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Love & Death: The Murder of Kurt Cobain
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Love & Death: The Murder of Kurt Cobain [Format Kindle]

Max Wallace , Ian Halperin
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Chapter 1

It is a typically rainy day in Montesano, Washington, when we arrive for our interview with Kurt's paternal grandfather, Leland Cobain, in June 2003. Leland and his late wife, Iris, were said to have been closer to Kurt than even his own parents, and there were reports that, shortly before his death, Kurt had made plans to go on a fishing trip with his grandfather. Although we had contacted him while we were researching our first book, Leland -- like most of Kurt's immediate family -- was reluctant to be interviewed. Now, more than nine years after Kurt's death, we had heard that Leland was finally ready to talk about his famous grandson.

Most biographical accounts of Kurt's early years describe his family living in a trailer park, conjuring up images of a "trailer trash" upbringing. Indeed, the small Montesano lot where Leland resides, and where Kurt had lived on and off during his youth, is officially given this designation in the town directory, and perhaps it once served this purpose. But when we arrive, we are surprised to find that the dwellings aren't trailers at all, but rather small, prefab, bungalow-style units with well-groomed lawns and beautiful trees. Boats and golf carts are parked in many of the driveways, suggesting a more affluent community than what we had been led to expect by the condescending biographies and press accounts.

Leland greets us warmly at the door of his slightly cramped two-bedroom house. He and Iris had moved in more than thirty years earlier, when Kurt was just a young child, and Leland had continued living here alone after Iris's death in 1997. Just a stone's throw away is the house where Kurt himself had lived briefly with his father after his parents' divorce. When the going got rough, however, it was his grandparents' house where he sought refuge. It wouldn't be entirely accurate to describe the house as a shrine to Kurt, but from the moment we walk in the door, his presence can be seen and felt everywhere. The first sight that catches one's eye is a framed gold record presented to Nirvana in 1993. Underneath it is a kitschy black velvet portrait of Kurt given to Leland a few years ago by a fan. The rest of the walls and bookshelves are crammed with photos of Kurt and the other grandchildren, sandwiched in between plaques and trophies commemorating Leland's achievements as a champion golfer and dartsman. More Kurt-related memorabilia is crammed in the basement, including hundreds of photos and letters sent to Leland and Iris by Nirvana fans from all over the world.

"I'm very proud of him," says Leland, tearing up slightly as he pauses in front of a photo of a cherubic three-year-old Kurt. "He was a good kid. I miss him." He takes us on a tour of the house, pointing out the many artifacts associated with his grandson and telling stories about the boy who had spent a lot of time within these walls. Leland is a spry seventy-nine-year-old, who wears hearing aids in both ears to remedy a deafness acquired while fighting at Guadalcanal as a young marine during the Second World War and then exacerbated by rolling asphalt for a living years later. After his discharge from the marines, he developed a serious alcohol problem, which he admits made him a "different person." By most accounts, his problems started after his father -- a local county sheriff -- was killed when his gun went off accidentally. However, his heaviest drinking reportedly started after his third son, a severely retarded boy named Michael, died in an institution at the age of six. Leland, though, soon conquered his personal demons, found religion and gave up alcohol completely. "I became a changed man," he recalls. By the time Kurt was born in 1967, he had become a respected citizen of Montesano, a regular churchgoer and, by most accounts, a pretty good father and grandfather, frequently babysitting for Kurt and his younger sister, Kim. But it was Iris, not Leland, with whom Kurt most closely bonded.

"They were so much alike," Leland recalls, pointing to a photo of a strikingly beautiful brunette taken just after the couple were married. "Kurt loved his grandmother so much. I think she was the only member of the family who he could confide in. I think he was closer to Iris than he was to his own mother. He got his artistic side from Iris, that's for sure."

Leland takes out a box of drawings Kurt did as a child. One of them, signed "Kurt Cobain, age 6," depicts Donald Duck and shows undeniable artistic talent for one so young. "When I saw that one, I said to Kurt, 'You traced that, you didn't draw it,' and he got mad; he said to me, 'I did too draw it.'"

After Kurt left his hometown for good in 1987, he kept in touch with his grandparents only sporadically. Leland takes out a Christmas card they received after Kurt moved away:

Dear long lost grandparents: I miss you very much. Which is no excuse for my not visiting....We put out a single just recently and it has sold-out already....I'm happier than I ever have been. It would be nice to hear from you as well. Merry Christmas

love Kurt

Leland hadn't read our first book, and we had yet to tell him the subject of this new one. After a tour of the house, and an hour's worth of anecdotes about Kurt and his family while sitting around the dining room table, we are at last prepared to broach the topic we thought would be the most difficult to bring up. Two of Leland's brothers had killed themselves years earlier, fueling the most common of all the clichés about Kurt's own fate -- that he had somehow inherited the "suicide gene." It is obviously a sensitive subject, and Leland's voice chokes when he talks about the family tragedies. Finally, we ask him how he and Iris felt when they learned their own grandson had killed himself.

