Herman Mildew was a cantankerous, unpleasant book editor who built up enemies throughout publishing. He was gluttonous, odious, insufferable and entirely fictional. Still, that didn't make it any more shocking when he was brutally murdered during a completely invented gathering of more than 80 bestselling YA and children's authors, including Lemony Snicket, John Green, Libba Bray, Lev Grossman, Maureen Johnson and Lauren Myracle.
All are suspects, and have had to write their alibis. The problem is, can you trust a roomful of fabulists? Their defensive statements have been compiled in a hugely entertaining anthology called Who Done It?, edited by Jon Scieszka ($17.99, Soho Teen), with all proceeds going to 826 National, Dave Eggers's network of writing and tutoring centers for students aged 6-18.
It seemed apt to excerpt the defensive statement from Dave Eggers himself. Did he do it? It's your call.
I did not kill Mildew, but I tried. Repeatedly. So my alibi is really just a list of failed attempts.
I started trying to kill Mildew back in the mid-1970s.
As you know, Mildew is a gluttonous man, so back in ’78 I thought I’d send him giant sausages every day, hoping that he would eat each one and have a heart attack by the end of the month. It didn’t happen. These were huge sausages, at least four feet each, but he ate all thirty-one and asked for more. Now the man is six hundred pounds and covered in boils. And he still eats a giant sausage every day. He thanks me for it.
In 1979, someone had just made a disco version of all the songs from Star Wars. I bought the record and sent it to Mildew, hoping it would melt his brain. It didn’t. He hums the theme, the disco version, every time I see him.
He thanks me for that, too.
In 1980, I intercepted a shipment—long story—of a particularly smelly type of banana called a durian. At first I thought I would send the durians to him, hoping he’d eat them all and choke—or suffocate from the smell. But I’d learned from the sausage experience, so instead I figured I’d just drop them all on his house. So I rented a cargo plane, loaded it with the durians, and dropped them from about 4,200 feet. They crushed his house, sure, but he survived. He was in his basement, eating sausages. That’s where he eats them.
Turns out he wanted to renovate his house, and the durians flattening it gave him the push and insurance money he needed to get the job done. He invites me over to his new place all the time. I want to thank you! he says.
Since then, I’ve tried a few dozen different ways of doing him in. I sent an infestation of hermit crabs into his house. I’d heard they were aggressive around fat men, but this was not true. They were tame, even friendly. So I sent in those kinds of frogs that give you hallucinations if you lick them. Mildew, though, who licks or eats anything he can reach, didn’t lick them. He named them.
Now he thanks me for introducing him to the crabs and the frogs. They’re some of my best friends, he says.
A few years ago I met a monkey who seemed like it could be trained to kill a guy like Mildew. So the monkey and I went through six weeks of intense Mildew-killing training. I taught the monkey how to kill Mildew with a wiffle-ball bat, a handsaw, and a pair of pliers. Lots of stuff like that. Finally I felt like the monkey was trained well and ready to go. I sent the monkey into Mildew’s house—his new house—and what happens? Three months later they were married. Turns out the monkey was a girl, and Mildew really had a thing for lady monkeys.
He thanks me for that, too. You introduced me to my wife! he says. Come over and let me thank you with dinner! You can visit the frogs and crabs, too!
Since then, I’ve tried offing Mildew with schemes involving the usual tools—ball-bearings, duct tape, okapis, groups of Canadian teenagers. None of these things have worked. The sinkhole did not work. The locusts did not work. The bundt cake filled with C-4 did not work. Sending him the collected wisdom of Rick Santorum did not work. Mildew is a hard man to kill.
So when I heard Mildew was dead, it was bittersweet. I was glad he was dead, but sad that I had not been the one to do it. I’m probably alone among your suspects in that I’m not going to bother with an alibi. I wish I’d done it, but I did not.