Introduction (by Jon Scieszka)
Ladies and gentlemen . . . and I use those terms loosely because I know you are all writers and illustrators . . . we have a bit of a situation.
You were all invited to this party tonight because of your relationship with Mr. Herman Q. Mildew.
Some of you were not fond of him. Others of you could not stand him. Most of you completely hated his guts.
Mr. Mildew brought you to this abandoned pickle factory because he had something to tell you, something that he thought might make you very mad. And he wanted to see
all of you freak out live and in person.
But that is not going to happen.
You see . . . Mr. Herman Q. Mildew is no longer with us.
He shuffled off this mortal coil, took the long walk off the short pier, has gone to glory, gave up the ghost, cashed in, checked out, kicked the bucket, went bye-bye.
He is now a corpse, a cadaver, dearly departed, a stiff. The problem?
Each and every one of you had a reason to send Mr.Herman Mildew to the Great Beyond. You are all suspects in his demise. And it is up to me—and the keen reader holding this book—to figure out: Who done it?
As you well know, Herman Mildew was not a nice man.
He was mean, arrogant, loud, large, obnoxious, cruel to small furry animals, delusional, thoughtless, difficult, vulgar, negative, likely to take the last sip of orange juice and then put the empty carton back in the refrigerator, intolerant, sneaky, greedy, fond of toenail clippings and strong cheeses, hugely entertained by the misfortune of others, hateful, quick to anger, unforgiving, mean, gaseous, paranoid, belligerent, unreasonable, demanding, smelly, near-sighted . . . in short: an editor. Perhaps even your editor, or the editor of someone you admire.
Some examples of his sadistic behavior, in no particular order:
• He enrolled Dave Eggers in True Romance’s Book-of-the-Month Club.
• He drew mustaches on all of Lauren Oliver’s author photos.
• He told Mo Willems what he could do with the Pigeon.
All this is true. So why did you accept this invitation?
Never mind. The more important question is why a quick pat-down of this audience turned up:
• 1 poison-tipped umbrella
• 1 suitcase full of poisonous tree frogs
• 3 throwing stars
• 1 noose, 1 candlestick, and 1 lead pipe
• 2 snakes resembling speckled “friendship” bands
• 1 frozen leg of lamb
Why do I have a piece of piano wire hanging out of my trench coat?
Why . . . why . . . not because Mr. Mildew once forced me to play “I’m A Little Teapot” on the piano in front of hundreds of booksellers. And I wasn’t going to use it to strangle anyone in a most fitting way. I have piano wire because . . . because . . . because I was fixing my piano last time I was wearing this coat. I was just replacing the—
Wait a minute! Our readers and I are running this investigation. We’ll ask the questions. And we want answers. We want alibis.
Of course, before you begin, we are bound by law to advise you that you have the right to remain silent.
But who are we kidding?
You are (as mentioned) a bunch of writers and illustrators. You couldn’t remain silent if your life depended on it. You would sell your grandmother for an audience.
So tell us your alibi.
Convince us that you did not do in, cut down, rub out, bump off, put away, dispatch, exterminate, eradicate, liquidate, assassinate, fix, drop, croak, or kill the late, unlamented Mr. Herman Mildew.
J. R. and Kate Angelella's alibi
We were mad enough to murder, but please allow us to explain.
We didn’t murder Herman Mildew. You can split us up—in fact, we encourage it—and you can scream and shout and shine a bright light in our eyes to see that we are telling the truth. We have nothing to hide here because we didn’t do it. We admit that we said we were mad enough to murder, but it’s not what you think. We were mad enough to murder, but not mad enough to murder Herman Mildew.
(Is it all right that we use the past tense when we talk about Herman Mildew, or does that make us look guilty too?)
It’s true—Herman Mildew was a rat of a man, who nibbled and nibbled and nibbled away at our words, chewing up and spitting out the most beautiful and meaningful parts of our novel. He was never pleased with any draft that we turned in to him on time. He was never happy with our work. He always wanted more, or demanded a whole lot less.
Herman Mildew was definitely the princess who slept on the pea.
Herman Mildew was the Goldilocks to our bears.
We agree; if he is, in fact, dead and he was, in fact, murdered, then it was most certainly someone he knew. It just wasn’t us.
Yes, it’s true that he used to be our editor.
Yes, it’s true that he didn’t like our book.
Yes, it’s true that we wrote him into the final draft of our book as a villainous, spiteful tree-dwelling gnome.
And, yes, it’s true that he fired us from his imprint after he discovered the aforementioned gnome’s name, hardly a fire-able offense.
That being said, once we were fired, we were free from him. We were free from his yammering, and free from his pointless line edits. We didn’t have to falsely lie in our blogs about how brilliant and amazing our editor was to work with (a total lie!) or write a loving acknowledgement in the back of our book like Thank you, thank you, thank you so much, Mildew, we owe every success of this book to you (which would have also been a lie!).
Are we guilty of being tacky, naming the villainous gnome after Mildew? Maybe.
Are we guilty of being mean? Absolutely.
But are we guilty of murder? No, not his.
We were mad enough to murder was meant as an expression, not a literal action. We never meant it to be real or even directed at Mildew. Simply put—the reason it was said was that we absolutely drive ourselves insane sometimes. Always talking like this—in the plural first person point of view, simultaneously, like we’re the same person, always speaking as one. It’s enough to make one mad—maybe not mad like mad enough to murder, but more mad like mad like crazy.
Are we making sense with this yet?
Allow us to be clearer: we were once mad enough to murder, but after this falsified murder accusation we are madder like madder like incredibly annoyed, and quickly barreling toward madness like madness at the hands of the late Herman Mildew.
How is that for clarity?
Excerpted from Who Done It? by Jon Scieszka Copyright © 2013 by Jon Scieszka. Excerpted by permission of Soho Teen, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.