Friday, October 3, 2008

Lisa Lutz's "The Spellman Files"

Lisa Lutz wrote the screenplay for a mob comedy called Plan B and is the author of the novels The Spellman Files and Curse of the Spellmans.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to The Spellman Files and reported the following:

I locked my apartment door and tiptoed down the staircase, hoping to avoid chitchat with any family member. In particular, I was trying to avoid my mother, who had found another lawyer she wanted me to drink coffee with. I tried explaining to her that I was capable of drinking coffee without legal help, but she did not follow my logic.

Instead of running into my mother, I found Rae (with binoculars) peering out the window on the second landing. I checked the view and saw that Uncle Ray was moving in. Instead of a large orange-and-white truck outside, his moving vehicle was a Yellow Cab. It was a heartbreaking sight, and I turned to Rae, hoping that she might have seen the same thing.

"What are you doing?" I asked.

"Nothing," she replied sharply, and I knew she didn't see a tragic old man. She saw her archenemy.

"Don't you think it's time to let this thing go?"

I could tell from the look on Rae's face that she didn't.

* * *

The Spellman Files is a comedic novel about a family of private investigators. This passage is a decent representation of the book, which is driven more by family conflicts than by the cases the characters are trying to solve.

The contentious relationship between 14-year-old Rae Spellman and her Uncle Ray (in his 60s) is one of the central conflicts. In “The Ra(e/y) Wars” chapter, which begins on page 99, Uncle Ray is moving back into the house after the most recent of his Lost Weekends--habitual benders from which the family must rescue him.

Rae, being the youngest and not fully understanding her uncle’s complicated history, can’t forgive his constant debauchery. Page 99 sets up the war that will ensue. As in all the Spellman novels, the most intriguing--and hopefully the funniest--mysteries revolve not around murders or missing persons but around family relationships.
Read an excerpt from The Spellman Files, and learn more about the book and author at Lisa Lutz's website.

--Marshal Zeringue