I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive

I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive

By:  Steve Earle

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

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  • Format: eBook

  • ISBN-13/EAN: 9780547549040

  • ISBN-10: 0547549040

  • Pages: 256

  • Price: $9.99

  • Publication Date: 05/12/2011

  • Carton Quantity: 1

Steve Earle

Steve Earle

STEVE EARLE is a singer-songwriter, actor, activist, and the author of a Los Angeles Times Book of the Year, the story collection Doghouse Roses. He has released more than a dozen critically acclaimed albums, including the Grammy winners The Revolution Starts Now, Washington Square Serenade, and Townes. He has appeared on film and television, with celebrated roles in The Wire and Treme. His album entitled I’ll Never Get Out of This World Alive was produced by T Bone Burnett. He often tours with his wife, singer-songwriter Allison Moorer.
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  • reviews
    "Earle (a hell of a songwriter himself) has written a deft, big-spirited novel about sin, faith, redemption, and the family of man." --Entertainment Weekly

    "Earle draws on the rough-and-tumble tenderness in his music to create a witty, heartfelt story of hope, forgiveness, and redemption."


    "In this spruce debut novel...hard-core troubadour Earle ponders miracles, morphine and mortality in 1963 San Antonio... 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."

    --Publishers Weekly

    "A thematically ambitious debut novel that draws from the writer's experience, yet isn't simply a memoir in the guise of fiction...richly imagined..."

    --Kirkus Reviews, starred

    "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." 

    —Patti Smith

    ". . . a doctor, a Mexican girl, an Irish priest, the ghost of Hank Williams, and JFK the day before he dies. This subtle and dramatic book is the work of a brilliant songwriter who has moved from song to orchestral ballad with astonishing ease."

    —Michael Ondaatje


    "A rich, raw mix of American myth and hard social reality, of faith and doubt, always firmly rooted in a strong sense of character."

    —Charles Frazier

    "Steve Earle writes like a shimmering neon angel." —Kinky Friedman


    "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?"

    —Ron Rash

    "The characters are unforgettable, and the plot moves like a fast train. A fantastic mixture of hard reality and dark imagination."

    —Thomas Cobb


    "Raw, honest and unafraid, this novel veers in and out of the lives of its many memorable characters with flawless pitch. Earle has given us dozens of remarkable songs, he has given us a dazzling collection of short stories, and now here's his first novel, a doozy from a great American storyteller."

    —Tom Franklin

    "A haunting and haunted bookend to Irving’s Cider House Rules. Gritty and transcendent, Earle has successfully created his own potion of Texas, twang, and dope-tinged magic-realism."

    —Alice Randall

    "If Jesus were to return tomorrow to twenty-first-century America, and do some street preaching on the gritty South Presa Strip of San Antonio, he’d love Earle’s magnificently human, big-hearted drifters."

    —Howard Frank Mosher


    "Colorful, cool, and downright gripping."

    —Robert Earl Keen

    "Reads like the best of Steve Earle’s story songs, which means real good. The tale of a more charmingly haunted, trying-to-do-the-right-thing dope fiend you won’t easily find."

    —Mark Jacobson


    "The best book I've read since The Road. As much or more than any other artist of his generation Steve Earle rises to the call, culturally and politically, traditionally in folk and country and rock music and what he’s added there, and with acting and writing for theater, and now with all the literary forms crescendoing in this beautiful novel. He just keeps stepping up."

    —R. B. Morris

    "Steve Earle astonishes us yet again. Country Rock's outlaw legend brings the ghost of Hank Williams to life in a gloriously gritty first novel that soars like a song. And echoes in the heart."

    —Terry Bisson

    "A mighty fine piece of storytelling."

    —Madison Smartt Bell  
  • excerpts



    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 his needle-ravaged legs over the edge of the bed

    and his wake-up shot was always right there on the nightstand,

    loaded up and ready to go.

     Well, almost always. Sometimes he would wake in the middle

    of the night swearing that someone was calling his name.

    When morning came he was never sure that it wasn’t a dream

    until he reached for his rig and found it was empty. Even then, he

    had only to make his way to the medication cabinet in his office

    downstairs to get what he needed — pure, sterile morphine sulfate

    measured out in precise doses in row after tidy row of little glass

    bottles. And he was a physician, after all, and there was always

    more where that came from.

     “But that was then,” sighed Doc. The sad truth was that, these

    days, he had to hustle like any other hophead on the street, trading

    his services for milk-sugar– and quinine-contaminated heroin

    that may very well have made its way across the border up

    somebody’s ass.

     San Antonio, Texas, was less than a day’s drive from New Orleans

    but Doc had come there via the long, hard route, slipping

    and sliding downhill every inch of the way. Consequences of his

    own lack of discretion and intemperance had driven him from his

    rightful place in Crescent City society before his thirtieth birthday.

