Nick Cave has always been one literary rock star. Even when he was howling "Release The Bats" with the Birthday Party, the goth-punk visionary was scribbling poems and one-act plays for fanzines. (Sample title: "The Stoning Of Ruby Von Monster.") He's taken inspiration from pulp novels, Faulkner, the Bible and Greek mythology. But for his new novel The Death of Bunny Munro, inspiration came in an unlikely form: Kylie Minogue. "There's a particular video for 'Spinning Around' that captured the minds of all Britain for a year," Cave explains. "Kylie's hot pants were all the tabloids could talk about. I think she has to take a certain responsibility for this novel, by wearing those hot pants."
The Death of Bunny Munro is awash in sex, violence and sleaze, a bleakly hilarious trip through the sordid life of a traveling salesman. Like most people you'd meet in a Nick Cave song, Bunny is a disturbing character. He cheats on his wife until she commits suicide, then he takes his nine-year-old son on the road, selling beauty products and trying to hustle the customers. He has depraved fantasies about Minogue as well as Avril Lavinge. "Bunny's obsessed with sex," Cave says."Yet he's not actually that good at it."
Cave published his first novel, And The Ass Saw The Angel, in 1989, and wrote the screenplay for the 2005 film The Proposition. Says Cave, "Bunny Munro was initially a screenplay for John Hillcoat, who I wrote The Proposition for. He wanted it to be about a traveling salesmen, so I interviewed some of these guys, and they revealed this sort of underworld they live in: drug-taking, alcohol-drinking, womanizing." The results turned into a novel. "Writing in songs, you only have four verses to tell a story or describe some action, so you use archetypes, like Stagger Lee or Orpheus. You can't really develop a character. But in a novel, you can create a monster."
Cave wrote it while on the road with his band, the Bad Seeds. Bunny Munro has its own iPhone app, including a text of the novel, an audiobook read by Cave, and music by Cave and Bad Seeds guitarist Warren Ellis. On September 21st, the two men release a collection of their instrumental film music, White Lunar, including their soundtracks to The Road and The Assassination of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford — and theyâ€™re also readying an early-2010 album from their other band, Grinderman. No layabout, Cave even sat in with Ellis' band, the Dirty Three, at last weekend's All Tomorrow's Parties festival. "I played a bit of piano with them," Cave says. "It was an honor. I'm working with Warren Ellis pretty much continuously on one thing or another."
Bunny definitely comes across as a bad seed. As the novel describes him, "Bunny has been banned for life from three McDonald's, one Burger King, and thrown out of the Kentucky Fried on Western Road with such force that he fractured two of his ribs." His libido is where "the shit and the fan had their fateful assignation." Along the way, Bunny does drugs, gets his face smashed in, blows all his money, and encounters a homeless guy in a "Shit Happens When You Party Naked" T-shirt. Yet there's something likable about him. "You know Jim Thompson, the crime novelist?" Cave asks. "His characters are despicable — worse than mine! But something about them engages you and in some twisted way endears them to you. Then after you respond to them, you find out how monstrous they are."
In the acknowledgements, Cave writes, "I would also like to thank Kylie Minogue and Avril Lavinge, with love, respect and apologies." It's the least he could do, considering all Bunny's obscene thoughts about them. "The sexual obsessions that go through the male brain are a kind of mind static," Cave says. "A man thinks about unreal figures like Kylie and Avril to keep more terrifying thoughts at bay. Like love and intimacy." Bunny's particularly obsessed with Kylie's 2000 U.K. hit "Spinning Around," which he hears as an ode to anal sex. "That's the song with the hot pants," Cave says helpfully. "I'm not sure how Avril Lavigne came about, except that I personally like her very much, and something about her physicality seemed to be the right kind of thing for this character."
As an old friend of Minogue's — they had an international hit with their 1995 duet "Where The Wild Roses Grow" — Cave hopes she'll be amused. "I know Kylie and I've sent her a letter of apology for this book. I've written one to Avril Lavigne — I don't know where to send it, because I don't know Avril Lavinge. But it would distress me if she was offended."