Book Review: Texas Platters

Sheet music

Texas Platters

I'll Never Get Out Of This World Alive

by Steve Earle
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 256 pp., $26

In the 16 years since he did time for drugs and firearms, Steve Earle's creative versatility has been as unexpected as it is extraordinary. Moving beyond songwriter and bandleader, he's added novelist to his list of skills alongside actor, playwright, record producer, radio show host, and political activist. I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive is the title of both this book and his latest album, though which is more enjoyable is a toss-up. The title refers to Hank Williams' last single before he died in 1953. Set 10 years later, Earle's fictional debut centers on Doc Ebersole, a junkie abortionist living on the South Presa Strip, a red-light district in San Antonio. Ebersole supposedly gave Williams the shot of morphine that killed him, and the author uses the appearance of Hank Senior's ghost as a literary device to give voice to Ebersole's innermost fears and regrets. There's also a young Mexican, Graciela, who can seemingly perform miracles, plus a visit to San Antonio by President John F. Kennedy and his wife, "Yah-kee," before that fateful day in Dallas, and ultimately the wrath of the Catholic Church. Earle renders it all in a manner that's spare, raw, and lively. What's best is that like many of his songs, I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive lingers long after told. (Steve Earle reads from his novel at BookPeople, Wednesday, May 18, 7pm.)

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Steve Earle, Hank Williams

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