Category Archives: The Point Horror Book Club

The Baby-Sitter – R.L. Stine

I am a little late for the Point Horror Book Club, alas yesterday I was taken over by a migraine and so spent the morning trying to stave it off, then having to simply let it have its wicked way all afternoon and evening – missing two bloody parties too I will have you know. However some of you are running late to this too, shame on you, by not getting your mitts on some of these Point Horror gems. I know some people have been surprised to see Savidge Reads take on this monthly challenge, especially when my other monthly challenge The Persephone Project (which we will be catching up with on Sunday) is rather at the other end of the spectrum of books and literature. Yet one thing I have been thinking about is how reading needs to be fun, and my reading sometimes needs to be more fun, and revisiting these dark yet kind of camp classics of my childhood is the perfect thing. Anyway the latest Point Horror Book Club choice has been R.L. Stine’s ‘The Baby-Sitter’ which I actually think all wannabe crime and horror writers should read, seriously.

**** Scholastic Books, paperback, 1989, fiction, 203 pages, from my own personal TBR

**** Scholastic Books, paperback, 1989, fiction, 203 pages, from my own personal TBR

For Jenny Jeffers money is tight and Christmas will soon be here. Needing the extra cash to help her mother she takes a job babysitting for the Hagen’s on the other side of town every Thursday and Saturday. The Hagen’s house is (surprise, surprise) rather like something out of a horror movie. Surrounded by woods and rather a way off the main road, their decrepit house and Mr Hagen’s odd nervous disposition would make any teenager feel slightly uneasy. Throw in the fact that Jenny has a highly over active imagination, some maniac has been beating up/killing local babysitters and the fact Jenny is in the 80’s and doesn’t have a smart phone and you are headed for horrors ahoy aren’t you?

“Maybe the kids a monster,” Jenny said, somehow feeling she had to justify her nervousness. “Maybe the parents are weird. Maybe they belong to some sort of secret cult and when I find out about it, they keep me locked up in the basement for the rest of my life so I can’t tell anyone. Maybe the house is haunted. There’s the ghost of a young girl trapped in the attic, and I accidentally let her out, and she inhabits my body and I’m not the same person anymore.”

I am slightly saddened that I had read last month’s Point Horror Book Club choice, ‘Trick or Treat’ by Richie Tankersley Cusick (a review that shows me at my most natural), before we read ‘The Baby-Sitter’ because the two both use the same object of fear – the creepy phone call. Now I know, rather like cosy crimes, most Point Horror’s do stick to the same-ish scenario but these two are very similar from that perspective. What we have to remember is that Stine did it first and so really, apart from the original urban legend of the babysitter who is called by a scary voice from the house she is in, that is what we should remember. Also Stine shows he is a master of building suspense and ending chapters on a cliff hanger that means you have to read on, hence why any budding horror or crime writer should be reading this.

For a horror novel, regardless of the market it is aimed at, ‘The Baby-Sitter’ actually lacks a lot of full on terror or jumpy moments. There are a few of the latter yet what Stine does impeccably with this book is build a sense of unease, tension and menace. Each time Jenny goes to the Hagen’s something creepy happens (a sinister phone call, banging outside, neighbours creeping around, cars parked sinisterly on the end of the drive) so as she goes back each time to babysit for the (very precocious and also sinister) little boy Donny, after convincing herself it is all in her very over active imagination, we are waiting for the next slightly more awful thing to happen until it comes to a head. I thought this was done really deftly and honestly lots of writers, budding or not actually, could learn from this.

Our host, James Dawson, your dream babysitter

Our host, James Dawson, your dream babysitter

So good was it that I forgave him for bringing in one of the most annoying characters I have ever come across in the form of Jenny’s possible boyfriend Chuck. Irritating doesn’t even cover it. Unhinged too, which adds to it all, could it be that Jenny’s own possible love interest could be the one calling and threatening her? I also forgave Stine for lines like “Let’s go into Sock City,” Jenny said. “I like to look at socks.” I don’t know any teenagers who like socks, or even give a monkey’s about their socks, not so in the case of Jenny and her friends.

I’m really pleased I read ‘The Baby-Sitter’ and actually think it was the first time I had read it, which is quite shocking as it is one of the most famous with several sequels and I was such a fan of this series as a youth. You can see why Stine became one of the kings of teen horror, he puts a real effort into unnerving the reader and building the fear rather than going over the top like ‘Trick or Treat’ did – enjoyable as it was. Alas I don’t see any writing courses taking me seriously and popping this on any courses about suspense, unease and atmosphere but they bloody well should.

