Child of God (1973) depicts the life of a violent young outcast in 1960s Appalachian Tennessee. McCarthy's inspiration for the novel came from history, especially a historical figure whom, in a 1992 interview, he refused to name. Despite its surreal focus, Child of God contains quite a bit of historical detail about Sevier County, Tennessee. It includes references to local Ku Klux Klan-like groups known as White Caps and Bluebills.
While the novel was released to great critical success, it was by no means a financial success and sold few copies. Nonetheless, those who did read the novel thoroughly enjoyed it.
Like its predecessor Outer Dark (1968), Child of God established McCarthy's interest in using extreme isolation, perversity, and violence to represent normal human experience. It also cemented McCarthy's unique style. For example, McCarthy ignores normal literary conventions such as quotation marks and switches between several styles of writing such as matter-of-fact descriptions, almost poetic prose, and colloquial first-person narration (with the speaker remaining unidentified). Nonetheless, many agree that Child of God is an exceptionally well-done and riveting novel from an author unparalleled in skill.