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Doghouse Roses: Stories Paperback – June 18, 2002

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Fans of Steve Earle's music will recognize many familiar themes in his first collection of short stories, Doghouse Roses. Here are tales of drug addiction, the nightmare of Vietnam, and the price of failure (or success) in the music industry. Not surprisingly, the latter topic elicits some of Earle's best work: in "Billy the Kid," for example, he traces the meteoric rise of Nashville's last authentic country-music prodigy, whose early fame was abruptly terminated by a car accident. And in "Doghouse Roses," Bobby Charles's career nose-dives as he grapples with heroin, speedballs, and crack: "He suspended all pretence of taking care of himself, going for days without showering and living on a steady diet of ice cream and Dr. Pepper. He left the house only to cop, driving straight home and sitting in the tiny half bath in the hallway for hours with his pipe." Yet the protagonist, like his creator, finally regains a grip on sobriety, along with a revived career.

Earle misses the mark in "Taneytown," a first-person narrative told through the eyes of a mentally retarded black child. And his focus on the harsh (and very masculine) world of junkies, country music, and execution chambers can grow a little thin. Still, Doghouse Roses offers up an ample dose of optimism. After all, in a world where cold-blooded murderers let innocent men take the rap, and junkies watch their dealers die, the gods of forgiveness can still be summoned with a single rose sold at a convenience store--the age-old remedy for men in the proverbial doghouse. --Gregory Bensinger --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Reading this uneven collection of 11 stories by underground country music legend Earle is like listening to an album that has been rushed into production to meet a deadline. A couple of the entries are quite good, but others are clumsy, mawkish and preachy. Many deal with drug addiction something with which Earle has had considerable experience and, while realistic, they serve as little more than vehicles for sentiments one might hear expressed at a Narcotics Anonymous meeting. Earle is also a staunch opponent of the death penalty, and "The Witness" comes off as a well-meaning piece of propaganda to that end. The best story is "The Reunion," in which a dying American ends up in Ho Chi Minh City, where he finds he shares common memories of the war with the Vietnamese soldier sent to evict him from his hotel room. Though the coincidences are pretty unbelievable, the bond that develops between the two men is touching without being overly melodramatic. The final piece, "A Well-Tempered Heart," is typical country ballad material, packing more clich‚s into its four pages than a bad novel. Stories like "Taneytown" (in which Earle dubiously attempts the voice of a young black man), "Billy the Kid" and "The Red Suitcase" are the kind even beginning writers should know to put away in a drawer. Earle's fiction thrives on a love of hyperbole and maudlin sentiment, both of which are perhaps best confined to country songs. (June)Forecast: Earle's cult following has increased in the wake of a recent Grammy nomination, as well as profiles in major magazines and appearances on David Letterman's show all of which, along with national advertising and a 10-city author tour, will help spur sales.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books; Reprint edition (June 18, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0618219242
  • ISBN-13: 978-0618219247
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.5 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #864,117 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 17, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I am a huge fan of Steve Earle's music, mainly because the songs he writes are incredibly poignant and stirring. These stories will delight all of the fans of his music, the people who love him for his political passions, and anyone who likes a good story. The story "The Red Suitcase" is my favorite, although I enjoyed them all. It was great to read "Taneytown"- the story behind the awesone song on the CD El Corazon. He writes gritty tales that reminded me of some of the great storytellers I can't wait to hear Steve Earle read from this collection.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By S. Starke on October 7, 2002
Format: Hardcover
I'm a hard-core Steve Earle fan, but I was a bit worried about this collection. Writing 4 minute songs is a lot different than 20 page stories, and Steve is such a great songwriter, I wasn't sure how it would translate. I'm quite happy with the results.
The opener, "Doghouse Roses", was actually a letdown for me. Maybe he's too close to this story and while I enjoyed it, I never got *into* it, if that makes sense.
"A Eulogy of Sorts" and "The Reunion" are shining moments here, they really set a strong mood and gripped me from start to finish.
"The Red Suitcase", the oddball of the bunch, could be my favorite. Reads like a Stephen King short story (and I mean that as high praise) and is a fun read.
"Taneytown" suffers in the translation of song to story. The song, one of my favorites, is much more compelling than this.
