I heard about Heads You Lose on NPR’s Weekend Edition in a bit entitled “No Love Lost in Crime Authors’ New Story” when the authors, Lisa Lutz and David Hayward, were being interviewed. The interview was funny, and the conversation between the authors — who used to be a couple, and are now simply bickering authors — made me curious about this novel that they had created together, especially since she is an experienced crime novelist and he is a “retired” poet. Heads You Lose is not co-authored in the typical sense; Lutz wrote all the odd-numbered chapters, and Hayward penned the even-numbered chapters…and neither author was “allowed” to change anything the other author had done in their chapters.
I checked the book out from the local library, and I began reading it aloud as my husband and I were in the middle of a 6-hour drive. A few hours (and 150 pages) later, we arrived home and before the next day was over I had finished the book. I’m not usually big on genre fiction, but this mystery had such an interesting metafictional element that I couldn’t put it down. See, after each chapter the authors have included their brief email exchanges — little notes that range from complimentary to scathing, with a little bit of everything in between — so that the reader gets the novel, but also the process of its creation. And what a process that was! It’s no wonder these two broke up (let’s just say they don’t see eye-to-eye on a great deal of the mechanical and aesthetic aspects of the writing process), but this novel is proof of the possibilities of a different kind of partnership.
GOOD FOR: Creative writers, fans of humorous stories about growing marijuana and/or finding dead bodies, fans of weird manifestations of metafiction. Also, those who like cats as characters.
BAD FOR: People who like organized storylines, those with little patience, anyone going through an annoying breakup.
COMPATIBLE WITH: Good Omens, Nancy Drew books, The Man Who Loved Books Too Much.