I suspect, after reading several of McCarthy’s books now, that his readers are weeded out or strengthened into firm believers by his opening chapters.
In this novel, we follow one man walking towards a place he wants to be going. This man is Kenneth Rattner. He is alone, seems harmless and friendly enough, yet he lies and steals. Then there is another man, Marion Sylder; a dandy with fancy boots and a fine car, who buys drinks for one and all as he enters a hometown bar after many years’ absence.
It is McCarthy’s method to draw lines leading to and away; but they’re never straight and easy to follow. We know who’s important to watch though, and that their individual journeys are bringing them together. But we have to get involved with them a bit first, even while knowing that a meeting is just up ahead. And we try to figure out where, how, and why. Maybe we’re already picking sides; the winner, the loser. And we look for clues from what McCarthy’s bound to give us in the setting, in the movements of his characters, and in how they interact with all who they run into prior to that kismetic moment of facing off.
And we tense up for that meeting now, as we should have for the pairing up of the Judge and the Kid. Had we only known.