A couple of weeks back, I talked about what I called The Deep Purple Project, a means of generating ideas by taking a title from one song on each of that band’s studio albums to come up with a story. Since Deep Purple has eighteen (soon to be nineteen[?!]) albums, this should have had me good to go for a while.
Number three on that list was the band’s self-titled third album, which hit record stores in 1969 and, it must be said, stayed there. In fact, even the remastered version still sounds like someone held a mic plugged into a CD burner up to a cheap boom box with a dirty tape head.
The album had a song that was essentially drummer Ian Paice banging away, hoping maybe the late Jon Lord would add some keyboards and original vocalist Rod Evans (for all you Captain Beyond fans) might, yanno, add some lyrics. It was called “Chasing Shadows,” and actually, the lyrics were about Jon Lord’s recent bout of nightmares. Musicians frequently get pissed off if they don’t have nightmares. No one wants to write a song about that dream you have showing up for work naked or the falling dream. Everyone has those.
Anyway, I thought about what might cast shadows. A fire, like a camp fire or a bonfire, would do it. Okay, so why is Nick seeing shadows from a fire? I got the impression someone was dancing around the fire. Fine. Why? Male or female? I decided the person was female. I also decided that she was some sort of pagan. A bad thing?
I’ve known a few pagans in my life. One used to tell me how some rituals were conducted in the nude in the woods. OK, why’s Nick in the woods? This is a guy who did not do so well on his trip to Amish country.
In Ohio, there is a wilderness area in the southeast corner of the state called Hocking Hills. It is part of the Wayne National Forest that extends in patches into West Virginia and southwest Pennsylvania. The hills here are the closest things you’ll find to mountains in Ohio (a couple of them might be mountains under certain generous definitions of the term.) They have the same steep slopes and rocky terrain as most mountains in the Eastern United States. It’s actually part of the Appalachian Mountains, so its not surprising. In a former life, I used to vacation there annually. Road Rules was written there. Parts of Second Hand Goods and Bad Religion were as well. And it was in the actual mountains over in West Virginia that this story finally coalesced.
On a trip to Canaan Valley in WV, I took a train ride up one of the mountains. While riding up, I took out a notepad and scratched out the first draft. Kepler was contracted to find a best-selling author named Kelley Penfield. Penfield is mysterious. She does not interact directly with her agent or even her lawyer. She has another lawyer do it for her. All the agent knows is that Kelley came from a small town in the Hocking Hills region called Logan (not far from my favorite vacation spot in this area.) So Kepler goes down to Logan, checks into a cabin away from town to avoid arousing interest, and is immediately confronted by a nude woman prone to dancing and chanting around a fire. One night, she shows up in Nick’s cabin. Not to look for a little fun. She just wants to show him some Tarot cards.
The story took off from there. She called herself “Diana” after the Roman goddess of the moon. And it is a full moon. Hence, I coopted a Jeff Beck tune for the title. We find out who Kelley is, why she disappeared, and what’s really happening in Logan, Ohio.
This is probably my favorite of the stories in this collection, certainly one of my favorites that I’ve written.