Without Getting Killed or Caught: The Life and Music of Guy Clark

Tamara Saviano

Book Review: Texas Book Festival Music Reviews

Guy Clark passed away in May, so Tamara Saviano's much anticipated biography of the incomparable Texas songwriter arrives with a poignant and appropriate sense of closure and testament. It also serves as powerful witness to the last painful and triumphant years of a larger-than-life figure whose music set the bar for several generations of songwriters.

Saviano, who served as Clark's publicist and the producer of 2012's This One's for Him: A Tribute to Guy Clark, presents her subject with an intimacy that balances the dichotomy of his intimidating candor and keen sensitivity. For a musician whose work arose from so much personal experience, Clark's biography provides an indispensable companion to his oeuvre. Throughout, Saviano unearths not just the stories behind the songs, but their raconteur's reflections on them as well.

Without Getting Killed or Caught leans heavily on extensive interviews with artists influenced personally and creatively by the Monahans-born bard, especially Rodney Crowell, the author digging deep into his Lone Star upbringing. She also positions the celebrated luthier within (and more often against) the broader trends driving Nashville, and his unrelenting commitment to his art above business.

The relationship between Clark, his wife Susanna, and Townes Van Zandt expectedly frames much of the narrative. Through Susanna's journals, extensive interviews with friends, and deeply personal conversations with the couple over the past decade, Saviano elucidates the unique and complicated bond of the three artists, even as much still seems to remain inexpressible. Yet Saviano doesn't dwell on the drama, keeping her focus instead on the creative work and the enduring impact of Clark's writing.

Closing with an epilogue of Clark's final days, Saviano captures the full story of an extraordinary life and talent, told with both an unwavering honesty and loving admiration. (TBF appearance: Sun., Nov. 6, at the Paramount Theatre's Guy Clark Birthday Tribute Show, 12:30pm)

Without Getting Killed or Caught: The Life and Music of Guy Clark

by Tamara Saviano
Texas A&M University Press, 416 pp., $29.95
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Guy Clark, Texas Book Festival 2016, Rodney Crowell, Susanna Clark, Townes Van Zandt

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