So which Deep Purple song inspired this one? There’s a song they did on their 1973 album Who Do We Think We Are? called “Mary Long,” a dig at British moral crusader Mary Whitehouse. There are a number of other titles I could have pulled from that album for story fodder: “Woman From Tokyo,” “Smooth Dancer,” “Super Trooper,” and “Rat Bat Blue,” the last of which could have been slapped on anything and made a cool title for a PI story.
But “Mary Long” starts with the lines “Mary Long was a hypocrite/She does all the things she tells us not to do.” That stuck with me. I changed it to “Harry Long” to make him a man. Obviously, his nationality went from English to American, so the change in gender and location immediately began generating ideas. So who was Harry Long, and why was he a hypocrite?
Maybe Harry’s a fine, upstanding citizen. I made him a middle-aged man who does all that white, middle-class suburban stuff: Joins the Rotary, active in his church, etc. There was one of those silly Freemason conspiracy shows on History at the time, so I decided, “What the hell. Let’s make him a Freemason.” Why?
They tend to frown on their members cheating on their spouses and indulging in various vices that might draw unwanted attention. I may not buy into the whole dark fantasy of the Freemasons scripting all of history, but even I know they are a secret society. And Harry is not the kind of secret they want to keep. Why?
Because Harry likes to go to the strip club. And it’s not the Masons or the Rotary Club or his pastor who’s worried. It’s his wife, who hires Nick to tail him. As the story begins, Nick is about to write this case off as a paranoid wife with a very busy husband. It happens. Then Harry goes into Silky’s, and we are introduced to one of Nick’s favorite informants.
Gypsy is a stripper and a call girl whose history with Nick dates back to his early days as a PI. She was his informant way back when and took a bullet for him when he tried to save her from some unsavory characters. In gratitude, he got her off heroin. She is slowly working her way out of the sex trade, but will do anything for Nick. And Nick would do anything for her.
When Gypsy realizes that Harry has been slipping some of the girls rohypnol, aka “roofies” or “the date rape drug,” she demands Nick do something about it. Nick tries to get his pal Rick Reese involved, but the police can’t really do anything without hard evidence or a girl to submit to a drug test right after the fact. Furious, Gypsy sets a trap for Harry, using herself as bait.
The real story here is in the backstory between Nick and Gypsy. She is loosely based on Elaine from the Matt Scudder series, Scudder’s hooker girlfriend who is saving up and investing to get out of the trade. But Gypsy is a rougher character, having to claw her way up further than Elaine to escape the life she’s leading. And that bullet she took?
That pretty much tells you everything you need to know about Gypsy and Nick.