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I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive

3.66  ·  Rating details ·  3,063 ratings  ·  458 reviews
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 morp
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published May 12th 2011 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (first published 2011)
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Average rating 3.66  · 
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Apr 22, 2013 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Michael by: BooknBlues
This sad, sweet, and often funny tale of an underground doctor among the down-and-out in San Antonio in the early 60’s won my heart over. Doc is a functional heroin addict who, after losing his license in Louisiana, lives in a boarding house where he sustains himself by ministering to the medical needs of folks on the wrong side of the law. This service is mostly care for injuries from alcohol fueled fights and abortions for poor women or prostitutes with no other recourse.

Everything changes fo
No matter how I struggle and strive/
I’ll never get out of this world alive. – Hank Williams

Stop me if you have heard this one:

A defrocked morphine-addicted physician, his pusher (who is also his best friend), two hookers (who operate the Yellow Rose Resort Home, a hotel that also serves as brothel, emergency room, and abortion clinic), a mysterious teenaged Mexican girl (who is in the country illegally), and Hank Williams (well, not Hank exactly, but his ghost) walk into a bar.

The punch line is
Jul 08, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviewed
Steve Earle is a problem for many a blue collar Republican. He started out making music by looking and sounding a lot like them, his songs about making a better life, patriotism, love won and lost, and God, resonated and they were hooked. Mostly they still are, only along the way Earle's experiences of heroin addiction and prison altered his perspective as his life was touched by injustice and the oppressed. He couldn't ignore it.
His brilliant first book, Doghouse Roses, comprised of short stori
Dec 07, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 stars. Pretty decent read. Great characters. And maybe its because Earle narrated the audiobook, but the dialogue all kind of seemed the same no matter which character was speaking.

Aside from some extended exposition in parts, the story moved along well. Overall, I found the book to be entertaining and enjoyable, with some nice humor thrown in. It felt like a first novel (which it was) that Earle probably really enjoyed writing.
Lisa Reads & Reviews
May 26, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: fantasy

Grammy award winner, singer/songwriter Steve Earle named this novel after his 14th studio album released in 2011. He has acted in roles on television and in movies. While I'll Never Get Out Of This World Alive is his first novel, Earle has also written a play and a book of short stories. To be honest, I hadn't heard of him before reading his novel, so my opinion is only swayed by having read about him on Wiki, and liking his anti-war, anti-death penalty, etc views. The man has led a colorful lif
Aug 12, 2012 rated it liked it
I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive is like that lunch your mother used to make you in 5th grade. Maybe it wasn't the best or most delicious in all the lunchroom, but it was made with love and frugal thoughtfulness, neatly wrapped in a brown paper bag.

While Earle's writing is in no way groundbreaking or wholly original in its style and contents, it's pure, it's crisp, it's clean and it's from the heart. I was amazed by the depth and redemption of his characters, the lush moral contrast of th
Andy Weston
Nov 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
‘Doc’ is heroin-addicted ex-physician who performs illegal abortions in San Antonio's poorest neighbourhoods and who, it is revealed within just a few pages, is regularly visited by the ghost of Hank Williams. In fact the book's title is ripped from a Hank Williams song that went to the top of the charts in the weeks after he was found dead in the back seat of a Cadillac at the age of 29 in 1953.
It’s a rarity, a debut novel from an accomplished musician, and what attracted me to the book. Thoug
Scott Freeman
Feb 16, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2011-books
This is my early front-runner for my favorite book of 2011 and truly one of the best novels I've read in years. Doc Ebersole is a down on his luck physician. Having been one of Hank William's last friends and physicians he has watched his life fall into an extreme state of disrepair. Strung out on heroin and having lost his medical license he spends his days shooting up and his nights performing illegal abortions in the most desolate street in San Antonio. All the while he is haunted by the ghos ...more
Mar 07, 2012 rated it did not like it
Now I know why people say that you shouldn't judge a book by its cover. I literally had to fight my way through the book, but I just couldn't force myself to read the last 30 pages.
What I expected the book to be like: a poetic, interesting novel about a Mexican girl who emigrates to the United States and finds herself surrounded by surreal, neurotic people and ghosts. Steve Earle is a songwriter, so I expected the book to be deep and inspirational.
What it really was like: such a disappointment.
Jul 20, 2012 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: Steve Earle fans

I am a big fan of Steve Earle's music, so I had to read his first novel. It was OK.

