Star rating – 6/10
There’s a lot to like about country stalwart Steve Earle’s latest novel. It is roughly concerned with the ghost of equally famous country legend Hank Williams, who dies in mysterious circumstances. In this book Hank is haunting a doctor who has been struck off due to his morphine addiction, but who continues to practice in the form of offering illegal abortions in San Antonio to desperate Mexican women. If that sounds a bit far out for a plot line, then that’s about right.
There is some lovely evocative writing here, Earle using the same talent in prose as he does in his lyrics. And you also get the feeling that he is drawing on his own chequered personal experiences to chart the Doc’s own troubled path. He falls into a relationship with a young beautiful Mexican girl called Graciela, who seems to possess angelic powers of healing and redemption for all whose path she crosses.
But the plot gets a bit crowded, and the direction of travel becomes a bit obscure. Earle does transport you to that place and time, and you can imagine the problems Doc gets himself entwined in very well from the vivid narrative. It just doesn’t hang together coherently enough to really draw you in too deep. But it’s the best novel I have read by a country singer about another country singer in a real long time.