There's no denying Bruce Springsteen's "Outlaw Pete" is a great song. But is a story about a bank robber trying to outrun his sins really for kids? We call up the guy whose idea it was to turn the song into a picture book, illustrator Frank Caruso, for some clarification.
Is this book for kids or adults? It's kind of hard to tell.
It's an illustrated book based on Bruce's song "Outlaw Pete." Some people might call it a picture book for adults, but because of Bruce's influences for writing the song, it has a children's book feel. I like to think kids can understand the story. If you look at fairy tales, nursery rhymes and kids' movies, they deal with [similar] issues.
Kids' stories can be pretty dark.
Think about "Bambi" or "The Lion King." In "Finding Nemo," the barracuda eats his mom.
Since "Outlaw Pete" has things like gunfights, was it hard for you to think of how to illustrate the story since you knew people of all ages would be reading it?
Not really because besides being a great song and a great story, Bruce created a great character. It's tied to the folklore of our country and those are things that happened during that time. It's not about the violence. It's about the character and trying to know yourself and coming to terms with who you are. That's what I was trying to illustrate. I was trying to illustrate the character. All of the other things going on are just part of the story.
How did you and Bruce come to work together? Did you know each other before the collaboration?
No, although I was a big fan. Growing up in New Jersey, it's part of your fabric. I was working on a book for Andrew Vachss called "Heart Transplant" and was listening to Bruce's album "Working on a Dream" while I worked. The first time I heard "Outlaw Pete," I thought, this is illustrated. Bruce illustrated it through his music and his words. So I started sketching around and [later] showed my sketches to my friend Dave Marsh, the host of E-Street Radio. When Bruce got back from touring, we connected and it went from there.
Did you grow up with Westerns, like Bruce?
My dad had Westerns on 24 hours a day. The biggest Super Bowl or World Series could have been going on and my dad would be watching "True Grit."