The ghost of Hank Williams haunts the renegade Doc Ebersole, who kept Hank somewhat alive until he didn't. Doc is a bum, a doctor who has lost his license and lives on the edge of a Texas town. He gets by providing abortions and other medical services to skid row characters who for various reasons can't or won't go to a hospital. He is also a drug addict who kicks and is kept alive by a young Mexican girl-a sort-o
M Christopher
May 07, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
A truly beautiful book with a very unusual cast of characters. Junkies, dealers, whores, pimps, crooked cops and a priest with anger issues come together in a moving story of redemption and grace. Oh, and don't forget the ghost of Hank Williams... A modern masterpiece by one of country music's true outlaws.
May 06, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Hope Personified

A failed doctor whose career has crashed into the drudgery of drug abuse fueled by backroom abortions performed at a whorehouse back room in 1960’s Texas might sound like a grim tale. And it is. However beautiful young healer recently arrived from Mexico joins forces with the doc. As she comes to love him while learning his healing trade she also works magic on the drug addicted hookers they treat. One by one they stop their addictions and give up hooking returning to a better li
Jun 26, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
What do you say about a book where you can rattle off at least a few flaws, but still happily devoured and enjoyed? That would be this one. The characters are almost representations of a kind of person instead of an actual 3D character, which gives the story an almost fable-like feel. Considering the themes, this may have been conscious and appropriate. I was a little iffy on the motivations of some of the characters, as well as some of the dialogue, but Earle really spun an enjoyable yarn into ...more
Apr 20, 2011 rated it really liked it
This is a nicely written, imaginative book. I had no idea who Steve Earl is, so i read about the author about midway through. i can now understand how he was able to write some of the descriptions of the main character, Doc, and his imagined ghost, Hank Williams. I also took the time to read a little about Hank Williams' life (and death) which were just as interesting as this book was entertaining. It's a great read.
Oct 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I like his music fine, but this book was completely a revelation. It's moving and mystical. He moves you through his plot like a master tour guide, with wonderful characters who are just outrageous enough to be fascinating but not so much that you can't believe in them. I wouldn't say I normally love to read about what it's like to be a heroin addict, but in his hands it was ... enjoyable, sorry but it was.
I loved this book. I couldn't put it down.
Aug 06, 2011 rated it it was ok
A bit disappointing after his DOGHOUSE ROSES. Though pivotal to the narrative, the ghostly interaction between Doc and Hank actually gets in the way of ther story - may be just too many asides. That said, a nicely written story of Faith, Redemption and Miracles, both great and not so great. Overall a valiant effort by Mr. Earle.
Melissa Symanczyk
Jun 27, 2018 rated it liked it
This is like watching a movie where your first impression is "yeah! great movie!" and then half an hour later you start realizing all the ways in which it really wasn't that great after all. It's interesting to read a book like this because you can see what the author was trying to achieve while still picking out the things that could have been stronger or structured differently to make the plot more cohesive. It's a really interesting setting and unusual group of characters and I was willing to ...more
Jun 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
This was a good book. Read it, you won't be sorry.

I have no idea why I got this book, I think it was on the Summer Reads shelf at my public library and I went, "Cool title! Is that Steve Earle the country music guy? (I hate modern country but was raised on old 70s country music and before) OH! Hey, it has the ghost of Hank Williams!? Well, I think I will give it a shot!"

I wasn't sorry, and you won't be either if you give it a shot.
Christopher Conn
Jul 25, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I liked it. He has a funny and earthy and irreverent magical realism style that really speaks to me.
Jan 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
I never knew Steve Earle was such a writer! Chalk it up to my ignorance. I thoroughly enjoyed this creative novel. It'll make you want to listen to ole Luke the Drifter (which is reason enough to read the book).

The characters are quite likable despite coming from the dregs of 1963 San Antonio. I won't go into the plot, but suffice to say, it is a nice breezy read that music fans should enjoy.
Benjamin C
Apr 19, 2020 rated it really liked it
It's hard to find someone who can write great songs, and then write long form fiction. Earle does both with insight, humor, and spiritual angst. Like most of his songs.
Larry H
Steve Earle is a pretty fantastic musician, and with his terrific debut novel, I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive, he's proven his talent as a writer as well. This is a tremendously well-written and creative book with characters that slowly reveal themselves to be more complex and sympathetic than you might think, and a plot that mixes despair and hope with a little bit of mysticism.

