Is every great novel about life and death?

Pulitzer-Prize winning author Cormac McCarthy

That’s what Cormac McCarthy believes, and he may be, in my opinion, the best pure wordsmith writing today.

Cormac McCarthy believes that all great novels deal with life and death.

I didn’t think he was right.

Then I thought about it for a while.

And now I’m convinced he is right.

You can have as many themes as you want.

You can have as many plots as you want.

You can have as many subplots as you want.

But the story always boils down to a single conflict, the struggle between life.

And death.

I have long read and admired the work of Cormac McCarthy. He may be, in my opinion, the best pure wordsmith writing today.

He views the landscape of our existence.

He draws upon his knowledge of our motivations:






And ambition.

And his novels can be described in two words.


And death.

The more I thought about it, the more I began to understand what Cormac McCarthy was talking about.

It’s not always about the beginning of life.

And the ending of life.

It takes place along the journey of life.

Love begins.

Then there are problems, troubles, cheating, lying, betrayal, anger, and jealousy.

Hearts break.

Hope is dashed.

And love dies.

We have dreams.

Then come rejection, disappointment, failure, criticism, and humiliation.

Plans fall apart.

We face defeat.

We are suffocated with defeat.

And dreams die.

We possess ambition.

Then we get knocked down, passed over, shoved aside, fired, and abandoned.

We are dejected.

We lose faith.

And ambition dies.

A journey begins.

Then the path is filled with twists, turns, potholes, sorrow, and regret.

We become lost.

All the bridges are washed out.

The road ends.

And the journey dies.

There is an old saying that has haunted me for a long time:

Life asked death,

Why do people love me

And hate you?

Death responded,

Because you are a beautiful lie

And I am a painful truth.

The more I think about it, the more I realize that Cormac McCarthy was right.

One theme.

Many stories.

But every one of them, in one form or another, is about life.

And death.

They represent what takes place between our first breath and our last.

Please click HERE to find my historical mystery, Bad Side of a Wicked Moon, on Amazon.

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  • The stakes can’t be raised higher. Even Nancy Drew mysteries had a whiff of death and danger in them.

    • Caleb Pirtle

      Alicia: If it hadn’t been for Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys, I might have never discovered my love for mysteries.

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