So who joined in to read this and what did you make of it? Which were your favourite Point Horror’s that we should be looking out for? Did Point Horrors completely pass you by? Have you read any of Stine’s other non PH work and should I be off to read that? Don’t forget to pop to host James’ website for more and do join us next month for ‘Funhouse’ by Diane Hoh.

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Filed under R.L. Stine, Review, Scholastic Books, The Point Horror Book Club

Trick or Treat – Richie Tankersley Cusick

Well we are going from one extreme to the other on Savidge Reads. Yesterday we had the latest Persephone Project instalment, the diaries of a victim of the holocaust, now today we have the first in the Point Horror Book Club organised by the lovely James Dawson. Some might see this as going from the sublime to the ridiculous. Well, that is how we roll here at Savidge Reads as, after all, we all like to read a wide range of varied material don’t we? I have to say reading ‘Trick or Treat’, by Richie Tankersley Cusick which was also the 6th ever (out of hundreds) Point Horror novel, has been a chilling, comforting, nostalgic and occasionally laugh out loud experience.

**** Scholastic Books, paperback, 1989, fiction, 209 pages, from my own personal TBR

As ‘Trick or Treat’ opens, our heroine (though this becomes debatable, as she is a bit of a pain in the arse – more on that later) Martha has been uprooted from her life in Chicago as her father, only two years after the death of his wife and Martha’s mother, has married (via elopement, shock horror) Sally and so now they are all moving in together, with Sally’s son Conor, to a house in the arse end of nowhere that is very creepy and resides between a wood and a cemetery. Once there Martha feels an extra specially spooky coldness in her room, as if something awful happened in there, and soon enough she starts getting strange phone calls. Could this be to do with the not so distant murder of the young girl, Elizabeth, whose room it was and who Martha looks rather spookily like? (Erm, yes!)

‘The phone rang.
With a surge of relief Martha remembered that Blake was going to call, and she raced for the phone before Conor could answer it.
“Hello?”
“Hello, Elizabeth,” the voice whispered.
And it wasn’t Blake who drew a long, raspy breath… and let it out again… breathing… breathing… while her heart beat like a frantic wing in her throat.
“Who – who is this?”
It wasn’t Blake who began to laugh and then suddenly went quiet – the awful, terrible silence going on and on forever…
“Hello/” Martha cried. “Who is this!”
“You’re dead, Elizabeth. Trick or treat.”’

Now to be fair, if this happened to me I would be quite miffed. Yet Martha practically screams (and scream she does a lot, or often ends on the verge of a scream, hand clasped to mouth) VICTIM. She’s clearly very hormonal and full of teenage angst, mainly hating everyone in the world she finds herself and yet wondering why she can’t make many friends. A mystery that isn’t it?

Fortunately she is fairly pretty and the local heart throb, Blake, takes a shine to her. In fact many men seem to fall for her – it must be her almost constant fear of everything and blonde hair – even one of her teachers (who is Blake’s cousin) and possibly her own stepbrother seem strangely besotted with her. Ewww. Mind you, one of them is most likely a murderer, so not really a catch after all. I have to say if I had spent much time with her I might have been tempted to become a psychopath myself and wanted to kill her, so I started to thoroughly enjoy her torment and whoever was causing it the more the book went on.

To be serious for a moment (all adopt serious faces please, right now) I have to admit that Richie Tankersley Cusick, who shall be known from now as RTC to save my fingers, is bloody (see what I did there, oh no serious face again) good at creating a real sense of unease. She makes an old spooky house really spooky, a school late one evening very threatening and I did genuinely get chills and thrills as I was reading along.

 ‘“The house looked strangely ghostlike, rising through pale wisps of fog, its dark stone walls and chimneys interwoven with bare, twisted trees. Silhouetted there in the twilight, its gables crawled with dead ivy, it’s tattered awnings drooping like eyelids hiding secrets. Like something in a dream, not quite real. Not quite safe…”’

I also did rather a lot of laughing, in a nice way. The younger me who read these, and I am sure I read this one back in the day though it is a fuzzy memory, would have been revelling half thrilled and half horrified in the melodrama of it all. Now, as a 31 year old, part of me was still scared (no, really, I was – delightfully so) but part of me just laughed at the camp nature of it all.

