“I’ll Never Get Out of This World Alive” by Steve Earle

“I’ll Never Get Out of This World Alive” by Steve Earle (2011) – 243 pages

I’ve been a fan of singer-songwriter Steve Earle for a long time. His music is a combination of rockabilly, country and western, Americana, and folk. He hit the big time on the Country charts in the mid-1980s, got addicted to heroin, kicked the drug habit, and has now been recording albums regularly for about 17 years. Here are links to two of my favorite Steve Earle performances on You Tube. In ‘The Mountain’ he performs with the Del McCoury Band and in “Still In Love with You” he sings a duet with legend Iris Dement.

Earle wrote a book of short stories in 2001 called “Doghouse Roses”. Now he’s published this novel, “I’ll Never Get Out of this World Alive”, and released an album with the same name at the same time. “I’ll Never get Out of this World Alive” is actually the name of a Hank Williams song.

This novel is about a guy named Doc, and it takes place in the early 1960s. Doc used to be a doctor but lost his license somewhere along the way while he became addicted to morphine. He still operates as a doctor illegally in his rundown apartment in San Antonio in order to support his morphine habit.

Some novels about drug addiction are quite grim and dismal affairs, but Earle keeps this story rolling along in jaunty and humorous fashion. You get to meet several of the outrageous colorful characters who live in this drug-end neighborhood in San Antonio. Also Doc frequently sees the ghost of Hank Williams. Maybe Doc treated Hank Williams on that New Years Eve night back in 1952/1953 when Hank Williams died from alcohol and drug poisoning at the age of 29 while riding in a car which was taking him to his next show. Now Hank won’t leave Doc alone; Hank wants to drag Doc over to the other side. The ghost of Han Williams is played for fun, a good-natured comic touch.

Then there is Graciela, the Mexican girl-woman who first sees Doc as his patient, and then lives with him. Soon the people in the neighborhood realize she has special powers which the Church is interested in too.

Steve Earle and Alison Moorer at Bumbershoot, 2007

The year is 1963, and in one scene John and Jackie (Yah-kee in Mexican pronunciation) Kennedy come to San Antonio, and all these motley down-and-outers pile in the car to see them up close at the airport. With its San Antonio flavor, “I’ll Never Get Out of this World Alive” has a definite Sixties feel to it. It’s about as far as you can get from Mad Men, but it is still the Sixties.

With the story bouncing along,“I’ll Never Get Out of this World Alive” is a quick and fun book to read.

2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by kimbofo on June 6, 2011 at 9:04 PM

    Thanks for this review, Tony. I received an unsolicited review copy of this book and promptly handed it over to my Other Half, who is both a Steve Earle and Hank Williams fan. It sounds like it will be right up his street. But maybe I will wrestle it off him and read it myself, now! 😉


  2. Hi Kimbofo,
    Hey if he likes Steve Earle AND Hank Williams … I’m actually a bigger fan of Lefty Frizell, another Country singer-songwriter of the early 1950s, than I am of Hank Williams, but Hank is very good too. Lefty was pretty much another hell-raiser like Hank. It’s a fun book.


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