    In one desperate attempt after another to escape his not-sodistant

    past he had completed a circuit of the Gulf Coast in a little

    over a decade, taking in the seamier sides of Mobile, Gulfport,

    and Baton Rouge. But when he landed in Bossier City, Shreveport’s

    black-sheep sister across the Red River, he reckoned that

    he had finally hit bottom.

     But he was wrong.

     The South Presa Strip on the south side of San Antonio was

    a shadow world, even in broad daylight. Squares drove up and

    down it every day, never noticing this transaction taking place in

    that doorway or even wondering what the girls down on the corner

    were up to. The pimps and the pushers were just as invisible

    to the solid citizens of San Antonio as the undercover cops who

    parked in the side streets and alleyways and watched it all come

    down more or less the same way, day after day, were.

     Doc stepped out into the street. The block and a half between

    the Yellow Rose Guest Home and the nearest shot of dope was

    an obstacle course, and every step was excruciating; nothing but

    paper-thin shoe leather separating broken pavement and raw

    nerve. The sun seemed to focus on the point on the back of his

    neck that was unprotected by the narrow brim of his Panama hat

    and burn through his brain to the roof of his mouth. He spat every

    few feet but could not expel the taste of decay as he ran the

    gauntlet of junkies and working girls out early or up all night and

    every bit as sick as he was.

     There was a rumor on the street that Doc had a quantity of

    good pharmaceutical dope secreted away somewhere in the dilapidated

    boarding house. The other residents had torn the place

    apart several times, even prying up the floorboards, and found

    nothing. Of course, that didn’t stop some of the more gullible

    among the girls from trying to charm the location out of him

    from time to time.

     Doc never emphatically denied the stories, especially when he

    was lonely.

     He turned leftat the liquor store, slipping around to the parking

    lot in back where Big Manny the Dope Man lounged against

    the fender of his car every morning serving the wake-up trade.

     “Manny, my friend, can you carry me until about lunchtime?

    Just a taste so I can get straight.”

     Big Manny was his handle, but in fact, big was simply too

    small a word to do the six-foot-five, two-hundred-and-eighty-

    odd-pound Mexican justice. Gargantuan would have been more

    accurate if anybody on South Presa besides Doc could have pronounced

    it, but everyone just called Manny Castro Big Manny.

    Doc shivered in the pusher’s immense shadow but Manny was

    shaking his head before Doc got the first word out.

     “I don’ know, Doc. You still ain’t paid me for yesterday. ¡Me

    lleva la chingada! Fuckin’ Hugo!” He snatched a small paper sack

    from beneath the bumper of his car and lateraled it to a rangy

    youth loitering nearby. “¡Vamanos!” Manny coughed, and the kid

    took off like a shot across the parking lot and vanished over the


     The portly plainclothes cop never broke his stride, barely acknowledging

    the runner and producing no ID or warrant as he

    crossed the lot in a more or less direct line to where Manny, Doc,

    and a handful of loiterers were already turning around and placing

    their hands on the hood of Manny’s car.

     Detective Hugo Ackerman rarely hurried even when attempting

    to catch a fleeing offender. He had worked narcotics for over a

    decade, and in his experience neither the junkies nor the pushers

    were going far. He caught up with everybody eventually.

    “That’s right, gentlemen, you know how the dance goes. Hands

    flat, legs spread. Anybody got any needles or knives, best you tell

    me now!”

     He started with Manny, haphazardly frisking him from just

    below his knees up, about as far as Hugo could comfortably bend

    over. His three-hundred-pound mass was all the authority he

    needed to hold even a big man like Manny in place, leaving his

    chubby hands free to roam at will.

     “How’s business, Manny. You know, I just come from Junior

    Trevino’s spot. He looked like he was doing pretty good to me.”

     “Junior!” Manny snorted. “¡Pendejo! That shit he sells wouldn’t

    get a fly high, he steps on it so hard! Anybody that gets their dope

    from Junior’s either a baboso or they owe me money. Hey! You

    see Bobby Menchaca down there? I want to talk to that maricón.”

    When Hugo shoved his hand down the back of Manny’s slacks,

    the big man winced.

     “Chingada madre, Hugo! Careful down there. My pistol’s in

    the glove box if that’s what you’re lookin’ for. Your envelope’s

    where it always is.”

     “That’s Detective Ackerman to you, asshole!” Hugo continued

    to grope around, emptying Manny’s pockets onto the hood of the

    Ford and intentionally saving the inside of his sport coat for last

    and then pocketing the envelope he found there.

     “Ain’t you heard? Bobby’s in the county. Been there since last

    Saturday. Fell through the roof of an auto-parts store he was

    breakin’ into o...

Available Resources

Related Categories

  • Format: eBook

  • ISBN-13/EAN: 9780547549040

  • ISBN-10: 0547549040

  • Pages: 256

  • Price: $9.99

  • Publication Date: 05/12/2011

  • Carton Quantity: 1

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