Musicians go at books -- Bob Dylan, Nick Cave, and Johnny Cash all wrote novels

By Peter Gerstenzang
Updated August 04, 1995 at 04:00 AM EDT

Musicians. Give them a guitar, a mike, an audience, and they can delight and dazzle. But leave them alone with a typewriter and these same famous folks just seem to spew that purple prose. Take Judy Collins and her new gothic-romance groaner, Shameless, for instance. Clunky sentences and unintentional laughs abound. But this trend didn’t start with Collins. Here are some other magical minstrels and their nutty novels.

Bob Dylan
Book: Tarantula
Plot: The tambourine man’s surrealistic (okay, silly) impressions of the world around him.
Literary role model: Jack Kerouac.
Memorable excerpt: ”…Rain Man yelled, ‘Watch out Flower Lady, there’s an elephant coming!’ but by this time she was singing auld lang syne with Baboon Boy…. alfred hitchcock made the whole thing into a mystery…”

Nick Cave
Book: And the Ass Saw the Angel
Plot: The story of a Southern freak, who spends a heck of a lot of time feeling sorry for himself.
Literary role models: William Faulkner and Flannery O’Connor.
Memorable excerpt: ”Whoever was dealing out the bum breaks, whoever was spooning out the woe, must’ve seen me and upended the whole f—en can because ah was dripping in the stuff…”

Johnny Cash
Book: Man in White
Plot: A serious retelling of the story of the biblical character Saul and his conversion into St. Paul.
Literary role models: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
Memorable excerpt: ”’Circumcision is nothing to me,’ said Saul, ‘and uncircumcision is nothing. Let the circumcised stay so, and the uncircumcised stay so. I will place no burdens on Gentiles.”’