I’ll Never Get Out of This World Alive

Written by Steve Earle
Review by Kathryn Johnson

One doesn’t know quite what to expect when a Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter of rock and country music – who is also an actor (appearing in such television shows as The Wire), and political activist – takes on the task of novel writing. But if this reviewer had any doubt as to Earle’s ability to weave a compelling story, it was soon dispelled. In his second novel, Earle deftly blends his gritty sense of realism with endearing humor and a compassionate view of human nature. He has plucked an obscure piece of music history as the base for this entertaining and moving novel – that is, Hank Williams’ death as a result of an overdose of morphine.

In I’ll Never Get out of This World Alive, the author chooses Doc Ebersole, the man rumored to have given Williams the final morphine dose that killed him, as his protagonist. The setting is 1963, a decade after the famous singer’s death, and while Doc himself struggles with his own addictions, he is also haunted by the ghost of his former patient. We are taken through the dark and often terrifyingly dangerous streets of San Antonio, where Doc meets Graciela, a young Mexican immigrant who seems to work miracles wherever she goes.

This is a story as grim as it is hopeful and occasionally even charming. Earle’s poignant writing hits the reader in the gut and steals our hearts when we least expect it. Although by no means a conventional historical novel, I highly recommend the novel to the adventurous reader, and to anyone who has ever felt like a lost soul.