PHBC: April Fools by Richie Tankersley Cusick

9780590112918What’s it about?

On their way home from an April Fools Party (who DOESN’T have one of them every year? They’re TOTALLY a thing!), Belinda, Frank and Hildy witness/cause a fiery deathtrap of a car accident. As Belinda watches the other car’s inhabitants burn to a crisp she sees a shady figure watching her. They’ve been seen seeing. Before long, someone is sending Belinda creepy messages to let her know she’s not off the hook.

Creepy Messages?

Yeah! Weird smelling dolls are left in her mailbox; calendars covered in blood; cars following her around; people watching at her bedroom window.

Who could it be?

Well, this is where it gets complicated. In a highly coincidental twist, Belinda is hired to tutor a young man who has just survived a fiery deathtrap of a car accident. Adam, hunky in a psychotic sort of way, seems to have Belinda’s number. Or how about his frosty stepmother or the mysterious British butler, Cobbs?

dalek-destinyThe Girl

Belinda Swanson, while not as punchable as our last RTC heroine, Martha, is, I’m afraid TSTL. Yes TOO STUPID TO LIVE. Within about one chapter, Belinda has figured out Adam may well have been in the crash SHE CAUSED yet she keeps going back to his house of her own volition. TIP: JUST DON’T GO THERE. And yet she does, chapter after chapter, mainly to kiki with Cobbs for half an hour, go to Adam’s room for about a minute and then flee in tears. It’s exhausting.

Far more exciting is veiled Alexis Carrington-esque Mrs Thorne, Adam’s stepmother. You can count how many shits this gold digger gives on one finger. Just the one, for herself. Sadly, the best character sashays away after about three chapters.

A final word on Hildy’s SILVERY BRAIDS. I’ve tried really hard to imagine what this must look like, or what week of the 90s they might have been popular, but I’m really struggling. Even Belinda admits ‘No-one else in the world has hair like that.’ I’m literally baffled. SILVERY BRAIDS.

The Love Interest

Well Frank joins The Babysitter’s Chuck as the most repellent characters in the Point Horror world, so it’s a good job Belinda has both Adam and his half-brother Noel to lust after.

Adam is BAD BROTHER with his scars and brooding while blond Noel is GOOD BROTHER. For the first time in PHBC history, things even get a little racy…

‘His lips moved gently down her neck…his arms went around her, turning her to him, and as her body pressed against his, she could feel his heartbeat, as rapid as her own….Belinda tried to pull back, and his eyes lowered to the lace at her breast.’


Dialogue Disasters

‘Honey, you’re a natural with sick people.’

‘Your accent of course…and you’re very stiff.’ Ooh matron! The Cobbs character is possibly the most racist depiction of a British person ever commitment to page. He might as well serve fish and chips out of his bowler hat.

‘I like to watch you. You look nice in this soft light.’ Is that a read, Noel?

‘You’re looking pretty sentimental.’ Go to a mirror and practice your best sentimental look. Not easy is it?

And a whole special category goes to the HILDY SCHOOL OF BEING A FRIEND:

‘You’re acting kind of depressed…Snap out of it will you? It’s been two weeks.’

‘You better get your act together, you’re being a real bore with all this.’

‘Forget Adam, you’re the one who’s completely crazy. Totally over the edge.’

You got a friend in her.

Body Count: 2

Did the best friend do it? No, although you will want to kill the best friend.

Some Mild Peril

There are actually some scary bits. I found the whispering figure at Belinda’s bedroom window effective and the early scenes with Adam lurking in the shadows are chilling in a Hitchcock way. Depending on your views about snakes there’s also some snake action (although why the Thorne’s have a hallway full of snakes is anyone’s guess).

Is it any good?

Following on from last month’s revelation with The Yearbook, April Fools is yet more proof that 13 year old me was after something very different to 32 year old me. April Fools is archetypal Point Horror, but reading it now really was a chore.

The problem is there’s little to like: Belinda is whiny, Noel is smarmy, Adam is cray, Frank is a dick, Hildy is a grade A bitch. I found myself praying for a scene where Cobbs trapped the lot of them in the garage and left the engine running.

The final twist was neat, but hardly surprising and by that stage you’ve stopped caring. Belinda repeatedly returning to the Thorne house (over and over again) is just too stupid to forgive and the reader’s patience has been exhausted.

I hate being mean. Perhaps Belinda wouldn’t have bothered me twenty years ago. I swear we WILL find an RTC that I love. Teacher’s Pet is in my head as one of the very best.

1d4d017b42a0b3a47f1cf110Next month we pay homage to the MASTER of teen horror, CHRISTOPHER PIKE as we read his only contribution to Point Horror COLLECT CALL from 13 TALES OF HORROR.

Over to you:

1. Why, Belinda, why?

See you next month!



This Book Is GayHere it is! The cover for my second non-fiction title, This Book Is Gay – the ultimate guide to identity, sex, friendship and love for lesbian, gay, bi, trans, queer, curious, straight and just plain nosy people. Featuring over a hundred testimonials from real life LGBT* people, it’s the book that would have made my fifteen year old life a million times easier.

This was such a tough cover to design. My editor, the designer and I had a grand old time trying to come up with something that encapsulated the HUGE message of love and tolerance we hope this book will convey.

We all agreed on one thing. We didn’t want a rainbow anywhere near the cover.

So, erm yeah. What happened? A U-Turn is what happened. We wanted something bold, instantaneous, eye-catching and most importantly PROUD. What could be more proud that the Pride Flag? What I love about the cover is that it’s here, it’s queer, it’s not pretending to be something it’s not. Young LGBT* people shouldn’t have to hide in the shadows so neither will this book. I love how defiant it is. It’s a book that can’t be ignored.

Huge thanks to author Ruth Warburton who was the first to notice that there were six colours in the flag and six words in the title plus my name. Ten points to House Warburton for that one!

You know I’m a mad cover geek, so one day I’ll share the legion of rejected cover directions, of which there are many. We went through slightly bondagey tape, Love Heart candies and unicorns before we finally came up with striking image above. Wait until you see the full cover – the flag wraps all the way around and has loads of gorgeous cover finishes. Phwoar.

This Book Is Gay is available from September 4th and is available to pre-order now.


IMG_2884Hiya! Y’alright? It’s that time again! Yes, SAY HER NAME comes out in precisely one month! REEEEEEE! So exciting! The early reviews have been overwhelmingly positive and I want to thank any bloggers or booksellers who took the time to read the proofs.

Now to business. As a reward for being SUPERFANS I am again running a pre-order offer, which a lot of you jumped on for Cruel Summer last year.

That’s right, the lovely folks at HOT KEY BOOKS are allowing me to send SIGNED, PERSONALISED BOOKPLATES to EVERYONE who pre-orders Say Her Name. Yes, all of you! Each one will have a personal message just for you!

It’s easy. All you have to do is email ( or tweet me (@_jamesdawson) proof that you’ve pre-ordered Say Her Name (from anywhere) and then we’ll post you out a bookplate to stick straight into your shiny new copy of the book when it arrives – which, if you pre-order, will probably arrive on or even before the release date of June 5th.

So get ordering! If you’re TRULY a superfan and you’ve already ordered your copy, again just tweet or email me proof of your existing order. The last thing I want is for someone who’s already pre-ordered to miss out.

Keep your eyes peeled for all things Mary in the run up to release day!

James x