His response is not at all what we expected: "Kurt didn't commit suicide," he declares matter-of-factly. "He was murdered. I'm sure of it."

· · ·

In the days and weeks following Kurt Cobain's 1994 death, journalists and biographers descended on his hometown of Aberdeen, Washington, seeking clues to help make sense of the suicide of the town's most famous descendant -- a town Kurt had constantly scorned in his music, his interviews and his journals. So glaring was Aberdeen's sense of hopelessness that many came away feeling Kurt's eventual fate was hardly surprising, was perhaps even inevitable. The suicide rate in Aberdeen is twice the national average, and the unemployment rate staggering, since the near collapse of the logging industry years before. Drugs and other symptoms of despair were all-pervading.

"It's as if the town were being held accountable for Cobain's ruin -- which is not entirely unfathomable," wrote Mikal Gilmore, who visited Aberdeen a week after Kurt's death. "When you are confronted with the tragic loss of a suicide, you can't help sorting backward through the dead person's life, looking for those crucial episodes of dissolution that would lead him to such an awful finish. Look far enough into Kurt Cobain's life, and you inevitably end up back in Aberdeen -- the homeland that he fled."

Now we had come to Aberdeen nine years later seeking a different set of clues.

Three hours after our interview with Leland, we stumble upon an unexpectedly rich source of Cobain lore a few miles down the highway: two women in their early twenties, a stringy-haired boy of seventeen, and a baby. They are loitering outside the bus station when we stop to ask for directions, and we quickly strike up a conversation about Aberdeen's most famous native son.

They are too young to have really known Kurt, but we ask them whether they ever listen to his music. "Nobody around here listens to that stuff anymore," replies the boy, who could pass for a teenage Kurt, minus the distinctive blazing blue eyes. Today, he says, hip-hop and death metal rule in Aberdeen. They make us an offer we can't pass up: "You want to see his house?" and then proceed to cram themselves in the car. The baby, wedged between his mother and a skateboard, squirms contentedly in anticipation of whatever adventure lies ahead. "Later, we'll bring you to meet one of Kurt's old friends if you want," says Autumn, the twenty-three-year-old mother. She tells us she has two more children at home, and then ventures, "You're not narcs, are you?"

As we cruise through the streets of this grim town, passing churches and bars and not much else, it calls forth the description of Kurt's Aberdeen friend Dale Crover, who once said, "There's nothing to do here but smoke dope and worship Satan." Is that true? we ask our impromptu tour guides. "Pretty much," says the guy. "Oh yeah, and also skateboarding. There's always that."

The carload of us arrive at a small, impeccably manicured house at 101 East First Street in a section of town the locals call "the flats." Kurt's family moved here shortly after his birth from their rented house in nearby Hoquiam. His father, Don, worked as a mechanic at the local Chevron station to support the family while his mother, Wendy, took care of Kurt, born February 20, 1967, and his sister, Kim, born three years later. Wendy had scrimped and saved Don's earnings to buy the house -- a badge of respectability heralding arrival into the middle class, and a decided step-up from her own working-class roots. She was determined that her children would make something of themselves and eventually escape the dead end that Aberdeen represented for most of the kids who grew up here.

And yet Don's father, Leland, never really approved of Wendy or what he called her "social-climbing ways."

"I think she thought she was better than our family," he recalls. "She was always criticizing Don because he wasn't enough of a muckety-muck. She wanted him to be making more money and she was never satisfied."

Aberdeen does not celebrate its status as a cradle of the musical movement called grunge. Indeed, the first thing you notice when you drive through the town looking for indications that a superstar grew up here is that there are none...

Revue de presse

"This book is valuably different in tone to everything else you'll read on the subject....Right though it is to celebrate this man's talent and his life, it's undoubtedly just as valuable to learn a lesson from the tragic confusion around his death."
-- The Guardian (London)

