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Authors: Ellen Raskin

The Westing Game

BOOK: The Westing Game
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Table of Contents
 
Sunset Towers
The sun sets in the west (just about everyone knows that), but Sunset Towers faced east. Strange!
Sunset Towers faced east and had no towers. This glittery, glassy apartment house stood alone on the Lake Michigan shore five stories high. Five empty stories high.
Then one day (it happened to be the Fourth of July), a most uncommon-looking delivery boy rode around town slipping letters under the doors of the chosen tenants-to-be. The letters were signed
Barney Northrup
.
The delivery boy was sixty-two years old, and there was no such person as Barney Northrup. . . .
 
 
 
 
“In [
The Westing Game
] the author shows once more that no one can beat her at intrigue, at concocting marvelous absurdities.”

Publishers Weekly
OTHER TITLES AVAILABLE IN PREMIUM EDITIONS:
SPEAK
Published by the Penguin Group
Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 345 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, U.S.A.
Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700,
Toronto, Ontario, Canada M4P 2Y3 (a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.)
Penguin Books Ltd, 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England
Penguin Ireland, 25 St Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2, Ireland
(a division of Penguin Books Ltd)
Penguin Group (Australia), 250 Camberwell Road, Camberwell, Victoria 3124, Australia
(a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty Ltd)
Penguin Books India Pvt Ltd, 11 Community Centre,
Panchsheel Park, New Delhi - 110 017, India
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(a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd)
Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty) Ltd, 24 Sturdee Avenue,
Rosebank, Johannesburg 2196, South Africa
Registered Offices: Penguin Books Ltd, 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England
First published in the United States of America by E. P. Dutton,
a division of Penguin Books USA, Inc., 1978
Published by Puffin Books, 1992
Reissued, 1997
This edition published by Speak, an imprint of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 2008
Copyright © Ellen Raskin, 1978
eISBN : 978-1-101-15745-9

