"I'd always heard that there was a doctor who traveled with Hank Williams and then disappeared when Williams died; I wanted to write about what might have happened to him," says Steve Earle
, whose novel, like his new album, is titled I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive
(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). Full of music history and magical realism—"I read all of Carlos Castaneda's books; everybody my age  did"—it imagines the doctor meeting up with Hank Williams's ghost. "It's based on fact," Earle says. "And I like facts."