The Spellman’s Strike Again, the fourth installment in Lisa Lutz’s bestselling, award-nominated, humorous crime series proves beyond a reasonable doubt that Isabel Spellman, no matter how much she matures, will never be able to follow Rule #1: Act Normal. Perhaps she inherits some of her quirkiness from her creator, who identifies the essentials in life: coffee and vodka, like this: “One makes the morning tolerable. And coffee lights up the evening.”
This and more words of wisdom for modern living in PopMatters 20 Questions with Lutz. A film based on the first book in the series (The Spellman Files) is in development with Paramount Pictures, with Laura Ziskin producing, but while we’re waiting, enjoy The Spellman’s Strike Again, releasing this week.
1. The latest book or movie that made you cry?
Young at Heart. While I’ve teared-up listening to The Ramones on many occasions, there’s something utterly beautiful and moving about watching old people sing “I want to be sedated.”
2. The fictional character most like you?
That’s a tough one. I asked a friend for help and he said I already was the fictional version of myself. I’m not exactly sure what that means.
As a child, I most identified with Pippi Longstocking, so I’ll go with that. Although I’m not an orphan and I can’t lift a horse. I was, however, briefly famous for my feats of strength; at about age 11 I could competitively arm-wrestle a full-grown man.
3. The greatest album, ever?
Impossible question. I can maybe narrow the list by periods of my life:
High school: Germs, Live at the Whisky
College: Patti Smith, Horses
My 30s: Lucinda Williams, Car Wheels on a Gravel Road or Steve Earle’s Transcendental Blues
Band I listen to most: The Ramones
4. Star Trek or Star Wars?
Star Trek, and only because I’ve enjoyed Leonard Nimoy’s and William Shatner’s musical contributions to society. Otherwise, couldn’t care less.
5. Your ideal brain food?
Public transportation. Now that I work from home, there’s only so much I can learn from staring out the window and my brief interactions with the UPS guy.
6. You’re proud of this accomplishment, but why?
Juggling. Because it is absolutely useless.
7. You want to be remembered for…?
Curing cancer. However, I am more likely to be remembered for writing goofy crime novels.
8. Of those who’ve come before, the most inspirational are?
I’ve always adored the filmmaker Sam Fuller. The first time I watched Shock Corridor was such a magnificent discovery. I love his lack of subtlety, the way he tackles serious topics with bold and inappropriate humor. His autobiography is one of my favorite books ever.
9. The creative masterpiece you wish bore your signature?
Await Your Reply by Dan Chaon. I’ve always been obsessed with the idea of disappearing and becoming someone else. Even if you don’t share that obsession, I can’t recommend this book highly enough.
10. Your hidden talents…?
What, juggling isn’t enough for you? Sorry. That’s all I got.
11. The best piece of advice you actually followed?
If I followed advice, I would never have run off and written a novel.
12. The best thing you ever bought, stole, or borrowed?
During my sophomore year abroad in Leeds, England, my college roommate adored Elvis and was a gifted shoplifter.
When I returned to the US, I found a fake ID of Elvis at a drugstore. I pocketed it and sent it to her. It was the first and last thing I ever stole.
13. You feel best in Armani or Levis or…?
Pajamas. I wear them to sleep and to work.
14. Your dinner guest at the Ritz would be?
Marlon Brando, Patti Smith, Peter O’Toole, Joey and Johnny Ramone (just for the bickering) and of course, Sam Fuller.
15. Time travel: where, when and why?
Last Saturday, party at my house. In the do-over, I quit after my third beer. The next morning was rough, to say the least.
16. Stress management: hit man, spa vacation or Prozac?
I get more relief from learning about other people’s lives. So how about interviewing a hitman on Prozac at a spa?
17. Essential to life: coffee, vodka, cigarettes, chocolate, or…?
Coffee and vodka. One makes the morning tolerable. And coffee lights up the evening.
18. Environ of choice: city or country, and where on the map?
Country. Anywhere with snow and icicles and people who call you honey and sweetheart, even though you never met.
19. What do you want to say to the leader of your country?
Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em. Quitting can wait until after you’ve left office.
20. Last but certainly not least, what are you working on, now?
I just finished collaborating on a crime novel with my ex-boyfriend. We’ll see if it’s the beginning of a Things You Should Never Do phase.