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Heads You Lose Hardcover – April 5, 2011
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From Publishers Weekly
In this experimental California improv, Lutz (The Spellman Files) writes odd-numbered chapters and footnoted barbs directed at her coauthor and ex-boyfriend, poet Hayward, whose even-numbered chapters and stiletto-sharp ripostes add a freaky dimension to the collaboration. Grown siblings Lacey and Paul Hansen are scratching out a precarious living from a Northern California clandestine marijuana operation when a reeking headless human body turns up in their backyard, eventually identified as Hart Drexel, detecting barista Lacey's former lover. Because Lutz and Hayward agreed not to discuss or to undo a plot development the other had produced, they create a jittery black-comic narrative complicated by inter-author tensions unveiled in memos exchanged at the end of each chapter. Shifty secondary characters, some charming, some odious, pop in and out of the resulting dizzying plot that comes off like a trendy Left Coast restaurant mélange—daringly composed, exotic to contemplate. Author tour. (Apr.)
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About the Author
Lisa Lutz is the New York Times-bestselling author of the Spellman comedic crime novels. Since 2007, the Spellman series has received Edgar, Anthony, and Macavity nominations, and each title has been a selection of the Indie Next List. Lutz lives in San Francisco.
David Hayward is a writer and editor in Northern California. His poetry has won a Pushcart Prize and has appeared in Harper's and other magazines. Hayward has an MFA in poetry from the University of California at Irvine. This is his first novel.
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This new novel is a break from the Spellmans. She and co-writer, David Hayward (ex-boyfriend and now friend) each take a chapter with some rules- they cannot undo the plot or characters of each other. Comments by each author are exchanged at the end of each chapter including occasional suggestions as to what might be needed in the future chapters - but these may be ignored or added to the story with hysterical results.
The story is of Paul and Lacey - pot growing/selling sibs who discover a body (sans head) in their yard. They move the body and it returns to their yard - clearly someone has a message for the Paul and Lacey. Mayhem and fun ensue as each tackle the problem in their own way.
But it's like reading two books in one - the author's comments to each other are laugh-out-loud funny to deeply sarcastic. The response to comments/criticism/suggestions take place in future chapters resulting in characters going from dead - back alive - to dead again, from hard core grouches to softies, dumb to smart, etc. Plot lines are introduced in defiance,anger, or in the spirit of fun and adventure (the plane crash!). Yet it is all tied up by the end of the novel.
I am going to read it again -and ignore the comments then go back and just read the comments because both sections are worth it. Get this book!
But, alas, DH is (apparently) a real person, and that's ok too. Because he is pretty funny in his own way. His role is playing the slightly petty, "no-name" writer whose main function is to make Lutz work harder and harder to keep a continuous plot going. For her part, Lutz gets back at Hayward by deliberately, and with delightful malice, killing off a few of his characters. In fact, she kills one of them twice. Though PETA will be happy that (Spoiler Alert!) Irving makes it out alive.
The bickering that goes on between the two authors is - I think - deliberate. It's what makes the book so much fun to read. The alternating chapter format gives each author a chance to play his/her role to a tee. Lutz/Lacey is the responsible, somewhat sarcastic, active investigator, who is critical of Paul's lack of drive (and of Hayward's lack of drive to move the plot along). Hayward/Paul is the slacker-ish, somewhat sarcastic, passive investigator, who would actually rather criticize (Lacey AND Lutz) than investigate (or, it seems, write a fast-moving plot). Together, they throw enough obstacles at each other to make one wonder how on earth this book ever got finished. Either they meant it that way from the start, or they have a really, really good editor.
There is a lot of Izzy Spellman in Lacey, despite her inexperience in detective work. Though the dialogue is not as hilarious as the Spellman books, Lacey brings more than enough humor and bite to the table. Paul less so, but I think that's by design - his character veers towards laconic, as a contrast to Lacey. Lacey, like Lutz, is often pressing, moving forward. Paul, like Hayward, is often reclining on the sofa - literally and figuratively - working out his next move. It's Passion vs. Passive.
I'm not going to go into the plot, which - maybe by design, or maybe because LL and DH often go off in their own direction - contains more red herrings than a large lake in Minsk (assuming that is where herrings come from). Suffice to say the twisty-path plot works fine, as long as you realize that it is there to direct you towards the bickering authors and the premise of the book, rather than the other way around.
Oh, and can anyone tell me WHY that plane crashed?
One more opinion: In this book, along with the Spellman books, Lisa Lutz has singlehandedly freed the footnote from its dull imprisonment in college term papers, and made it an interesting, um, footnote, again. Viva le note de pied!
such as Lacey not knowing Paul had a girlfriend in Tulac throughout the story, but when the two women meet later in the book at the wake, Lacey seems to be fully aware of the relationship, as does every one of the townspeople. There were many other plot holes and inconsistencies, but I don't need to mention them all here. The last few chapters feel extremely rushed, as the siblings start to cross out suspects and the body count begins to mount at an incredible pace. It was a good concept, though, and an interesting story.
Most recent customer reviews
Didn't like including the co authors dingoes
It was entertaining
But got in the way of losing self in book
More of an inside joke for writers