I first read Blood Meridian in the wrong place. I was on a hellish holiday with some friends and to get away from the misery of paying to be somewhere I didn't want to be I picked up my copy of the book which I had thrown into the bag at the last minute for reading on the plane. I didn't open it until I got to Chang Mai and the surrounding lush, swaety tropical heat was at odds with the vividly depicted, dust dry desert landscapes of the book. McCarthy re-invents the history of the American West, subverting the ridiculous ideological band-aid of Manifest Destiny in the process.
The book is set in the borderlands of Mexico and Arizona in the 1840's and tells of the border wars between white settlers, the Mexican army and bands of Apache. McCarthy tells his fictional history in a Manichean fashion with no one escaping from the story untainted by the privation, the hardship, the extreme violence and the tenuous yet curiously durable idea of justice to whom all of the book's protagonists seem to pay some form of homage but yet betray any reasonable standard of the ideal by their very existence. Make no mistake, Blood Meridian is violent, very violent in fact. Yet the book does not revel in the violence, it depicts it in pain-staking detail, all part of the epic story of 19th century American history.
Just a note on the language which deserves a hell of a lot more than a note. McCarthy is, I believe, the true successor to the great William Faulkner in his use of the everyday speech of his characters to convey great emotion and meaning within his work. This fact alone marks him out as one of the great writers of the 20th century