In Antonino D'Ambrosio's book, A Heartbeat And A Guitar: Johnny Cash and the Making of Bitter Tears, the author weaves three stories together to create one grand tale. Taking Johnny Cash's interest in Native peoples, the story of singer-songwriter Peter La Farge, and (perhaps most importantly) the battle for Native rights, D'Ambrosio combines three histories to place Bitter Tears in a greater context.
It's a good thing, too, as the three stories presented here wouldn't make much of a book. The biographical data on La Farge is necessary to place him within the folk movement of the '60s, as well as assert his importance in the songwriting process of Bitter Tears, but there's a lot of information present that really has little to nothing to do with the making of the album.
The same goes with the background information on Johnny Cash, although it manages to avoid retelling his biography yet again. However, placing Cash's history as a poor farmer's son in Arkansas parallels nicely with the poverty-stricken Native peoples.
The fight of the National Indian Youth Council, and later the Red Panthers, is what really drives this book. Honestly, the story of La Farge merely distracts from the greater story. Were the book about Cash and his involvement with Native peoples' struggles, and how that struggle influenced his record and the way it was marketed, presented, and received, it would be a far better book. I can't help but feel that D'Ambrosio would have been better served presenting La Farge's story as a solo article in something like Smithsonian.