Montreal Authors Hope New Kurt Cobain Book Prompts Cops to See Murder Theory
The king of the grunge movement was instantly added to the list of stars that murder mythologies have grown up around -- a catalogue that includes the decades-old deaths of the likes of Marilyn Monroe, Brian Jones and Elvis Presley and the more recent death of Diana, Princess of Wales.
And like most conspiracy theories, dozens of scenarios have been spun since Cobain's death 10 years ago. The juiciest of the dozen hypotheses allege his wife Courtney Love was somehow involved.
The murder theory continues to thrive thanks in large part to two Montreal authors who've spent 10 years following leads on the case.
Max Wallace and Ian Halperin have compiled their latest findings in Love and Death: The Murder of Kurt Cobain, a followup to their 1998 best-selling Who Killed Kurt Cobain?
Based largely on materials supplied by Love's private investigator Tom Grant and a leaked toxicology report, the book suggests the Nirvana frontman was murdered, and the death was staged to look like suicide. The authors hope the book will lead police to reopen the case.
Among the evidence is a report showing Cobain had a triple lethal dose of heroin in his system that would have rendered him unable to shoot himself. They also paint a picture of a happy Cobain who was planning a fresh start by leaving his wife.
Over breakfast at a downtown cafe, the authors are ready to defend their book against skeptics who think they're just cashing in on the legend's death with a far-fetched conspiracy theory -- a dime a dozen in the celebrity world.
"We knew we'd be criticized for writing a second book on the case. Obviously our reputations are at stake," says Wallace, who's currently working on a documentary about the backlash against celebrities who spoke out about the Iraq war.
"Neither of us have really been conspiracy theorists with all the hysterical tone that it implies."
True enough, the pair are calm and collected when explaining their theory and how they collected the evidence. In the book, they've restrained their language to convey an intelligent argument rather than tabloid-style scrawlings.
The writers, who both live in Montreal, have been doing the U.S. morning show talk circuit. They've been on CBS's Early Show with Hannah Storm and CNN's with Paula Zahn among others. Their publishers Simon and Schuster have taken out ads in major publications and many bookstores have given the book prominent display.
The reason is obvious. Even though he's been dead for a decade, Cobain is as popular as ever. Last week, on the April 8 anniversary of his death, hundreds of newspapers across North America featured commemorative essays and articles about the star.
But aren't the authors opening themselves to a huge lawsuit by Love?
Love's response to the book is to accuse Wallace and Halperin of being moneygrubbing journalists.
"Courtney and her family regret that Wallace and Halperin have opportunistically used the anniversary of Kurt Cobain's death to promote their ongoing campaign of greed and exploitation of what remains an unbearable tragedy for us all," a statement released by Love's people said. "There has been a thorough investigation of Kurt Cobain's death by the Seattle Police Department, and it has been unquestionably ruled a suicide. We hope that everyone will ignore them and focus on Kurt's life and music."
Wallace insists they would have never written the second instalment if it weren't for Grant's audio tapes -- conversations with Love he recorded after she hired him to find her husband who'd disappeared from a drug rehab centre days before his death.
"We obtained the tapes which were very damning, very revealing. That was the real impetus for the second book," he said. "The tapes more than anything prove that it's not a half-baked conspiracy theory."
The content of the tapes paints a jealous Love who suspects Cobain was going to divorce her.
Now that the theory has been laid out for the public to read, Wallace and Halperin insist they're moving on to other subjects.
"It's business as usual. I'm not a cop. I'm not a P.I. I write books for a living," said Halperin.
Wallace added: "We're going to keep following the case but we have no plans of writing book three. Hopefully the next chapter in this story will be the reopening of the case and no more books will be necessary."
The authors are also sure to stress that they're not pointing the finger at Love.
"We're not accusing Courtney of murder but we're encouraging her to come forward and at least explain her suspicious role in the days leading up to Kurt's death," says Halperin, who's developing a documentary for CTV based on an undercover assignment as a Hollywood actor (which landed him a role in Martin Scorsese's film The Aviator).
"If she loves him as much as she says she did I'm surprised she's not out on the trail trying to find out what really happened."
The duo became entangled in the Cobain folklore when Halperin was on tour in Seattle with his band State of Emergency in 1994.
"I started hearing all these allegations," he said. "At first I was a bit skeptical but these were coming from Kurt's really good friends who I was hanging out with at the time."
While the seed had been planted, Halperin buried the hearsay while working on other projects. He went back to it a few months later after reading that Love's private investigator, Grant, was accusing her of somehow being involved in Cobain's death.
"That's when all the red flags were raised and my journalistic instinct took over," he said.
Halperin called Wallace, who he'd worked with before in a Rolling Stone investigative piece, to start probing the buzz.
Their initial findings were published in 1995 in the defunct Canadian Disk magazine. The pair then rushed to write a book which explored conspiracy theories but never took a real position on exactly what happened to the Nirvana frontman.