everything from Scandinavia
6. Torture Porn
7. Working class stereotypes
8. Architects
9. Gallery owners
10. Books with recipes
11. Detectives baffled by basic scientific facts/mathematics
12. Detectives who solve crimes with magic or fairy dust (Lizbeth Sallander, the BBC’s Sherlock etc.)
13. Detectives who solve crimes with cats
14. Cops who haven’t heard of Ernest Hemingway or other basic elements of contemporary culture (this is an extension of #7 above).
15. Super villains. I’ll explain this one. There’s an entirely fallacious belief out there that gets repeated all the time (I heard JJ Abrams repeating it on TV not ten minutes ago) that a hero is only as good as the villain is bad. The hero is supposedly ‘defined by the villain.’ This is utter nonsense. In a well made narrative you don’t even need a villain or a decent McGuffin you just need a good story and fascinating characters. JJ Abrams worships at the throne of Spielberg but he should remember that the shark in Jaws only appeared on screen for about two minutes and its Spielberg’s best movie. And sometimes the most interesting part of the journey is the voyage the hero takes inside his own head. Nach innen geht der Geheimnisvolle Weg, as Novalis said. “Inward goes the way full of mystery.” You know?

Of course with a good story, good dialogue and good characters you can break all the rules above and have yourself a terrific book. But still…you know what I’m talking about… and if you have your own ideas about things you’d like to ban or cliches you’d like to kill please don’t hesitate to let me know.

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