The regular delivery of this blog has been somewhat hampered by the introduction of about five fluid ounces of beer to the keyboard of my laptop. Though blotted up quickly, after a few days the PC started making a noise like two rusty wheels grinding together and became a bit incooperative as regards daily use. Thanks you for hanging in there while we deal with it.
Last year, the world of literature saw debut writing from rockers Patti Smith and Keith Richards. Patti won the 2010 National Book Award for her wonderful account of her life and years with Robert Mapplethorpe and the whole music world is happy for her. She is currently at work on a detective novel, probably the first of a series, which is eagerly awaited. Richards, too, made a splash with his 576-page memoir Life.
In the past, books by rockers have been a ‘hit and miss’ affair. Bob Dylan’s Tarantula caused a media frenzy until people tried to read it and found it to be too cryptic. John Lennon fans enjoyed In His Own Write and A Spaniard In The Works, although they are not too well-known among his fan base, generally. We have not yet read I, Me, Mine by George Harrison but feel it should be mentioned, by dint of Dylan and Lennon being written about.
This is all great and makes for lots of interesting reading for us rock’n’roll-loving types but it looks like musician/actor/presence Steve Earle has come up with a new twist to the publishing process. Long known and respected in both country and rock music for his many highly regarded LPs, like Copperhead Road, The Mountain, El Corazon and Transcendental Blues as well as his pre-sober string of hit singles such as Guitar Town, Hillbilly Highway, I Ain’t Ever Satisfied, Goodbye’s All We Got Left and others. Sadly, a huge number of people know his work but not his name from his work on the soundtrack of the Steve Martin/John Candy comedy, Planes, Trains and Automobiles; a lot of people know his face from his work as an actor on top-rated HBO hit, The Wire.
True music/lit afficianados may also point to Kinky Freidman, the Texas Jewboy, who has been putting out detective novels and albums for years but, per the general public, lives in obscurity. He is appreciated more by other musicians and writers than the public, it seems.
Back to Earle…in April, he will release a new collection of songs, I’ll Never Get Out Of This World Alive. Country fans will know that it is the same as the title of the Hank Williams song, which was Williams’ most recent release prior to his untimely death at age 29. The Hank song does not appear on the LP, although Earle says it is the ‘most country’ album he has done in a long time. That is the cover, pictured at the start of this blog. Below is the cover of his first novel, with the same title as the LP, which will be released in May, just after the collection of songs.
Pre-release reviews are very good. Patti Smith said, “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.” There are many other good reviews but a good one from Patti is enough for Your Humble Narrator. Well, we did mention Kinky, so we should quote him, too, as saying, “Steve Earle is afflicted with the curse of being multitalented. A legendary musician, songwriter, entertainer, poet, and social activist, now with this debut novel he proves that he’s a novelist of the first order. Laying bare the emotional history of country music, he takes the reader through a dark seedy dangerous world and back into a dawn of redemption. Steve Earle writes like a shimmering neon angel.”
The title is not just a rip-off from Hank’s catalogue. It figures into the plot, as does Hank. Some of us still can’t get enough of Hank. Since we have not read the book, we can not accurately describe it, so we offer the sysnopsis which is available on amazon.com. It goes like this:
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.
In reading this, it looks like they rewrote Patti’s review, the word ‘redemption’ is too coincidental and the use of the word ‘regret’ hectors the word ‘remorse’ in Patti’s review. So that is how Amazon gets their descriptions…plagiarism. I did not expect that insight to surface! Anyway, get ready for some good reading and listening, too.