Bizzaro Book Review: Heads You Lose by Lisa Lutz and David Hayward

In the past I’ve noted the many downsides to being a writer, one of which was this: consuming fiction changes into critiquing fiction. You can’t read a book or watch a movie without thinking, “Oh well, I would have done that differently,” or “Do they really expect us to believe that was her motivation?” and so on.

And that writer’s sense of story, almost wrecked Heads You Lose for me.

Here’s the scoop. Writers know that you need to start your book strong to keep readers interested. Telling someone, “Oh, well the beginning drags a little, but don’t worry it really picks up in the third chapter,” is looked down upon big time.

So when my wife, who read this book ahead of me, said, “It takes a while to get good,” I thought, “Oh brother, why should I even waste my time?”

But here’s the thing. Heads You Loose does take some time to get good. But when it gets good, it really gets good.

The premise of the book is this: two writers decide to collaborate to write a murder mystery novel, after having failed in a similar partnership some years before. The bulk of the novel is the murder mystery itself, interspersed with letters between the two writers chronicling their growing frustration with each other’s plot twists, pacing, characters…the list just goes on.

And this is where the story gets really interesting. Because within the murder mystery our two dueling writers continually take potshots at each others, some subtle, some not. One author’s favourite character is killed off by the other, only to be brought back to life, killed again, then replaced with almost identical relative (with rhyming name no less).

In spite of all of this intranarrative snarking, the murder mystery itself still manages to be fun and intriguing.

And while there are some truly hilarious moments, including one chapter that made me laugh so hard that I fell out of my chair, it seems almost wrong to call this book a comedy.  but there’s something deeper at work here. The meta-fictional aspects of the story really work well together without trying to change the narrative into some over-pompous quasi-intellectual masterpiece.

If you want to you can dig deeper and ponder the fuzzy relationship between the personalities of the writers as they are portrayed in the book and their real life personas. Or you can just sit back and enjoy the fun.

Either way, if you can loose yourself in the twisted storyline, this book will not disappoint.

Give it a shot. And don’t mind the opening. Trust me. It gets better.

5 responses to “Bizzaro Book Review: Heads You Lose by Lisa Lutz and David Hayward

  1. Christopher Staskel

    Hey Albert! Big fan of your blog. I came in with the freshly pressed crowd however many months ago and have been reading ever since. Keep up the great work! that being said…

    ooooOOOhhh! I love the premise of this. Everyone should check out the video with the two authors on the Amazon page. I was cracking up. I love that dry humor. I should definitely give this a read. Thanks for the review!


  2. I hear you on the reading becoming critiquing. Boy is it ever hard to shut that off. Ah well, each book then becomes a bit of a textbook for our own stuff.

  3. Hey hey hey – this sounds AWESOME! Thank you SO much for the recommendation, Albert :D. Seriously, this sounds fascinating.

    (Also, I’m finally doing what I should have done some weeks ago when I first started reading your blog, and subscribing via email so I’ll get notified of new posts. Yay for me!)

  4. Chapter 14? That was the one that made me burst out laughing!

  5. Pingback: How to Collaborate on a Book Without Killing Yourself or Your Partner | Albert Berg's Unsanity Files

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