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Commentaires client les plus utiles
5.0 étoiles sur 5 A couper le souffle 8 juin 2014
Par Tichat
Format:Broché|Achat vérifié
Du vrai journalisme investigatif. Bien écrit, très bien recherché, objectif, avec des révélations inattendues et hallucinantes.
Se lit tel qu'un thriller à en oublier presque qu'il s'agit malheureusement de faits réels.
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Commentaires client les plus utiles sur (beta) 4.2 étoiles sur 5  112 commentaires
46 internautes sur 47 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Well done Halperin and Wallace. I salute you! 29 avril 2004
Par Drew J - Publié sur
This book may not go in chronological order(...) This is not meant to be written like a fiction novel, but to investigate the mysterious circumstances surrounding Kurt's death. I'll let the quotes speak for themselves and let future reviewers who, after reading the book may still believe Kurt suicided, tangle with them.
Crime scene and the note:
Denise Marshall, a deputy coroner in Colorado says the body was touched when it should not have been and the judgement was rushed since it was reached at the death scene (78). She also complains that the note can hardly be classified as a suicide note(78). "Nowhere in the note does he say he wants to die. He just doesn't like what he is doing, and he wants to change his life...I think it was really unprofessional for them to judge on it so early."(78) The note is also examined in the latter half of the sixth chapter. Rosemary Carroll, who thought Kurt didn't write the note (Tom Grant has his own theory), found a piece of paper in Courtney's backpack where she had been practicing different handwriting styles: "It sure looked to us like she had been practicing how to forge a letter." (150)
Kurt's body had 1.52 milligrams per litre of morphine in it (79). Heroin almost immediately turns into morphine in the bloodstream. Denise Marshall could not find a single case that paralleled this amount (79). Although Nikolas Hartshorne (who knew Courtney and had a conflict of interest as one will see in the book), invoked the high tolerance argument, Marshall says, "I've seen some amazing amounts...but I`ve never seen anybody with his levels...If tolerance was that important, you wouldn't have so many heroin addicts overdosing all the time, and with levels significantly lower than what Cobain had in his blood." (80) This level is enough to kill a severe 150 pound heroin addict three times over, but Kurt didn't weigh that much so in his case, the maximal lethal dose is more than three times. (82) A study in 1996 showed that a "user experiences a state of acute shock `WITHIN SECONDS' after injecting the fatal dose. In all of the 26 known cases where the morphine levels were close or equal to Cobain's level, "the tourniquets were still in place when the body was discovered, and the syringe was still affixed in the victim's arm of lying on the floor next to the body...yet...the police reports describe no such scenario when Kurt's body was found...`I do not see how he could have injected himself with the amount of heroin to cause those levels, put the syringe and other drug paraphernalia away, folded his sleeve down, grabbed the gun, positioned it backwards in his mouth and pulled the trigger.'"(84) Also discussed is how Broomfield's film "Kurt and Courtney" does a terrible job of showing how someone can function with the amount of morphine Cobain had (85-87). When Halperin and Wallace break it down and show its errors, it brings one to laughter.
She has lied and behaved strangely. Cali, the male nanny saw Kurt at the house on the morning of April 2. Afterwards, he stayed at his girlfriend's house (116). Love's phone records show she made several calls to Cali at the girlfriend's house in the week of April 8. "She knew Kurt had been to the house, she knew Cali was no longer staying there, yet she wouldn't let us set up surveillance there. It doesn't make any sense."(116) On the morning of April 8, Love told the world for the first time that Rome was a suicide attempt (126) when it wasn't as is later shown. There is a startling tape conversation where even Courtney didn't think Kurt was suicidal after Rome and it stands in contrast to what she told the media for months after Kurt died about his alleged suicidal tendencies (211). Carroll mentions that Kurt before he died asked Courtney to be taken out of his will (136). If he divorced her, she would get none of his money due to a prenuptial agreement. There was also a former nanny who was shocked at Courtney's constant will talk before Kurt died. "There was just way too much will talk...what a thing to talk about...What do you think he wanted? To get away from Courtney."(136-137) Courtney always said she never heard from Kurt after he escaped from the rehab centre but Kurt left a message for her at the hotel proving he had contacted her (151). Tom Grant wonders why Courtney never mentioned this since she just hired Tom to find her missing husband (153). Charles Cross' book HTH is criticized very well later in the book and HTH states that Courtney was on the phone every moment trying to find someone who had seen Kurt Saturday; however, her phone records prove she made repeated anonymous calls to the request line of a radio station in LA to play the single from her upcoming album (153).
There are many other great and important details about the case that I can not touch upon due to my limited space for a review. I recommend seeking out Roger Lewis' essay "Dead Men Don't Pull Triggers" on the internet. By the way, the book also has an excellent refutation of a criticism of Lewis' essay (89-91). For anyone who wants to call these two authors money hungry conspiracy nuts capitalizing on Kurt's death, keep in mind that Cross sold the rights to his book HTH for an upcoming movie about Kurt's life ([...]) and that Courtney sold his journals for $4.5 million. I better not see either of these two parties saying H & W are only doing this to profit from Kurt's memory because they will render themselves hypocrites.
