Veteran alt country singer/songwriter Steve Earle has published a novel which features the ghost of Hank Williams as a major character. The novel is titled after the Hank song ‘I’ll Never Get Out of This World Alive’.
Earle tells the Los Angeles Times the novel is loosely based the quack doctor Toby Marshall who sold drugs to Hank Williams in the final months of his life. Earle’s character is a real doctor who has become addicted to heroin and now lives in the red light district of San Antonio.
“I’d always heard,” Earle says ”that there was a doctor traveling with Hank when he died. When I buckled down, I discovered that Hank had been seeing a guy named Toby Marshall, who was not a doctor; he was a quack who claimed to be able to cure alcoholism with chloral hydrate. But I thought it would be more interesting if my character was a real doctor.”
Of course the majority opinion these days is that Hank was only accompanied by his teenage driver on the ill fated trip to Canton Ohio on New Years weekend 1952. Earle has his doctor character administer a final injection into Hank Williams. He says there is a letter from Toby Marshall which hints Marshall may have been on the trip and disappeared after Hank’s death. Whatever, Earle says the character is fiction and only based on Marshall as a starting point.
Earle says the novel is filled with heroin and ghosts.
Earle is also releasing an album which also has the Hank Williams song title. It’s an album of Earle originals, but does include Hank’s title song as a bonus track. The book is coming out in May, the record in April.