As I stated the other day, I’m glad Wallace and Halperin took time to rehash their investigation in a second volume; if you want to read a distillation of the murder theory and the crucial evidence then Love and Death is ‘the one to read’. While Who Killed Kurt Cobain is barely coherent and poorly written, this volume is a far more readable summarisation, however, being a straight rewrite (and a fairly egregious bit of profiteering, two books with barely 10% difference) the book is still guilty of all the flaws of the first volume. At least it placed a few more clear cards on the table and finally spent more time on the evidence than on name-calling.
…But, to repeat, that doesn’t mean there aren’t issues. One of my issues with the entire murder subject is the way opinions are substituted for fact of any sort. For example, while Kurt Cobain’s hatred of the media is well-documented, this book is happy to credit that he had revealed to one writer, David Fricke , that in late 1993 Cobain was as happy as happy could be. There’s a raft of similar quotations in here to support the idea that Cobain wasn’t sad or depressed and/or that he feared for his life, yet it all adds up to the kinds of statements that surround the average murder event, the kinds of things people say about the neighbour with imprisoned children in the backyard or the child who shoots their classmates; “oh, he was such a quiet boy, I would never have thought they could do it…” It’s life run by external spectators believing they have an absolute insight into the inner world of an individual and that their brief personal experiences sum up the whole of what someone is or isn’t.
The schizophrenia in the Halperin/Wallace books is undimmed with them trying to simultaneously acknowledge Cobain was troubled, while saying he was untroubled, saying he was happy while admitting he was a major drug addict, saying he was positive about life while saying he was terrified for his life and of/for his wife — it all depends which page you’re on. The authors ignore clear statements from Dave Grohl, Krist Novoselic, Pat Smear and others in the year since Cobain’s death that they knew he was genuinely troubled at the time and focus on those saying he wasn’t. On one page they even quote Mark Lanegan saying “I never knew Kurt to be suicidal, I just knew that he was going through a really tough time” as if that doesn’t clearly refute their statements about how happy he supposedly was. The way they do it is to try and argue that it’s possible to see, in advance, that someone is suicidal; that there’s some dividing line between depressed, miserable, enduring a hard time versus about to kill oneself.
The authors compound previous literary tricks in this volume. A primary one all the way through is deviating from a subject where they’re on weak ground to a concrete quotation or statement about an unrelated topic — it provides the initial topic with an unwarranted gloss of credibility. Trying to be positive about what they’ve done here though, their volume does make a much more substantial case for the unsavoury and untrustworthy nature of Courtney Love — but no more than fair observance of her shape-shifting and odd behaviour over the years has yielded for most observers. There’s still no case for murder in the behaviour or evidence they provide. It’s a tale in which the only people given credence are those the authors feel are supporting their case; some individuals are only permitted credibility for that brief time. Mr. Grant, on the other hand, gets away with comments that at this distance look feeble such as “I can’t go into too many details about what I learned when I arrived that morning…Some of the details will be very important for the prosecutor who eventually tries this case and I don’t want to tip my hand too early.” Twenty years…Twenty years…Permit me to dub thee “liar.”
Remember also that this isn’t just the tale of one murder; by the end of the book the implication is that Love is involved in the deaths of El Duce, of a police officer and of Kristen Pfaff on top of her husband. Her accomplices are the medical examiner, to the investigating officers (the entire murder squad and chain of command are, its implied, also incompetent or corrupt and only one guy who stopped being a police officer at age 29 after he ‘burned out’ over twenty years before these events has the truth), to the Cobain’s nanny, to Eric Erlandson, to Dylan Carlson — it’s a full blown conspiracy hooking in all and sundry. Everyone is lying or hiding the truth including the Cobain’s attorney who is apparently hiding the mystical ‘truth’ whereas is seems more likely she might have worked out Mr. Grant was nuts and was the kind of untrustworthy and paranoid character who was taping every conversation with anyone he spoke to.
The selectiveness continues; only the evidence that supports their case is allowed to stand whether that regards the crime scene, the autopsy, the events surrounding the discovery of Cobain’s body — it’s a serve-yourself buffet in which they pick-and-choose which bits of what anyone says are fact and whether people are talking rubbish. For example, while claiming that the autopsy reports have been unavailable and crucially prevent Mr. Grant making his case, they simultaneously state that the autopsy reports were leaked. This is important because they credit this leak with revealing, definitively, Cobain’s blood morphine level then make an unfounded assumption that these results would have meant nothing to the medical examiner and a further assumption that not one of the professionals conducting the toxicology tests would say anything about what their tests meant. They hang their strongest evidence on several assumptions and a contradiction. That’s where the blood heroin piece falls; no matter how many opinions one gathers around a potentially fictitious number, the number is still unproven.
Let’s take it at face value though. This piece did give me pause; heroin, if injected direct into the blood stream should, in most cases, act almost immediately and in the quantity claimed is lethal. The difficulty is, however, that, beyond the absence of evidence that they had the correct amount, there’s also a lack of scientific evidence related to tolerance levels among heroin addicts — it’s pretty hard to measure dosages in a sufficient number of people and see if it kills them. A study is cited featuring only 189 fatal self-poisonings with opiates and yet the authors don’t recognise the oddity they create; they argue that one of those people had a level as high as Cobain’s which, contrary to their argument, is proof that someone could have a level that high and that levels do fluctuate between individuals. The book has already pointed out that quite a number of addicts have developed high tolerance and can continue functioning for quite a while after injecting — again, there’s no evidence revealing the tolerance levels of Kurt Cobain so the argument is only made by statements related to non-millionaire addicts.
The authors deviate from their central thread in a bamboozling array of pseudo-science that may/may not be relevant. They claim one study shows no one committed suicide with opiates in north-west London for twenty years which, again, doesn’t hinder the argument that Cobain did self-anaesthetise before shooting himself, the cited study in fact puts Kurt into the 20% who died of physical injury. They cite another study regarding likelihood of suicide among missing persons; again, the stat that only 1 in 2000 missing persons’ cases end in suicide isn’t particularly useful because it proves that a number do. Furthermore, showing that an event (suicide) that only happens to a tiny minority of people only happens to a tiny minority of people is irrelevant to this case. I can’t tell if this is a deliberate attempt to throw numbers at the audience because of a belief that the audience isn’t statistically literate or if it’s because the authors aren’t able to decipher the numbers themselves. The authors rapidly abandon the attempt to add science to disproving the suicide verdict and retreat back to unrelated comparisons and personal anecdote where they’re more comfy.
Pages 98 to 104 briefly describe the intriguing phenomenon of staged suicides; great stuff and genuinely the discussion fascinated me. In terms of the Kurt Cobain case though it simply proves to be further smoke and mirrors; the authors mash six separate sources together, citing not particularly relevant or connected information from two books, then, in contrast to the Cobain case, they dwell on cases where there was very clear evidence at crime scene to show that homicide was a strong possibility. They often slip entirely into being misleading, for example, the statement on page 100 “the typical homicide victim — a man between 25 and 34 killed at home with a gun — fits a profile eerily similar to Cobain’s” is utterly devoid of meaning; firstly, finding that he’s the right age to be killed doesn’t prove he was but also males in that age range are also more likely to commit suicide too. There’s no reward for soundly identifying Cobain as a 27 year old male. There’d be more reward if it supported or refuted that he killed himself but it doesn’t.
Note that this post is one of four linked articles on the topic: