C Is For Cannibals: Edited By P.J. Blakey-Novis
Reviewed By J.A. Sullivan
There are some areas in horror that seem overdone with nothing new left to say. I had started to think that about cannibalism, but A-Z of Horror: C is for Cannibals from Red Cape Publishing completely changed my mind. This anthology serves up thirteen fresh takes on the consumption of human flesh and left me hungry for more.
Stories range from science fiction to family dramas, from magic and the occult to extreme horror, creating a vast sampler platter sure to please no matter your personal taste. Even the tales which seem to be heading down familiar paths add innovative twists, gripping the reader tightly.
For example, as soon as I started reading “The Screaming Dinner” by Oscar Kirby, I had an idea of where the plot was heading, but the writing was so strong the author was still able to build tension on every page. As Kevin is introduced to his girlfriend’s parents and brother for the first time, the reader might know things won’t end well for him, but the terror comes from not knowing when the axe will drop. It’s an excellent first entry and the stories only get more intense from here.
The fiercest story in the book was “The Forbidden Banquet” by Dale Parnell – faint of heart readers might want to skip this one, but if you can stomach extreme content this is a must-read. And the extremeness here is more than just violence, there’s a weight of existential angst, delivering a punch to the guts in more ways than one. With an unstoppable meteor set to destroy the Earth, the super-rich plan to go out with one last meal filled with taboo courses. Told from the perspective of a waiter, only known as Smith, we’re shown a world where the restraints of polite society are simultaneously embraced and discarded.
In “Carver’s Hill” by P. J. Blakey-Novis, there’s a completely different take on society, as residents of a small hamlet prepare for the celebration of Harvest Night. For nearly two hundred years the community of Carver’s Hill has maintained the same traditions, with the head of each family taking part in a secret ceremony. Molly Alderson is determined to leave her father and the hamlet behind but waiting to slip out during the festivities may prove to be too late. With a folk horror vibe, this story makes fantastic use of slow-burn pacing and might make you a little more suspicious of small towns.
Leaving communities behind, the anthology also includes stories of isolation, including “Coldwater 61” by J. L. Hoy. Far from shore, in the Gulf of Mexico, there have been reports of a fire on an abandoned oil platform. Expecting to find a fisherman squatting on the rig, the investigators find something much more terrifying. The author provides a wonderfully immersive tale, putting the reader on edge and expecting horror around every corner.
My favourite of this collection was “Pigpen” by Aisling Campbell, which I enjoyed so much I had to read it several times. Here the author paints a picturesque family farm before completely shattering the characters and reader. It’s hard to get into the details of this story without spoiling it, but here’s a snippet to give you an idea of the style:
“People talked about things being skin deep like it was a bad thing, like goodness should be written all the way through to the bone. But Donna saw it differently. A person was only a person so long as they had their skin. Once you took that away, they were nothing. They were clean.”
I loved the emotional rollercoaster of this tale and will be looking for more works from this author.
With a vast range of plots, A-Z of Horror: C is for Cannibals is a fantastic read to the very last bite, and I highly recommend checking it out.
The Kendall Reviews Post Review Interview
J.A. Sullivan Talks To P.J. Blakey-Novis
The A-Z of Horror series is an ongoing project from Red Cape Publishing, and I was fortunate enough to speak with the editor and co-owner of this independent press, P. J. Blakey-Novis.
J. A. Sullivan: Releasing a themed horror anthology for each letter of the alphabet is an ambitious project to put it mildly. What inspired you to start the A-Z of Horror series?
P. J. Blakey-Novis: Our first anthologies were released towards the end of 2019 as a series of four books (Elements of Horror) and have been well received. We wanted to come up with another series for 2020 but had so many themes in mind that this seemed a good way to cover a lot of sub-genres. It is a big project, with each book being released six weeks apart, but it’s been going well so far. If all stays on track, then this takes us through to 2023!
JAS: What’s been the biggest difficulty in deciding which submissions to accept?
PJBN: Probably choosing enough variety. We have been quite fortunate with the quality of submissions but, for B is for Beasts in particular, we had a lot of similar stories sent in. As you know, we selected stories with more unusual creatures than expected but there was more than one great story featuring the same kind of beast.
JAS: Are you currently open for submissions?
PJBN: Yes, on October 1st submissions for H is for Hell will open, and themes for the next few books can be found on the submissions page of our website: www.redcapepublishing.com/submissions/
JAS: Do you have any advice for writers sending in submissions to increase their chances of receiving an acceptance response?
PJBN: Include your name (seriously, we always get a few with no name on!). We’re quite flexible on word count but if the story is way under then please mention that on your email. The story will still be considered but ideally, we’re looking for 4-8k words. And make sure the story fits the theme, but we’re looking for originality. We had a great range for C is for Cannibals and it was these more unusual tales that were selected.
JAS: You’ve also been busy compiling a charity anthology called It Came From The Darkness with Philip Rogers. What can you tell us about this collection and the charity the book will be supporting?
PJBN: This book came about after Phil said he was interested in putting something together and wanted to work with us on it. He’d read Armistice: 100 Days which is a collection of war-themed drabbles and wanted to do something similar with the horror community. We decided that the proceeds from the book would go to the Max the Brave Fund, which raises money for a range of children’s charities and was set up following the loss of Lou Yardley’s nephew in 2019. It Came From The Darkness is coming along well, with a mix of stories, poems, and artwork. A wonderful group of writers, poets, filmmakers, and actors have got involved including Tim Lebbon, Cortney Palm (Zombeavers), Debra Lamb, MJ Dixon, Matthew V. Brockmeyer, and a lot more. We’re currently in the formatting stage and the book will be released on October 30th.
JAS: With multiple anthology projects on the go, a publishing company to run, and writing your own fiction, what does a typical workday look like for you?
PJBN: Ha, that’s an interesting question. It’s certainly been a challenge since the schools closed in March, meaning work time has largely shifted to the evenings. But a standard day usually involves a little bit of everything. Most days I do an hour or so of formatting, a couple of hours of editing, ideally an hour of my own writing too when time allows. In between these I’ll be responding to emails and doing some book promo on social media. Evenings now are taken up with checking over audiobooks that we’re releasing or reading through submissions. So, it is quite busy, but we do try to keep weekends as time off as much as possible.
I’d sincerely like to thank P. J. Blakey-Novis for taking the time to speak with me.
C Is For Cannibals
C is for Cannibals, the third book in an epic series of twenty-six horror anthologies. Within these pages you will find a collection of thirteen gut-wrenching stories from some of the finest independent writers on the scene today. From those with a taste for human flesh to people merely trying to survive, C is for Cannibals contains a range of twisted stories not for the weak of stomach. You have been warned!
P.J. Blakey-Novis is a British writer living on the south coast of England. He is the author of five collections of short horror stories, a horror novella, two novels, and a children’s book. With his wife, Leanne, he is the co-founder of Red Cape Publishing.
Red Cape Publishing Website: www.redcapepublishing.com/
J. A. Sullivan is a horror writer and paranormal enthusiast, based in Brantford, ON, Canada. Attracted to everything non-horror folks consider strange, she’s spent years as a paranormal investigator, has an insatiable appetite for serial killer information, and would live inside a library if she could.
Her latest short story can be found in Don’t Open the Door: A Horror Anthology (out July 26, 2019), and other spooky tales can be found on her blog. She’s currently writing more short stories, a novel, and reading as many dark works as she can find.
You can follow J. A. on Twitter @ScaryJASullivan
Check out her blog https://writingscaredblog.wordpress.com
Find her on Instagram www.instagram.com/j.a_sullivan