The second Deep Purple album, The Book of Taliesyn, is a weird one. Well, the first three are all psychedelic albums, so they’re all weird. When pulling a title from the song list, I had really only two choices. One was “Kentucky Woman,” which fits fine. I worked close enough to Kentucky at the time to walk across a bridge to it. (And I frequently did.) But this Neil Diamond cover did not inspire anything beyond a rather lame missing person case, so I tossed the idea.
The other is an instrumental called “Wring That Neck (Hard Road).” Now that could have some interesting possibilities. This is crime, so we can have someone get their neck wrung. For some reason, my mind gravitated toward a chicken getting its neck wrung. I imagined Nick Kepler in tony Pepper Pike standing at the door to a pricey home and holding a shoebox with a freshly dead chicken. Why was Nick at someone’s door offering them a freshly dead chicken?
Let’s go back to The Godfather. In one scene, someone sends Don Corleone a fresh fish wrapped in newspaper. When someone asks what that’s supposed to mean, one of the Corleones says, “Luca Brazi sleeps with the fishes.” That is an awesome and powerful scene, one more powerful, I think, than the severed horse’s head. (Which, incidentally, I think is the funniest scene in the trilogy.) So Nick is bringing back a dead chicken with its neck broken to send a message. Who sent it and from where? There aren’t a helluva lot of chickens in Cleveland or its suburbs, not until you get out to Medina County, where I grew up.
But Wayne, Ashland, and Holmes County are lousy with chickens, cows, pigs, and horses. I lived in Wayne County for five years and Holmes for six months (the last prompting my escape to Cincinnati in 1991.) The heart of Amish country, which is nowhere near as interesting as they make it sound on Amish Mafia, would be an alien planet to Nick Kepler, who works among the skyscrapers of downtown, plays in rock bands, and likes his cable television. I knew the route Nick would drive in search of a Romeo and Juliet pair of kids, one of whose father does not approve of his little girl dating a working class stiff. I knew the route by heart. If I would stay in Cleveland for any length of time, I would drive I-71 to State Route 83 to get to Holmes County, where my parents spent their final years.
I hate that drive. I knew Nick would like it even less. Yes, there are still dirt roads in Holmes County, many of them without names. Put Nick on a farm, and he’d quickly calculate which was closer – Cleveland or Columbus. (Columbus, actually, especially since I lived in Holmes County.) He is waaaaaay out of his element, and I enjoyed having him crawl to the sheriff for assistance.
The actual sheriff of Holmes County is the ex-brother-in-law of one of my cousins, who is still a friend of the family. I loosely based my fictional sheriff on him. In a way, Holmes County is somewhat like Stephen King’s rural Maine and fictitious Castle Rock. You could very easily put Needful Things‘ Alan Pangborn in that story, and it would still work.