Nick Cave's Bunny novel no soft touch

Nick Cave sends his apologies to Avril Lavigne for her treatment in his new novel, The Death of Bunny Munro.

Nick Cave sends his apologies to Avril Lavigne for her treatment in his new novel, The Death of Bunny Munro.

It seems the punk princess from Napanee, Ont., is a bit of an obsession for the protagonist, Bunny Munro, a sex-crazed beauty-product salesman.

"I understand that writing about Avril is kind of dark and invasive, but Bunny Munro is a monster and he had to fixate on someone, and he fixates on celebrities that have an innocence about them," Cave said Thursday in an interview with CBC's Q cultural affairs show.

Not only on Avril, but also on Kylie Minogue, whose image flits through Bunny's overactive sexual imagination.

Cave, the musician associated with The Birthday Party, The Bad Seeds and, most recently, Grinderman, began writing the story while on tour, he said. In between singing No Pussy Blues and Get It On, he was scribbling backstage with a pen and notebook. 

The idea of a story around a travelling salesman came from John Hillcoat, director of The Proposition. Cave penned the screenplay for The Proposition and also collaborated with Hillcoat on the soundtrack of The Road.

"I had no particular interest in the idea of a travelling salesman but I had an interest in writing [Hillcoat] a script," Cave said. "It was a matter of finding an aspect of that character that I'd been given to write about that was interesting."

He investigated the underbelly of the travelling sales world — alcoholism and womanizing — and gave Bunny a horrendous personality that includes both.

Cave said he also studied the S.C.U.M Manifesto, the document by radical feminist Valerie Solanas that advocates a female-only society.

"In the S.C.U.M Manifesto, she talks at length about what she considers maleness and the male psyche is — it's quite wonderful to read — basically men being halfway between humans and apes, these kind of lumbering lumps of meat, predatory lumps of meat," Cave said.

"There was an aspect of that I felt rang true. I invented a character that was Valerie Solanas's male incarnate."

The redeeming aspect of Bunny's journey is that he is making a road trip with his nine-year-old son, who worships his dad.

Cave, as the father of four boys, two of them nine-year-olds, is familiar with the hero worship of younger boys for their father and the painful period around age 12 when the scales fall from their eyes.

The narrative voice in the novel moves from Bunny to Bunny Junior.

"It set up an interesting dynamic, a sympathetic perspective," Cave said.

Cave considers himself a musician first and foremost but said he writes screenplays and novels and takes on other projects to keep the creative spark going.

The Death of Bunny Munro is his second novel. His debut novel, And the Ass Saw the Angel, was published in 1989.

"It took three years to write that, locked away in a room," Cave said. "I never was completely happy with what I'd written in the end."

In the intervening 20 years, he said, "I put the whole idea of being a novelist aside."