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Reviews of I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive by Steve Earle

I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive

by Steve Earle

I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive by Steve Earle X
I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive by Steve Earle
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     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    May 2011, 256 pages

    Paperback:
    May 2012, 256 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Marnie Colton
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About this Book

Book Summary

A brilliant excavation of an obscure piece of music history, Steve Earle's I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive is a ballad of regret and redemption, and of the ways in which we remake ourselves and our world through the smallest of miracles.

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.

One

Doc woke up sick, every cell in his body screaming for morphine - head pounding - eyes, nose, and throat burning. His back and legs ached deep down inside and when he tried to sit up he immediately doubled over, racked with abdominal cramps. He barely managed to make it to the toilet down the hall before his guts turned inside out.

Just like every day. Day in, day out. No pardon, no parole. Until he got a shot of dope in him, it wasn’t going to get any better. Doc knew well that the physical withdrawal symptoms were nothing compared with the deeper demons, the mind-numbing fear and heart-crushing despair that awaited him if he didn’t get his ass moving and out on the street. The worst part was that three quarters of a mile of semi-molten asphalt and humiliation lay between him and his first fix, and every inch would be an insistent reminder of just how far he had fallen in the last ten years.

In the old days, back in Bossier City, all Doc had to do was sit up and swing ...

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Reviews

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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...continued

Full Review (879 words)

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(Reviewed by Marnie Colton).

Media Reviews

Entertainment Weekly
Earle (a hell of a songwriter himself) has written a deft, big-spirited novel about sin, faith, redemption, and the family of man.

Kirkus Reviews
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.

Library Journal
Grammy singer/songwriter Earle should do well with this work; he's already proved himself with the story collection Doghouse Roses.

Publishers Weekly
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.

Author Blurb 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.

Author Blurb 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.

Author Blurb Michael Ondaatje
[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.

Author Blurb 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.

Author Blurb 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?

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Beyond the Book

Hank Williams's Last Days

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 ...

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