Wren calls him ""the lost American, recalling some classic gun fighter or preacher"" as well as a ""walking James Whitcomb Riley poem"" -- though the latter is too apple pie-genteel for the tough sharecropper's son from Homestead 266, Dyess County, Arkansas who has surpassed Hank Williams and Jimmy Rodgers as a country and western legend. Carefully paring fact from fiction, Wren traces Cash's meteoric rise from appliance salesman and Sun Records hopeful to million-album seller, T.V. headliner, Nixon booster and honored White House guest. The easily combustible violence which laced his career with sprees of vandalism (""I wouldn't do that now, shoot cannons off in the dressing room. . ."") is related with appropriate gusto but the author ventures no deep-seated interpretations -- too presumptuous. And Wren sees Cash's seven-year addiction to amphetamines (he was using up to a hundred a day) as chiefly remarkable for not having killed him. Nor does he try to bring clarity to Cash's paradoxical politics -- an uneasy amalgam of radical and red-neck. It's just a nice, two-fisted success story about a man who never did ""Walk the Line."" Where Wren errs it's on the side of caution with most of the imponderables left imponderable and the Rolling Stone query -- ""Where must Cash be at to relate so well to those we have put into our dungeons?"" -- going unanswered.