Meet Eddie Dickens, back for a second helping of trouble and strife; the Great Zucchini, an escape artist with an act gone dreadfully wrong; Bonecrusher, an escaped convict as friendly as his name suggests, and Even Madder Aunt Maud, ready for action, with a stuffed stoat called Malcolm...After grappling with a hot-air balloon and some officers of the law, he finds himself falling head-over-heels for a girl with a face like a camel's.
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Philip Ardagh is a full-time writer of fiction and non-fiction, and has written over fifty books for children including The Hieroglyphs Handbook: Teach Yourself Ancient Egyptian and Did Dinosaurs Snore: 100 1/2 Dinosaur Questions. He lives with his wife and two cats in a seaside town somewhere in England. Oh, and he's over 2 metres tall and has a very bushy beard.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
A Message from the Author
Because he likes you
Dreadful Acts is the sequel to Awful End, in which Eddie Dickens (and a number of other characters who lurk within these pages) were first let loose on the reading public. You don’t have to have read Awful End for this book to make sense, it’s a story in its own right . . . and I’m not sure that Awful End made a great deal of sense, anyway. If you enjoy this book, please be sure to tell all your friends about it...
Here We Go Again
In which a hiss becomes a BOOOOM!
Eddie Dickens woke up with a shock. An electric eel had just landed on him from the top pocket of his great uncle’s overcoat. And one thing that can be guaranteed to be shocking is electricity.
Eddie sat up. ‘What’s happening, Mad Uncle Jack?’ he asked, for that was the name he called the thinnest of thin gentleman – with the beakiest of beaky noses – who was leaning over his bed.
‘Come quickly, boy!’ his great-uncle instructed, his top hat brushing against the gas tap of the lamp on the wall. The eel might have had electricity, but this house – Awful End – didn’t.
Eddie didn’t need to be asked twice. The quickest way to escape the eel was to leap from his bed, so leap from his bed he did.
Eddie and his parents lived at Awful End with his great-uncle and great-aunt (Mad Aunt Maud). If you want to find out how they all came to live together, following a series of awfully exciting adventures – though I say so myself – you’ll have to read the first book in this trilogy, called (surprise, surprise) Awful End.
Now where were we? Oh yes: an electric eel in the bed, Eddie Dickens out of the bed, and Mad Uncle Jack’s top hat brushing against the gas tap . . . What’s that hissing noise? Do you think it’s important? Do you think it’s part of the plot?
Mad Uncle Jack snatched up the escaped eel, seemingly unconcerned as the current of electricity passed through his hand and up his arm as he popped it back in his pocket. This rather strange gentleman used dried fish (and eels) to pay his bills but, for some reason we’re bound to discover later, this eel was still alive and slipping. (I can’t really say ‘alive and kicking’ now, can I? Eels – electric or otherwise – don’t have legs.)
Eddie glanced at the clock on the wall. It said six o’clock in the morning.
‘Six o’clock in the morning,’ said the clock – an old joke, but not bad for a clock.
Why was Mad Uncle Jack getting him up so early, Eddie wondered? It must be important. Then again, perhaps not. After all, his great-uncle was completely mad. Stifling a yawn, Eddie pulled on his clothes.
‘Hurry!’ said Mad Uncle Jack through gritted teeth. He didn’t have a gritted pair of his own, so he always carried a pre-gritted pair about his person for just such an occasion. He kept these in a side pocket of his coat rather than in a top pocket. This was why the electric eel, rather than the pair of pre-gritted teeth, had fallen onto his great nephew.
Out on the landing, the early light of dawn filtered through the large picture window. A picture window is a big window, usually with a large enough area of glass to permit one to see a view as pretty as a picture. (Not to be confused with a picture of a window, which is – er – a picture of a window.)
The view from this window was of Mad Uncle Jack’s tree house, built entirely of dried fish, and covered in creosote. The creosote not only protected the tree house from bad weather, but also from the neighbourhood cats (who loved the smell and taste of dried fish but who hated the smell and taste of creosote). Some might think the tree house pretty in the pinky early-morning light. There was something quite salmony about it. That’s the word: salmony.
Still half asleep – which, if my maths serves me correctly, means that he must also have been half awake – Eddie Dickens followed Mad Uncle Jack down the front stairs. He lost his footing a couple of times but managed to remain upright and stumble on.
The heavy velvet curtains were closed in the hallway and it was pitch-black. Pitch is a kind of gooey tar which is very, very black, so pitch-black is a way of saying ‘very, very black’ using fewer letters . . . so long as you don’t then have to explain what ‘pitch’ is, as I’ve just done.
Mad Uncle Jack found the front door by walking into it. The advantage of having the beakiest of beaky noses was that it reached the door way in front of the rest of him, so he managed to limit his injuries.
‘Oooof!’ he said, which is the universal noise a person makes when walking into a door, unless he or she stubs a toe, that is. The universal noise for stubbing a toe is ‘Arrrgh!!!’ (but you can choose the number of exclamation marks that best suits).
‘Are you all right?’ asked Eddie, blinded moments later as his great-uncle threw the door open wide, letting in the morning sunshine.
‘There’s no time to lose, boy,’ said Mad Uncle Jack, a trickle of blood running from his beak- nose, I mean nose.
The picture window on the landing looked out onto his tree house at the back of the building. The front door opened onto the front – the clue is in the name – and there, right in the middle of the huge sweep of gravel driveway, was a hearse.
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