46 internautes sur 48 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 The Other Side of the Story 13 mai 2004
Par Velouria - Publié sur
I loved Charles Cross's "Heavier than Heaven" but was always a little disappointed at the overly-flattering portrayal of Courtney Love in the book. This book is an important follow-up to the large collection of writings and film about Kurt and Courtney. I was a major skeptic about the murder theory, but I must admit this book has at least prompted me to think about the possibilities - and to become even more convinced that Love is a sociopath much like Nancy Spungen before her. Spungen's biography, written by her annoyingly self-righteous mother, was an eye-opener about anger, hate and mental illness hiding behind a contrived persona. In Nancy's case, punk rock provided an outlet for her hatred, and I think the same thing happened with Courtney. Some psychopaths enjoy great success by posing as the guy-next-door, copying the lifestyle they see around them. Courtney emulated her surroundings, the alternative music scene, in much the same way. Did it allow her to get away with murder? To accept the murder theory means to shift my opinion of Love from a pathetic wannabe to a brilliant manipulator. I am not sure I'm ready to do this...yet.
63 internautes sur 71 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 An Excellent read! Shocking and thought-provoking. 5 avril 2004
Par Un client - Publié sur
This well-researched and well-written book puts forward a very plausible scenario whereby Courtney Love hired a killer to murder Kurt Cobain and make it look like suicide. The evidence is plentiful and the motive is substantial. Kurt had begun the process of removing Courtney from his will and they were heading for divorce. Had he been able to follow-through, she would have been entitled to none of his millions. As a result of his 'suicide' she received everything. No fingerprints at the scene, a man with a triple-lethal dose of heroin in his body rolling down his sleeves, tidily putting away his paraphenalia and then shooting himself in the mouth is simply not a plausible scenario. Far more likely is that someone injected him (whoever brought him the stuff), killed him and then made it look like suicide. Read this book and the truth will be self-evident. Hopefully enough to reopen the case. The authors are investigative journalists, not Nirvana fan- fanatics. A very credible book that will surely cause great controversy. Buy it and read it - you won't be disappointed. This is serious journalism and a reminder that people do often get away with murder...
23 internautes sur 24 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Not to be overlooked. 9 avril 2004
Par Un client - Publié sur
Like many other readers, I was initially skeptical towards this book. However I decided to pick it up just to see what the authors have to say. Now I seriously have misgivings as to what really happened. There are numerous inconsistencies with Courtney Love's public remarks in and around the death and actual evidence found at the scene, particularly the "suicide note." Also a private investigator found some very incriminating evidence in one of Love's purses shortly after Cobain's body was found. (You'll have to read it to see what it is). And just for you hardcore disbelievers, Love has admitted to a similar crime in the months after Cobain's death. She hired a PI to spy on a boyfriend of hers based on the assumption that he was cheating on her. The PI found that a psycho fan had broken a window to his apartment, splattered bloody tampons on the walls, and left a threatening note. A couple of weeks later, Love admitted to the whole thing just because she's vindictive. Her behavior that incident echoed what was found that fateful day; a strange crime and an even stranger note. And to contradict what that idiot from "planet earth" wrote below, these journalists are very credible. Yes, they're not medical or legal experts, but they've talked with the experts. All a journalist has to do is know what questions to ask and where to find the answers. Mr. Wallace and Mr. Halperin did an excellent job at presenting a very convincing case.
18 internautes sur 19 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Kurt Cobain did not commit suicide, and this book proves it. 30 avril 2004
Par J.C. - Publié sur
I know that at first it sounds like a typically wacky conspiracy theory; I refused to even listen to those who suggested that K.C. was murdered until very recently, when I read "Who Killed Kurt Cobain?" and then this book. Perhaps what is most important about this book is that it establishes that everything everyone thinks they know about K.C.'s supposed suicidal tendencies comes straight from Courtney Love. She's the one who says he tried to kill himself in Rome; she's the one who called the police and said that he was threatening to shoot himself, which Cobain denied. Once you realize that Courtney is constitutionally incapable of telling the truth, this case begins to look very, very different.
The evidence in favor of Cobain's death being a homicide and not a suicide is overwhelming. It starts with two primary facts about his death: (a) the "suicide note" doesn't much resemble a suicide note at all; mostly it talks about his leaving the music business, and only the last four lines -- which seem to be written in different handwriting than the rest of the note -- indicate an intention to kill himself; (b) there was WAY too much heroin in his system at the time of death for him to have rolled down his sleeve, put away the drug paraphernalia, pick up the shotgun and shoot himself. These are only the two most immediately striking reasons for a homicide verdict; there are many, many more details that show that K.C. did not kill himself.
Tom Grant's website, [...] is a good intro to this case, but if you want the argument for homicide laid out in detail, buy "Love and Death". It will completely change the way you see Cobain, Love, and the music of Nirvana as well. I know it is hard to believe at first, but K.C. DID NOT KILL HIMSELF. The book makes this fact clear as day.
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