http://us.penguingroup.com


FOR JENNY
who asked for a puzzle-mystery

AND SUSAN K.
INTRODUCTION
Until 1970, Ellen Raskin was considered an illustrator, not an author, although she had written the texts of her notable picture books, such as
Nothing Ever Happens on My Block
;
And It Rained
; and
Spectacles
. And until 1969, I didn’t really know her, although when I was the children’s-book editor at Holt, Rinehart and Winston, she had illustrated
Books: A Book to Begin On,
by Susan Bartlett, and
Come Along!
, by Rebecca Caudill—as well as doing for us some of the one thousand book jackets of which she was so proud.
Our friendship really began in the smoking car (like the title character of
Moe Q. McGlutch
, Ellen smoked too much) of a Pennsylvania Railroad train en route from New York to Philadelphia, where we were both speaking on a panel. I stopped to say hello, and she said, “I’m sitting here alone because I’m so nervous. I hate speaking.” “I hate it, too,” I said, “and I’ve given up smoking.” In the depressed gloom that followed this exchange, the beginning of a bond was formed.
That same year I moved from Holt to E. P. Dutton. Their office was located at Union Square and Seventeenth Street, only a short walk from Ellen’s apartment on Eighth Street, and we got together more often. One day, Ellen confided that she had always wanted to adapt
Goblin Market,
by Christina Rossetti, as a picture-book text. I thought of the lavishly rich visual details of the poem, and I longed to see how she would illustrate it. ”Would you do the book for me?” I asked. “Yes,” she answered. “Jean [Jean Karl, her editor at Atheneum] doesn’t want it.” Ellen was always candid. So she did do it—her first book for Dutton. One of her exquisitely intricate paintings for that book now hangs on my wall.
We often talked about our lives, and I particularly loved stories about her family and how she and her parents and sister drove around the country during the Great Depression so her father could look for work, an epic safari that took them from Milwaukee to California. “You should write a book about growing up in the Depression,” I told her.
And she did. But it was not exactly the semiautobiographical young-adult novel I had in mind. Instead, about a year later she showed up in my office with the manuscript of
The Mysterious Disappearance of Leon (I mean Noel).
I loved it. Who could not love a book with the immortal line “Grape Mrs. Carillon.” But it was not about the Great Depression. Or was it??
Ellen went on to write
Figgs & Phantoms,
a many-layered, intricately plotted, and deeply touching book. And then her delicious tribute to Sherlock Holmes,
The Tattooed Potato and Other Clues.
By this time she had moved from Eighth Street, and the book was set in her new home at 12 Gay Street in New York’s Greenwich Village, a charming nineteenth-century brick house that Ellen and her husband, Dennis Flanagan, the editor of
Scientific American,
shared with Ellen’s daughter Susan and her husband. In the book, Ellen described the house with an artist’s visual detail, especially the way light flooded the studio from a huge skylight high in the roof.
It was there, in her studio, that she wrote and illustrated what was to be her last book,
The Westing Game.
As always, I didn’t know what it would be about, because Ellen didn’t know herself. She said that if she knew what was going to happen in a book, she would be too bored to write it. The carrot for her was watching the plot unfold. And, yes, she invented that incredibly complex plot of clues within clues as she went along. What a mind she had!
Mine was really put to the test in trying to keep it all straight in order to double-check her. She relied on me to do that and to tell her when her writing was “too adult.” She said, with her usual candor, that she didn’t know what children’s books were like. She read only adult ones. But I never even tried to edit her “for children.” She was too wise, too funny, too ingenious—and therefore unique—to tamper with in that way. She said that she wrote for the child in herself, but for once I think she was wrong. I think she wrote for the adult in children. She never disre spected them or “wrote down,” because she didn’t know how.
Much has been written about Ellen’s many-faceted persona: financial wizard who made a solid piece of capital on the stock market; serious book collector; musician who set William Blake’s poetry to music she wrote herself, and who loved Schubert with a passionate reverence. But above all, she was brave. She loved the chutzpah of New Yorkers because she had it, too. When she was asked to read aloud an excerpt from
The Westing Game
on a program at the New York Public Library, she chose Chapter 14, including the part where Theo sings the third verse of “America, the Beautiful” to Angela. She rehearsed by singing it out loud on the subway, figuring that if she could sing it there, she could certainly perform it before a friendly audience of librarians. She could and did.
As I said, Ellen and I were bonded friends. As my friend, she told me about the illness that was the true test of her bravery. It was a disease of the connective tissues that caused her great pain. When it was in remission, she was full of energy and went full tilt—working on her many interests, including a huge vegetable garden at their cottage on the Long Island shore. But gradually the periods of remission grew shorter and shorter, and the disease claimed her life in 1984, when she was (Ellen, forgive me for telling your age) only fifty-six. Dennis held a memorial service in the studio under the skylight. After he gave the eulogy, a string quartet played Schubert’s
Death and the Maiden.
I still cannot hear that music without a stab of pain.
I know how glad she would be that
The Westing Game
has already had twenty-five good years in print, and is about to be introduced to a new generation of readers.
Readers, you are in for a treat. Get your wits about you. The
Game
is about to begin.
Ellen, rest in peace.
 
 
Ann Durell
New York City
1
SUNSET TOWERS
THE SUN SETS in the west (just about everyone knows that), but Sunset Towers faced east. Strange!
Sunset Towers faced east and had no towers. This glittery, glassy apartment house stood alone on the Lake Michigan shore five stories high. Five empty stories high.
Then one day (it happened to be the Fourth of July), a most uncommon-looking delivery boy rode around town slipping letters under the doors of the chosen tenants-to-be. The letters were signed
Barney Northrup.
The delivery boy was sixty-two years old, and there was no such person as Barney Northrup.
Dear Lucky One:
 
Here it is—the apartment you’ve always dreamed of, at a rent you can afford, in the newest, most luxurious building on Lake Michigan:
SUNSET TOWERS
• Picture windows in every room
• Uniformed doorman, maid service
• Central air conditioning, hi-speed elevator
• Exclusive neighborhood, near excellent schools
• Etc., etc.
You have to see it to believe it. But these unbelievably elegant apartments will be shown by appointment only. So hurry, there are only a few left!!! Call me now at 276-7474 for this once-in-a-lifetime offer.
 
Your servant,
Barney Northrup
 
P.S. I am also renting ideal space for:
• Doctor’s office in lobby
• Coffee shop with entrance from parking lot
• Hi-class restaurant on entire top floor
BOOK: The Westing Game
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ads

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