I Read: Heads You Lose by Lisa Lutz and David Hayward

Heads You Lose by Lisa Lutz and David HaywardDid you ever have a creative writing class in high school or college where the teacher wanted you to pair up with another classmate and you’d write one chapter and then they’d write the next chapter? Maybe even the whole class collectively tried to write a story together in this fashion and it inevitably ended up being some ridiculous zombie apocalypse love story treasure hunt set in the 1700’s?

That’s basically what this book is, minus the zombies, apocalypse, treasure hunt and time frame. And okay, even the “love story” is a bit of a stretch.

But – this book came about when Lutz, one of my favorite authors who writes the terrifically funny Spellman mysteries, decided to collaborate on a story idea with her ex boyfriend David Hayward. And, no, they weren’t really on speaking terms at the beginning of this arrangement.

Sounds like the recipe for disaster? Well brace yourselves, because somehow they pulled it off and the results are terrifically fun!

The ground rules for this collaboration were fairly simple:

  • Lisa wrote the odd numbered chapters, David wrote the even chapters.
  • Neither were allowed to edit or change plot points.
  • They tossed a coin to decide who would write the last chapter.

The premise of the story they wrote is pretty interesting on it’s own:

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.

From the beginning, each author seems to favor one character – David writes mostly from Paul’s POV and Lisa backs Lacey. Commentary from one author on another’s chapter took the form of footnotes. (1) They also included correspondence between Lisa and David at the end of each chapter, which kind of gives the book the feel of a story within a story as you get to learn more about their past relationship and why it didn’t work out.

Meanwhile, their cast of characters develop somewhat conflicting personalities – like a stripper with a Mensa IQ – and the body count seems to triple with each chapter as the authors take out their frustrations with each other on the characters in the story. With each chapter the stakes grow and change as the story evolves and then re-evolves to cope with their conflicting opinions on who dunnit and who’s gonna solve it!

I really loved this book – as a Lutz lover, it delivered a lot of the fun, quirky mystery novel goodness that she delivers with all of her books. As a would-be writer, this was just such a cool peek into the writing process. I honestly am amazed that they finished the book – and even more amazed that I loved it – because I can so vividly remember those silly writing classes in college and geez, I wasn’t even writing with ex boyfriends back then – how they heck did they pull this thing off? Seriously?

But I did. Like it. Love it. And I think you will, too. (2) This was one of those books that I devoured quickly and then handed to my husband so he could read it, too. And he’s snobbish in his book tastes, so the fact that he’s enjoying it, I’d say speaks pretty highly of the title.

  1. I do love Lisa Lutz’s way with footnotes.
  2. So go buy it, folks! Heads You Lose is available in hardcover or via Kindle as of TODAY, April 5th.

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