Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Heads You Lose Puts a New Spin On (The Already Excellent) Lisa Lutz

I am a HUGE Lisa Lutz fan. Her first few novels, which made up the Izzy Spellman series, were witty and smart mysteries starring a cast of eccentric characters.

In this latest novel Heads You Lose, Lutz keeps much of the same things she's famous for -- fabulous, weird characters; a mystery; detailed setting -- and turns it on its head. Rather than writing another novel full of her own quirks, she decided to add another author into the mix: her ex-boyfriend, poet David Hayward. Her idea is simple. She writes one chapter, he writes the next. She writes another, he writes another. Back and forth until the novel is complete. One stipulation is that neither can change what the other has written.

As the novel progresses, it becomes clear that while the idea seemed simple, it hasn't turned out as such. The co-authors... shall we say... disagree on some points. Like, practically everything. The final result is a hilarious, romping good time.

So what is Heads You Lose (other than being a fun -- and funny -- writing project)?

The basic premise of the novel (from the book's website):
Meet Paul and Lacey Hansen: orphaned, pot-growing, twentysomething siblings eking out a living in rural Northern California. When a headless corpse appears on their property, they can’t exactly dial 911, so they move the body and wait for the police to find it. Instead, the corpse reappears, a few days riper ... and an amateur sleuth is born. Make that two.

But that’s only half of the story. When collaborators Lutz and Hayward—former romantic partners—start to disagree about how the story should unfold, the body count rises, victims and suspects alike develop surprising characteristics (meet Brandy Chester, the stripper with the Mensa IQ), and sibling rivalry reaches homicidal intensity. Will the authors solve the mystery without killing each other first?

[It's] Weeds meets Adaptation.
I loved this book for both aspects -- the collaborative part and the novel itself. Because as I was enjoying the crazy characters' antics, I enjoyed just as much the back and forth between the authors. Although they didn't alter each other's chapters, they definitely spoke their minds... both in their footnotes, and in the next chapter. I got the feeling that each author took a side in the brother/sister relationship in the novel and really went with it. As a result, the novel is full of plot twists and surprising character... er, growth.

Read more about Lutz and Hayward on their blog for the book. (Which is also co-written. And features comments by the other author after each post. It's funny.)

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