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Cormac McCarthy and Performance

Cormac McCarthy and Performance
Page, Stage, Screen

Drawing on Cormac McCarthy’s recently opened archive, as well as interviews with several of his collaborators, this book presents the first comprehensive overview of McCarthy’s writing for film and theater, as well as film adaptations of his novels.

June 2017
256 pages | 6 x 9 | Hardcover has a printed case, no dust jacket |15 b&w photos |

Cormac McCarthy is renowned as the author of popular and acclaimed novels such as Blood Meridian, All the Pretty Horses, and The Road. Throughout his career, however, McCarthy has also invested deeply in writing for film and theater, an engagement with other forms of storytelling that is often overlooked. He is the author of five screenplays and two plays, and he has been significantly involved with three of the seven film adaptations of his work. In this book, Stacey Peebles offers the first extensive overview of this relatively unknown aspect of McCarthy’s writing life, including the ways in which other artists have interpreted his work for the stage and screen.

Drawing on many primary sources in McCarthy’s recently opened archive, as well as interviews, Peebles covers the 1977 televised film The Gardener’s Son; McCarthy’s unpublished screenplays from the 1980s that became the foundation for his Border Trilogy novels and No Country for Old Men; various successful and unsuccessful productions of his two plays; and all seven film adaptations of his work, including John Hillcoat’s The Road (2009) and the Coen brothers’ Oscar-winning No Country for Old Men (2007). Emerging from this narrative is the central importance of tragedy—the rich and varied portrayals of violence and suffering and the human responses to them—in all of McCarthy’s work, but especially his writing for theater and film.

  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction. Cormac McCarthy, Center Stage
  • Chapter 1. First Forays: Early Film Interest and The Gardener’s Son
  • Chapter 2. The Unproduced Screenplays: “Cities of the Plain,” “Whales and Men,” and “No Country for Old Men“
  • Chapter 3. Works for Theater: The Stonemason and The Sunset Limited
  • Chapter 4. Keeping the Faith: All the Pretty Horses and The Road
  • Chapter 5. Tragic Success Stories: No Country for Old Men and The Sunset Limited
  • Chapter 6. Great Expectations: The Counselor and Child of God
  • Conclusion. Bears That Dance, Bears That Don’t: The Attempts to Adapt Blood Meridian
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Index

Danville, Kentucky

Peebles is an associate professor of English and director of film studies at Centre College. She is vice president of the Cormac McCarthy Society, editor of the Cormac McCarthy Journal, and author of Welcome to the Suck: Narrating the American Soldier’s Experience in Iraq.


“[A]n extensive guide...Peebles makes a convincing case that many of the failures in adaptation derive from a failure to express fully the tragic nature of McCarthy's vision.”
Times Literary Supplement

“Peebles effectively justifies the inclusion of...screenplays, scripts, and adaptations among McCarthy's recognized body of work. This book would enrich scholarship on McCarthy's novels, adaptation studies, and tragedy in the Western and Southern Gothic traditions.”

Cormac McCarthy and Performance is an invaluable contribution to the fields of Western American literature and film studies, but it will also appeal to afficionados seeking insight into the artist himself.”
Western American Literature

“This book has been eagerly anticipated by those who work within the field of McCarthy studies. It is the first and only inclusive study of McCarthy’s work in performance, from draft stages to production. It is groundbreaking and will be an essential and foundational text in the study of McCarthy’s dramatic works and his writing career as a whole.”
Dianne C. Luce, Emerita, Midlands Technical College, author of Reading the World: Cormac McCarthy’s Tennessee Period and coeditor of A Cormac McCarthy Companion: The Border Trilogy and Perspectives on Cormac McCarthy


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