Monday, May 2, 2011

The Odd Couple?

Heads You Lose by Lisa Lutz and David Hayward.*

reviewed by Marlyn Beebe.

I was uncertain what to expect when I opened Heads You Lose, especially after I had watched this promotional video.

Lisa Lutz, the author of the popular Spellman Files series, decided she wanted to write a collaborative novel with her old friend (and ex-boyfriend) David Hayward. She was to write the first and all odd-numbered chapters, and he would write the even-numbered ones. Neither of them was allowed to undo a plot development created by the other, so commented on each others' chapters using footnotes. They also wrote each other notes between chapters; these notes are included at the chapter's end. (This is explained in a letter from the Editor at the beginning of the book.)

The novel is the story of orphaned twenty-something siblings Paul and Lacey Hansen who live together in their family home, scraping by on the profits from Paul's pot farm and Lacey's job as a barista.

Late one night, while taking out the trash, Lacey stumbles across a headless corpse. Not knowing who it is (without the head, the body has no face), but not wanting to call the police because of their less-than-legal garden, they decide to dispose of the body, and quietly try to determine the body's identity and why it had been deposited on their property.

Although it might be expected that Lutz's chapters would be written from Lacey's point of view, and Paul's from Hayward's, this is not the case; both write from a third-person viewpoint, and seem to enjoy inserting details to frustrate the other.

Reading the footnotes and the between-chapter messages in which each bemoans this tendency in the other is almost as much fun as the story. Although these asides are distracting, most of the chapters are long enough to absorb the reader's attention (until the next footnote or comment).

For this reader, Heads You Lose was not the type of book that was so absorbing that bedtimes were missed, but it was a light, fun read. And, despite the unusual nature of the relationship between Lutz and Hayward, the messages included in the book might even be helpful to authors (even solitary ones) in terms of the writing process.

*FTC Full Disclosure: Many thanks to LibraryThing Early Reviewers, who sent me an Advance Review Copy.

Just for fun, I'm doing another giveaway. I have one copy of Jasper Fforde's latest Thursday Next book One of Our Thursdays is Missing for one person who comments on this blog post. Deadline to comment is midnight on Tuesday May 3.


  1. I haven't read this one, but I'm confused about this: Although it might be expected that Lutz's chapters would be written from Lacey's point of view, and Paul's from Hayward's, this is not the case; both write from a third-person viewpoint, and seem to enjoy inserting details to frustrate the other.

    Why do you say 3rd person isn't the character's POV? I write in Deep 3rd person, and each of my POV characters has their own POV scenes. Maybe I'm misunderstanding something, but 3rd person allows you to write from any character's POV.

    (And, coincidentally, although it has nothing to do with this review, Deep POV happens to be my blog topic today.)

    Terry's Place
    Romance with a Twist--of Mystery

  2. Great article, Marlyn! As someone who wants to get immersed in a book,I think I would find this "artsy" (at least to me) approach more frustrating than anything. I could see its appeal to some people, though.

    Terry, you make a good point. I'm thinking maybe Marlyn meant that they could have been written from each of those characters' POVs, from a first-person viewpoint, rather than third-person?

    Looking forward to hearing from Marlyn.

  3. Thanks, Jodie. That is what I meant, and I didn't state it clearly enough. Both authors go back and forth between different characters' points of view.

    (Apologies for the delayed response; that's one of the problems with being on the opposite coast.)

  4. Terrific review, Marlyn, and what an intriguing concept as far as writing partners go.

    I read SPELLMAN FILES on Kindle, and have to say that the footnotes were a hassle and a distraction. But I think the chapter notes between the two oddly connected writers might be worth it.

  5. Just the concept alone intrigues me. An unusual approach, for sure. I'll have to check this one out. Thanks for the post, Marlyn.

  6. Thanks to all of you for your comments and suggestions!

  7. Great post, Marlyn. I have to say the title sounds pretty fitting even without the headless corpse. If I tried to write a book with an ex-boyfriend, I'm pretty sure some heads would be lost. But it does sound like an interesting story. Drew said it best..I'm intrigued.

  8. You have intigued me with your review of this book, Marlyn. I have played with compilations before and it is so much fun trying to stump the next writer. Even more fun to see how they outwit me. With this book, Heads you Lose, not only does one get inside the characters' heads (not the victims apparently :)) but also the writers'. It's eavesdropping. hehe. I know the author should be invisible, but we all break some rules, sometimes, and this is the ultimate rule to break. Art for art's sake. A one off,I guess. Nonetheless, a cheeky exercise that paid off. They got published. I'd like to see how they managed that.

  9. The winner of ONE OF OUR THURSDAYS IS MISSING is Sandra K., who sent me an email because she was unable to post her comment on the blog. Congratulations, Sandra!


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