BOOK REVIEW: Outlaw Pete – Bruce Springsteen and Frank Caruso

BOOK REVIEW: Outlaw Pete - Bruce Springsteen and Frank Caruso

What makes “Outlaw Pete” fascinating is not just the story itself surrounding a “6-month-old, bank-robbing baby”, but the story behind the story.  “Outlaw Pete” began its life not as a book, but as the opening eight-minute track to Springsteen’s 2009, Working on a Dream LP. “Outlaw Pete” “essentially the story of a man trying to outlive and outrun his sins” could have potentially got  “The Boss” into trouble with a sheriff or two as “several  observers” were convinced  that “Outlaw Pete” borrowed a central riff from Kiss’s 1979 disco hit “I Was Made for Lovin’ You”. There was talk of nasty, lengthy, high-cost legal action. After all, “Kiss have sued lots of people and won”.

However, unlike in a Western, no bounty was put on Bruce’s head.  Kiss saw that no offence was intended. Kiss’s Paul Stanley commented that “I’m sure he wasn’t sitting around listening to that (‘I Was Made for Lovin’ You,’). But it finds its way into everybody’s music. You can’t come down on everybody for their creativity.” Furthermore, a shootout was never really on the cards as Gene Simmons confirmed that “We (Kiss) like Springsteen.”

Despite being pardoned it was never on Springsteen’s agenda to adopt “Outlaw Pete” into a book. This idea came from illustrator Frank Caruso. “He (Bruce Springsteen) didn’t just write a great song, he created a great character. The first time I heard the song this book played out in my head.” “Caruso made some pencil sketches and presented them to Springsteen and Caruso’s mutual friend, music critic Dave Marsh. About a year and a half later, Caruso got a call out of the blue one Sunday morning from Springsteen (who had never been approached about doing a project like this before), who was excited about the project.” “Outlaw Pete” was then published by Simon & Schuster who have given a copy and let us be the judge and jury and decide Outlaw Pete’s fate.

To determine if “Outlaw Pete” is a children’s book or not is open to debate; what isn’t debatable is that “Outlaw Pete” is “a very human story,” with “universal appeal”. This picture book begins with Pete, as a 6-month-old, robbing a bank and follows him through the course of a life as “an outlaw killer and a thief.” Wherever he goes, “women wept and men died.” About midway through the story, Pete seeks redemption, marrying a Navajo girl and having a child. But for him, there is no escape from who he is — “I’m Outlaw Pete”. “The characters are outlandish. They’re not real. They’re mythical. The tale is a fable. And while it has an admittedly a challenging lesson “about the difficulty of redemption”, according to Springsteen, this shouldn’t scare off kids — or their parents. After all, there are no expletives and blogs including “Baby Bookworm” have “approved!” “Outlaw Pete”.

The inspiration for the lyrics goes back to “The Boss’s” childhood “to the bedtime story Brave Cowboy Bill my mom used to recite from memory to me as a child”.  Whilst cartoonist Frank Caruso includes vivid scenes of a knife fight and a man lying dead in a pool of blood; one cannot deny that a 6-month old Pete looks cute and adorable in his diapers, the writing font is large and kindergarten friendly and the majority of the illustrations are child-friendly.

In less than five-hundred words “Outlaw Pete” across fifty-six pages fills you with the childhood elation Bruce must have felt when his mother read to him Brave Cowboy Bill. Not only does pardon “Outlaw Pete”; we bestow him with honour.

To get your hands on a copy of “Outlaw Pete” visit

Xsnoize Author
Michael Barron 346 Articles
Michael first began writing whilst studying at university; reviewing the latest releases and live gigs. He has since contributed to the Fortean Times as well as other publications. Michael’s musical tastes vary from Indie to psychedelic, folk and dubstep.

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