"The Witness" travels familiar ground for any Steve Earle fan, and is quite gripping, though I feel it does cop out in the end. With all his songs on the subject, I think he's allowed that, and it does make a good point, if somewhat simplistically.
Like any Steve Earle album, this collection is varied as he tries anything that comes to mind, and maybe that means some missteps, but it also means enough gems to make the trip worthwhile.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 7, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Steve Earle is a great storyteller. That is, when his stories are two minutes long and set to a rollicking three chord melody. When he tries his hand at prose, the results range from the deeply embarrassing (Taneytown) to the pretty good (The Reunion). The latter story is almost reason enough to buy the book-- but since it's 24 bucks, you're better off checking it out from the library.
Fans of the brilliant songwriter will value this book mainly for the autobiographical details, and there are a lot of them. The opening story (Doghouse Roses) is a meditation on his marriage to LA music industry exec Teresa Ensenat (with the names changed, of course). This is taking the dictum of "writing what you know" too far. There's no creativity here, merely a guy putting pen to paper and recording some details of his life. That's autobiography, not short fiction.
But that criticism really only applies to the first story and perhaps the last (A Well Tempered Heart), which is a string of treacly sentiments about what seems to be his current girlfriend. In the middle are some good stories, though-- enough, at least, for us to give any sophomore effort by Earle the chance it deserves.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By "auzten" on June 6, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I'm a huge fan of Steve Earle so I couldn't wait for this book to come out. I wasn't disappointed. Most of the stories I really enjoyed, and his descriptions fed my active imagination. The only reason I gave it only 4 stars is because a few of the stories seemed to have this long build up to the climax of the story only to end seemingly abruptly. It stilly highly recommend it, especially to Steve Earle fans.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 27, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Professional critics reviewing this book will likely make much of Mr. Earle's day jobs: (pick a label) rock-alt-country troubador and warrior for peace and justice. Some of those critics will give him a hard time because he's working out of the box ... the customary reaction to an entertainer who is also an artist.
Mr. Earle is an artist whose medium is words -- whether crafted as songs, poetry or stories. And he does it well, painting poignant and (often) harsh word pictures of real people, places and feelings. Sure, he draws from a wealth of experience, much of it cultivated in the worlds of music-biz and street drugs. But that's what writers do. And "Doghouse Roses" is a collection of good writing because it leaves the reader with palpable feelings that arise from looking closely at that which we'd often rather ignore.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By J. Wells on July 11, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
After finishing "I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive," I decided to check out Steve's first book. This is a great set of short stories! I've always enjoyed his music. But music and writing are not necessarily similar art forms. It's a good thing that these are short stories because I'm finding it difficult to put the book down in the middle of one. The characters are like people I know and Steve's writing is heartfelt, genuine, frank and unapologetic. Delightful.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful By MAK on September 27, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Steve Earle, in his collection of short stories entitled "Doghouse Roses," hits a high note when he writes about topics he knows - drug addiction, faltering relationships, the music industry, and capital punishment.
"Doghouse" tells the story of a Memphis country music artist named Bobby whose life becomes one crack cocaine hit after another when he is uprooted and transplanted to L.A. Suprisingly, it is not Bobby who bottoms out in L.A. but his co-dependent wife Kim who realizes she just can't take anymore of Bobby's antics and his apologies in the form of single roses purchased at the checkouts of convenience stores. Kim makes the break from L.A. which, according to Earle, most people can't do. She loads up the BMW with a few provisions and, with Bobby in tow, heads east to deposit him with his family in Texas. It is during this journey, and particularly their overnight stop in Joshua Tree National Park in California, which accounts for much of the story. Earle's descriptions of the calm, peaceful world of the inhabitants of the park (including deadly scorpions and tarantulas) are juxtaposed against the helter skelter lifestyle of the denizens of L.A. Arriving in Houston, Kim abandons Bobby with his family. After wearing out his welcome there, Bobby moves back to Memphis to continue his downward spiral. In most cases, we would expect this to be the end of the story. However, Earle doesn't take the easy way out; he has other plans for Bobby. As contrived as the ending seems at first blush, it is something that Earle himself has experienced, and this makes it all the more believable.
"Billy the Kid" is Earle's scathing commentary of the music industry and the palyers who inhabit it.
Read more ›
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