cover image Cash: An Autobiography

Cash: An Autobiography

Johnny Cash. HarperOne, $25 (384pp) ISBN 978-0-06-251500-1

""When death starts beating the door down, you need to be reaching for your shotgun,"" writes the Man in Black, the American country icon who still performs tough-talking story-songs like ""Folsom Prison Blues"" and ""A Boy Named Sue"" on his tours. Unsurprisingly, the famously Christian Cash (he has often performed at Billy Graham crusades and has written a novel--The Man in White--based on the life of Saint Paul) reveals himself to be a man possessed of a heartfelt yet idiosyncratic spirituality, one that can accommodate both a belief in ghosts and a literal interpretation of the Bible. Cash is less interested here in recounting the details of his personal and public lives than he is with taking the reader to a handful of his favorite places, moving softly through the memories of a singer's regret-laden years on booze and pills, getting himself in the mood to reflect by describing the surroundings in which he writes. The result is a gentle, moving memoir that may frustrate some fans of Cash and of the Sun Records-era Memphis that saw his rise to fame, as the book only touches on Cash's relationships with those whose stardom eclipsed his own--Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis and (later on) Bob Dylan. The reader senses Cash's formidable presence in every terse phrase, however, as a melancholy calm pervades the narrative. 200,000 first printing; Literary Guild selection; author tour. (Nov.)