14th September 2007 at 01:00
I Walked the Line: My Life with Johnny, by Vivian Cash

Since last year's multimillion dollar-grossing biopic of the gravel-voiced country singer, there's been no shortage of interest in Johnny Cash's troubled life.

However, I Walked the Line: My Life with Johnny (Simon Schuster pound;16.99) promises to tell a different side of the story. A collection of love letters between the musician and his first wife, Vivian, it questions the received wisdom, peddled by the Oscar-winning film Walk the Line, that the woman who bore his children was nothing but a sour-faced nag who served only to frustrate his romance with singing partner, June Carter.

What emerges from I Walked the Line is a picture of a young man desperately in love. The couple met at a skating rink, when Johnny was a 19-year-old serviceman and Vivian a 17-year-old schoolgirl, and during the three years he spent with the air force in Germany these letters were virtually their only contact.

Yes, his brand of romanticism is unusual ("I'm the only guy that tells his girl about the girls he runs around with over here," he scrawls, before swooning that 100 of them are worth, "one kiss from you".) But it oozes genuine, if sometimes idealistic, devotion. This is the portrait of a relationship before infidelity and addiction took hold. It's as painful as it is moving

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