It's the fall of 1963 in a rundown neighborhood of San Antonio. Doc Ebersole is a disgraced former physician
Feb 20, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Steve Earle has been telling stories for years through his songs. Now, I've caught up with his first novel set in San Antonio in 1963. The story follows Doc Ebersole who's haunted by an addiction to heroin and the ghost of Hank Williams. Just as in Earle's songs, you'll find strong characters alongside delicate prose. "He traces the Big Dipper hanging by its bejeweled handle from an unseen hook on the ceiling of the world."
Jun 24, 2011 rated it really liked it
So not only is Steve Earle a great singer/songwriter, but it turns out he does a pretty mean novel as well. Doc Ebersole was once a fairly respected physician, but all that began to change when he got mixed up with Hank Williams. Then he basically became the guy who kept Hank's back pain at bay with a steady supply of morphine, right up to the night he gave Hank that fateful shot that finally killed him as he lay in the back seat of his Cadillac. Since that fateful night, Doc has been haunted by ...more
Jul 20, 2013 rated it really liked it
This is not your average 60's era novel. In "I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive", Earle renders the anti-hero into a hero, addiction falls into redemption, and those meant to be Saints are the worst sinners of all.

Doc, the main character, is a morphine addicted former MD stripped of his license. He is "haunted" by the ghost of Hank Williams (yes, THAT Hank Williams), whose presence and general obnoxious behavior seems to both prompt Doc to continue his downward spiral - and somehow comfort
Amy L. Campbell
Note: Review copy provided by Netgalley. Also, I enjoy Earle's music.

Earle's new book reads a bit like a country song. At times a bit exaggerated in order to fit the rhythms and storytelling tradition behind the genre. Doc is a man haunted by both his drug habit and his past in the form of Hank Williams's ghost. The reader will be captivated by the gritty reality of Doc's life as a dopehead and the people he must interact with, not only to feed his habit, but to absolve his past sins and hopeful
Jason Mills
Dec 05, 2011 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: People who like books. :)
It's 1963 in Texas, and Doc is down on his luck. Haunted by the irascible ghost of his sometime friend and patient Hank Williams, Doc has fallen out of practice and into dope addiction, scraping by in a boarding house by performing back-street abortions for prostitutes and poor girls. One of these waifs, Graciela, is left behind with him, unable to speak English and with nowhere to go. Over time he and Graciela become partners - in 'crime', if not precisely in love - but her startling and inexpl ...more
Jeremy Garber
Jan 24, 2012 rated it liked it
Steve Earle’s first novel, set in San Antonio in 1963, is a sweet but flawed story about drugs, heroism, race, spirituality and religion, and ornery Texans. The protagonist, Doc, is a former physician with a serious heroin problem who makes a living providing illegal abortions to the outcasts of society. Compounding his difficulties is the continuing mysterious presence of the ghost of Hank Williams, who may have been killed by Doc providing his last dose of smack. Doc’s nosedive flophouse exist ...more
Connie G
Oct 23, 2011 rated it really liked it
This book combines reality with magical realism,involving a supporting cast of colorful drifters, drug addicts, prostitutes, a priest, a cop, and Graciela the Mexican healer. The action revolves around Doc Ebersole who lives with the angry ghost of Hank Williams in the Yellow Rose boarding house in San Antonio in 1963. Doc had given Hank several morphine injections just prior to his death, and the ghost of Hank seems to be waiting around so that they can eventually travel to their final reward t ...more
I am so glad Steve Earle read this novel himself because no one else could have done it justice. I loved the characters right down to Big Tiff. Well, maybe I didn't love Big Tiff, but I loved how Earle drew her, read her, made her come alive.

The story itself was about the people most of us choose to ignore. We don't want to know about their wretched, chosen existence. Earle made them sympathetic or, at the very least, human. Strong in the eye of the storm, frail in the calm of the morning.

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Steve Earle is an American singer-songwriter, record producer, author, political activist, and Grammy Award winner.

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