Book Review & Radio Interview: Heads You Lose By Lisa Lutz and David Hayward
By Tim Chamberlain
Note: Lisa Lutz and David Hayward were guests on KAZI Book Review on April 24, 12:30 p.m. – 1 p.m. (central time). Listen to the interview by clicking here: Lisa Lutz – David Hayward Interview.
Heads You Lose follows marijuana-growing siblings Lacey and Paul as they attempt to figure out who dumped a headless body on their property. However, this bare-bones description does not do the book justice–it is also a collaboration between former writing and romantic partners Lisa Lutz and David Hayward, and their correspondence between chapters is included. What you end up with is a murder mystery that ends up commenting (hilariously) on itself.
Lutz (author of the Spellman crime novels) takes on the odd chapters, Hayward the even, and (according to the editor’s note) they took on each chapter “blind”, not being allowed to undo each other’s plot developments. Brief notes between the authors follow each chapter, and their sniping is as funny as it is brief.
A very enjoyable aspect is watching how the disagreements between the authors will surface in the story–see Hayward’s chapter 14 for the most outrageous example–as well as how one will deal with the other’s shocking new plot developments. Several characters meet a shocking demise for these reasons. The further you get in the story, the more you realize that no one is safe because Lutz and Hayward seem to be settling authorial scores with each other.
It’s hard to imagine that this collaboration came together exactly as it is presented to the reader, since the story works as well as it does. However, once you are a few chapters in you really don’t care whether Lutz and Hayward are being truthful or putting on a show–the show is definitely worth it.
The back and forth between the authors also allows them to get in jokes and jabs they wouldn’t get in a regular novel. Hayward enjoys making up reality shows (Volcano Chasers, Mythmatch, etc.) for Paul to watch, and Lutz gets in on the action making up a few of her own. Hayward has a cat character (Irving) that he occasionally uses in his chapters. Lutz threatens to kill off the cat, finally relenting “so you have a character to jump-start your cat mystery series.” It is these exchanges that will have you as anxious for the author notes as you are for the next twist in the story.
Heads You Lose is a successful experiment on how to collaborate on a murder mystery. The competing plot twists make the story that much more enjoyable, and the dialogue between the authors gives the reader a view of what goes into the creation of a novel. Given all of the self-imposed obstacles to their collaboration, Lutz and Hayward still manage to write a compelling and fun whodunit. Heads You Lose is a one-of-a-kind experience.