The last completed story from the Deep Purple Project takes its inspiration from the last album of Deep Purple’s original run, Come Taste the Band. One of that album’s signature songs was “Lady Luck.” All I needed was the title. It would involve casinos.
But casinos did not exist in Ohio at the time. Here in Cincinnati, that was irrelevant. Drive west out US 50 or I-275, and you arrive in Indiana. There are three riverboat casinos within fifty miles of downtown Cincinnati. Not good for Cleveland. My septuagenarian aunt informed me that she had to go to West Virginia, Michigan, or even Canada to play her slots when this was written. (Ohio now has four casinos.)
So Nick was going to have to hit the road. He would have to go look for a husband who absconded with the kids’ college fund to count cards. At the time, I had just read books by Steve Hamilton and Laura Lippman that inspired a couple of story elements. Steve writes about the area around Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, which has several Indian casinos. That made the perfect place for Kepler to go on a wild goose chase. Frustrated, Nick consults the element I got from Laura’s By a Spider’s Thread. In that novel, Tess is part of an Internet group where female private investigators share information. It wasn’t much of a stretch to think there were other such groups for PI’s or that Nick would use it. So on the group Nick consults, a colleague from Cincinnati complains about a guy at Louisville’s casino (really in Indiana as Kentucky has yet to legalize non-track gambling) It sounds like his errant husband, and we pick up the story at Lawrenceburg, Indiana’s Argosy Casino (now Hollywood Casino).
I’d actually never been in the old Argosy, but I knew the area well enough, including the extended parking. I actually used Belterra Casino (about forty miles west of Lawrenceburg) as a model. I also decided to make this more interesting than just a missing husband story. I had just seen the movie Rounders, where Ed Norton and Matt Damon play two hustling poker players who get into hock with a Russian nicknamed KGB. A lot of illegal poker games are played in every city, including Cleveland. If our missing husband upset the apple cart by not being the mark some seedy thug wanted him to be, he would likely also have someone looking for him.
The story starts out in the Cincinnati area, where I’ve lived since 1991, and follows the normal route to Cleveland. Even the truckstop where Nick finally phones his client after dealing with the muscle and the husband once and for all, is a standard pit stop for anyone heading north.
It’s also the only story in this collection that takes place after Northcoast Shakedown. I tried to work in Elaine, but the story required some judicious trimming. Still, it brings Nick into the period between Northcoast and Second Hand Goods.