Joe Nick Patoski hopped aboard Willie Nelson's tour bus more than 35 years ago, and despite the ever-present haze of marijuana smoke, appears to have emerged clear-eyed to write Willie Nelson: An Epic Life. The work is a "sprawling masterpiece" of the Texas hippie, John Clarke Jr. writes in Radar, chronicling a lifetime of drugs, music, and women.
Patoski's work moves swiftly—and without judgment—through Nelson's life, from Depression-era childhood to emergence as an American icon. "I had to police myself to cram 75 years into a book … I had to move the story along," says Patoski. He adds: "It's easy to get swept up in the Willie vortex, and when you get spit out you're not the same person."