Tuesday, February 7

Cormac McCarthy: two new novels coming in 2022, 16 years after The Road | Cormac McCarthy

Sixteen years since his last novel, The Road, Cormac McCarthy’s long awaited follow-up has finally been confirmed – with not one, but two new novels to be published one month apart later this year.

The Passenger, out in October, and Stella Maris, out in November, follow siblings Bobby and Alicia Western, “who are tormented by the legacy of their father, a physicist who helped develop the atom bomb”, reported the New York Times on Tuesday.

Regarded as one of the greatest living US writers, 88-year-old McCarthy has not published a novel since The Road in 2006. The post-apocalyptic survival story won the Pulitzer prize and became a bestseller.

It’s an unusually long gap for the novelist, who has published 10 novels since 1965. The Passenger has been highly anticipated since 2009, when a Texas university acquired McCarthy’s archive, including notes for an unfinished novel with that working title; however, the notes were restricted until publication. The acquisition revealed that McCarthy was then working on three novels – but there had been no update in the decade since.

On Tuesday evening, US publisher Knopf revealed McCarthy had the two books coming in 2022. McCarthy had delivered a full draft of one of the novels to his editors eight years ago, kept secret at the publishing house.

The Passenger, published on 25 October, opens as Bobby, a salvage diver working on the Gulf Coast in 1980, explores the wreckage of a sunken jet. He discovers that the black box, the pilot’s bag and one of the dead passengers are all missing. The 400-page novel has “the pace and twists of a thriller” as Bobby is drawn into the mystery of the crash.

Stella Maris marks the first time McCarthy has focused on a female protagonist. The 200-page novel, out on 22 November, follows Bobby’s sister Alicia, “a math prodigy whose intellect frightens people and whose hallucinations appear as characters, with their own distinct voices.”

“I was planning on writing about a woman for 50 years,” McCarthy told the Wall Street Journal in a 2009 interview. “I will never be competent enough to do so, but at some point you have to try.”

McCarthy’s editor at Knopf, Jenny Jackson, told the New York Times: “It’s a format for Cormac to allow Alicia to explore her obsessions, which from what I can tell happen to be Cormac’s obsessions. It’s a book of ideas.”

When the manuscripts were completed, Knopf considered publishing the books as one volume, both on the same day or a year apart, but settled on a one-month gap.

“Here we have not one but two novels by pretty much America’s greatest living novelist,” Knopf publisher Reagan Arthur said. “How do we publish in a way that gives readers time to experience each one but also gives readers the satisfaction of experiencing the conversation between the two novels?”

The two novels mark a departure for McCarthy, who has set most of his works in the American south and southwest, exploring humanity’s capacity for good and evil in austere tales of great violence and depravity. The New York Times reported that McCarthy has been fascinated with mathematics and theoretical physics for years, having surrounded himself with experts in both fields at the Santa Fe Institutea research institute where he has worked for decades.

McCarthy, who rarely gives interviews and declined to speak for the announcement, is not unaware of the anticipation. Asked by Winfrey in 2007 if he cared that he had millions of readers, he said: “In all honesty I have to say I really don’t. You would like for the people who appreciate the book to read it, but, as far as many, many people reading it, so what?”


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