If Steve Earle weren’t a living, breathing person he’d be a character in a blues song, a raucous ballad that would tell the tale of a gifted rebel who drank too much, lost his career and almost all of his women in a blizzard of heroin and crack-cocaine addiction, and lived wildly and extravagantly on the wrong side of the law. Along the way, Earle has welded rock to country, the Beatles to Springsteen, Celtic to Americana, punk to bluegrass and has produced multiple Grammy-nominated albums and one enduring classic: Guitar Town. Like Hank Williams and Robert Johnson he has wandered across the American South; like Janis Joplin he has a huge capacity for self-destruction that matches an appetite for life in all its extremes. Like Stephen Foster, he is a storyteller and songwriter of rare skill and force whose sincerity echoes through all his work. A heroin addict since the age of fourteen, six times married to five different women, a man who took a four-year ‘vacation in the ghetto’, Steve Earle none the less survived. And he came back with an artistic and personal vision intact, determined to change society for the better even as he seemed set to live his life for the worse. Lauren St John has been allowed unrestricted access and cooperation by Steve, his family and friends. In exchange, she has written a hauntingly clear-eyed, unvarnished and uncompromising life of one of American music’s talismanic sons.