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Cormac McCarthy Correspondence, 1976-1985

Identifier: MS-3762

  • Staff Only

The collection consists of handwritten and typed letter correspondence between Cormac McCarthy and fellow writer John Fergus Ryan between the years 1975 to 1986. The authors discuss their successes and disappointments for publication. The correspondence begins with John Fergus Ryan congratulating Cormac McCarthy on his earning the Guggenheim Fellowship for Creative Writing in 1969. The author’s conversations are companionable and short.


  • 1976-1985


The material in this collection is in English.

Conditions Governing Access

Collections are stored offsite, and a minimum of 2 business days are needed to retrieve these items for use. Researchers interested in consulting any of the collections are advised to contact Special Collections.

Conditions Governing Use

The copyright interests in this collection remain with the creator. For more information, contact the Special Collections Library.


0.25 Linear Feet


The collection consists of letter correspondence between Cormac McCarthy and fellow writer John Fergus Ryan between the years of 1975 to 1986. The writers discussed their daily life, successes, and disappointments.

Biographical/Historical Note

Born in Rhode Island on July 20, 1933, Charles McCarthy, Jr. was the eldest son of Charles Joseph and Glays Christinia McGrail McCarthy. He had three brothers and three sisters. In 1937, the McCarthy family moved to Knoxville, TN, where Charles McCarthy, Sr. received a lawyer position with the Tennessee Valley Authority. Cormac, as Charles Jr. named himself later, attended Catholic High School in Knoxville. After graduating, he was accepted into the University of Tennessee in 1951, majoring in liberal arts. With only two years spent at the university, McCarthy joined the United States Air Force in 1953 and served for four years. He returned to the University of Tennessee in 1957 and published two stories until he graduated in 1959. He was awarded the Ingram-Merrill Award for his creative writing in 1959 and 1960.

After school, McCarthy moved to Chicago, Illinois and married Lee Holleman. Cormac and Lee McCarthy moved back to TN in Sevier County, where their son Cullen McCarthy was born. A little after Cullen was born, Cormac and Lee McCarthy ended their marriage. Cormac McCarthy travelled to Ireland and England on a fellowship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1965. In 1965, McCarthy’s first novel, Orchard Keeper, was published. In his travels, he came upon the English ship liner singer/dancer Anne Delisle, whom he married in 1966 in England. In 1967, Cormac and Anne McCarthy moved to Rockford, TN. Two years later, the McCarthys moved to Louisville, TN. McCarthy was awarded the Guggenheim Fellowship for Creative Writing in 1969. There were three works that Cormac completed during his stay in Louisville: novels Outer Dark (1968) and Child of God (1973), and The Gardener’s Son screenplay (1977). Cormac and Anne McCarthy separated in 1976, and afterward Cormac moved to El Paso, Texas. He achieved the MacArthur Fellowship in 1981. In El Paso, he found inspiration for his infamous Suttree (1979), Blood Meridian (1985), and The Border Trilogy (1990s). McCarthy married Jennifer Winkley and had one child in 1999. The family moved to Tesuque, New Mexico, where No Country for Old Men (2005) and The Road (2006) were written and made into movies. Cormac McCarthy’s most recent work involves the screenplay The Counselor (2013).

John Fergus Ryan (1930-2003) was also a Tennessee writer. Born in Arkansas, Ryan grew up in Little Rock, Arkansas and then joined the United States Army. Ryan was a graduate of Memphis State University in 1957. He wrote two plays and three novels. John Fergus Ryan’s most famous work is The Redneck Bride, which was published in 1982. John Fergus Ryan passed away in Memphis, TN from the combined travesties of Parkinson’s Disease and diabetes complications.


The collection is kept in the original arrangement. Sorted chronologically and by recipient.

Repository Details

Part of the Betsey B. Creekmore Special Collections and University Archives, University of Tennessee, Knoxville Repository

University of Tennessee, Knoxville
Knoxville TN 37996 USA