Doc Ebersole lives with the ghost of Hank Williams - not just in the figurative sense, not just because he was one of the last people to see him alive, and not just because he is rumored to have given Hank the final morphine dose that killed him.
In 1963, ten years after Hank's death, Doc himself is wracked by addiction. Having lost his license to practice medicine, his morphine habit isn't as easy to support as it used to be. So he lives in a rented room in the red-light district on the south side of San Antonio, performing abortions and patching up the odd knife or gunshot wound. But when Graciela, a young Mexican immigrant, appears in the neighborhood in search of Doc's services, miraculous things begin to happen. Graciela sustains a wound on her wrist that never heals, yet she heals others with the touch of her hand. Everyone she meets is transformed for the better, except, maybe, for Hank's angry ghost - who isn't at all pleased to see Doc doing well.
There's something endearingly old-fashioned about Steve Earle's debut novel I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive, a tale with a straightforward beginning, middle, and end, punctuated by spectral showdowns and heavenly healings. While it will likely appeal most to music fans eager to see how this iconoclastic singer/songwriter will fare in the literary sweepstakes, I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive deserves praise for the way it captures both the squalor and the community spirit of a down-and-out enclave populated with lively, believable characters. That one of them is dead only adds to the festivities. (Reviewed by Marnie Colton).
Earle (a hell of a songwriter himself) has written a deft, big-spirited novel about sin, faith, redemption, and the family of man.
With its Charles Portis vibe and the author's immense cred as a musician and actor, this should have no problem finding the wide audience it deserves.
Grammy singer/songwriter Earle should do well with this work; he's already proved himself with the story collection Doghouse Roses.
Starred Review. A thematically ambitious debut novel that draws from the writer's experience yet isn't simply a memoir in the guise of fiction... Already well-respected for both his music and his acting, Earle can now add novelist to an impressive résumé.
Charles Frazier, author of Cold Mountain and Thirteen Moons
What a delight to read this novel and find so many elements I've admired in Steve Earle's songwriting for nearly twenty-five years. It is a rich, raw mix of American myth and hard social reality, of faith and doubt, always firmly rooted in a strong sense of character.
[A] doctor, a Mexican girl, an Irish priest, the ghost of Hank Williams, and JFK the day before he dies... Steve Earle has managed to gather the threads of their voices and personalities in a world that ranges from quinine-contaminated heroin to worshippers in a Spanish Mission church - who pray only for the peace that comes from unwavering faith. This subtle and dramatic book is the work of a brilliant songwriter who has moved from song to orchestral ballad with astonishing ease.
Kinky Friedman, musician and author of Heroes of a Texas Childhood
Steve Earle is afflicted with the curse of being multitalented. A legendary musician, songwriter, entertainer, poet, and social activist, now with this debut novel he proves that he's a novelist of the first order. Laying bare the emotional history of country music, he takes the reader through a dark seedy dangerous world and back into a dawn of redemption. Steve Earle writes like a shimmering neon angel.
Ron Rash, author of Serena and One Foot in Eden
Steve Earle has created a potent blend of realism and mysticism in this compelling, morally complex story of troubled souls striving for a last chance at redemption. Musician, actor, and now novelist - is there another artist in America with such wide-ranging talent?
Patti Smith, author of Just Kids, singer-songwriter, poet, and visual artist
Steve Earle brings to his prose the same authenticity, poetic spirit and cinematic energy he projects in his music. I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive is like a dream you can't shake, offering beauty and remorse, redemption in spades.
Speculation and myth swirl around accounts of 29-year-old country music legend Hank Williams's death in the back seat of a Cadillac on January 1, 1953. For years, Charles Carr, the only person who knew for sure what had happened that snowy day in the hinterlands of West Virginia, never talked about it.
A mere 17 at the time, Charles Carr was home on vacation from Auburn University on December 30, 1952, when his father, the owner of a limousine service and an acquaintance of Hank's, asked Charles if he would drive the country singer from his home in Montgomery, Alabama to a New Year's Eve gig in Charleston, West Virginia and then to a New Year's Day concert in Canton, Ohio. Charles agreed, but, after a late start and with a freezing rainstorm moving in, decided to stop for the night in Birmingham, Alabama.
The next day (December 31, 1952), having already canceled the first show in Charleston due to the weather, the two men daringly took off on a flight headed for Canton from Knoxville, although the pilot soon turned the plane around rather than risk disaster....
A Visit from the Goon Squad is a book about the interplay of time and music, about survival, about the stirrings and transformations set inexorably in motion by even the most passing conjunction of our fates. Sly, startling, exhilarating work from one of our boldest writers.
Named for a flower whose blood-red sap possesses the power both to heal and poison, Bloodroot is a stunning fiction debut about the legaciesof magic and madness, faith and secrets, passion and lossthat haunt one family across the generations, from the Great Depression to today.
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