‘“I’m dead,” Martha whispered, and she began to cry, and Conor held her tighter and rocked her.
“No. It was only a nightmare. Go back to sleep.”
“I’m scared,” Martha said, her voice was muffled against his bare shoulder, and sleep was a deep, deep sea, pulling her down.’

See isn’t Martha a drama queen? Honestly, tut – she had only seen a shadow! I think we all know who Martha grew up to be don’t we?

I am so, so glad that the lovely James of Dawson has decided to start this book group/challenge. I had forgotten the world where everyone drove a ‘station wagon’ (which I thought every American owned and was so jealous we just had a Nissan Micra), where your teachers were “boyishly handsome”, where all the boys were “so strong, yet so tender” often running “hands through thick, tawny hair” and where your parents were writers and artists and just buggered off for weeks leaving you alone at the hands of a psychopath! Honestly… it is compulsive reading, you can see why I loved them can’t you?  They are like the horror of Stephen King meets the camper jumpy horror of the Scream films meets the gothic of Rebecca meets teenage Mills and Boon meets Scooby Doo. Genius! If you haven’t read one you really should just for the experience and ‘Trick or Treat’ ticks all the Point Horror boxes. You’ll be chilled, thrilled, laugh a lot and just really enjoy yourself, what could be better in a book than that. I can’t wait for R.L. Stine’s (the God of Point Horror) ‘The Baby-sitter’ on the 13th of next month.

Speaking of enjoyment, I have really enjoyed reviewing this book. I am pondering if I should make all my reviews like this, slightly sarcastic yet good humouredly so, what do you think? Back to Point Horror’s though, who else read this – either as a teenager or an adult – and what did you think? (Do not forget to read, and comment on, James’ hilarious review of this book.) Will you be joining in for more frightening frolics as we go?

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Filed under Review, Richie Tankersley Cusick, Scholastic Books, The Point Horror Book Club

The Point Horror Book Club

I’ve been meaning to tell you all about this project, which the lovely James Dawson has started, for the last two weeks! Alas as I have seemed almost incapable of blogging I’ve not done so which is truly rubbish of me as it is a project that I think is going to be bloody good fun.

As a youth, now back in those distant mists of time, I absolutely freaking loved Point Horror novels. For those of you who missed them, or were children in the 90’s these were novels of (frankly rather unbelievable and probably rather lite) peril in which a perky popular heroine, if my memory serves, somehow ended up being haunted, hunted, or both, by a freak/ghost/murderer which most likely ended up being her boyfriend who didn’t really seem to have any other way of ridding himself of her. Utterly trashy, utterly brilliant and made me read like a fiend.

(This was just before I had my ‘books are crap’ phase, due to GCSE English back then, when I promptly gave them all away… Simple Simon!)

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So anyway, James Dawson (he who wrote ‘Hollow Pike‘ which both me and my 14 year old sister became united on the teen thrills of) has had the genius idea of reading them again as adults. To quote his lordship…

“Here’s how the POINT HORROR BOOK CLUB will work. Each month there will be a new title. I’ll read it and write my thoughts here. If you, dear reader, can be arsed, raid your attic, charity shop or eBay and join in. We can discuss each title on a special area of this very website (which my lovely web chum is in the process of creating). On twitter, use the hashtag #pointhorrorbookclub so I don’t miss your thoughts.

The first title will be the first Point Horror released in the UK, 1991′s TRICK OR TREAT by Richie Tankersley Cusick. I’ve already lined up a few titles I’m going to revist. After that, if we can still be bothered, we’ll vote for the next title. Being a me thing, it’s very laid back. You can join in as much or as little as you want.”

Now I had thought they would be a nightmare (see what I did there) to get hold of but not so, as James mentioned eBay and other sites hag them plus charity, and in the case of all the above I got on binge, second hand book shops do a good line.

We will be discussing them on the 13th of every month, I think I am allowed to say I had that slight genius stroke, starting Monday with ‘Trick or Treat’ and then ‘The Babysitter’ on the 13th of June. How fun is this going to be? I’m so excited. Please tell me your going to be joining in?!? Remember you can leave comments here and/or on James’ site – link above. I’m looking forward to much nostalgia… I hope I can find the one where the girl got tied to a perilous pier as the tide came in, oh the tension!

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Filed under Random Savidgeness, The Point Horror Book Club