Zakk reviews I Can Taste the Blood edited by John F.D. Taff and Anthony Rivera

“Ex Libris, The Eyes of Madness, simple reviews from a simple reader…”

Zakk reviews I Can Taste the Blood edited by John F.D. Taff and Anthony Rivera. 290 pages published by Grey Matter Press.

“Like my Uncle Ray said after somebody asked him how it was to do twelve big ones in the state pen, ‘A crazy motherfucker ain’t got no limits.'”


Five Unique Voices. Five Disturbing Visions. One Nightmare.

From Bram Stoker Award-nominated authors Josh Malerman, the newly minted master of modern horror, and John F.D. Taff, the “King of Pain,” to the mind-bending surrealism of Erik T. Johnson, the darkly poetic prose of J. Daniel Stone and the transgressive mania of Joe Schwartz, I CAN TASTE THE BLOOD offers up five novellas from five unique authors whose work consistently expands the boundaries of conventional fiction.

I CAN TASTE THE BLOOD opens the doors to a movie theater of the damned; travels the dusty, sin-drenched desert with an almost Biblical mysterious stranger; recounts the phantasmagoric story of birth, death and rebirth; contracts a hit that’s not at all what it seems; and exposes the disturbing possibilities of what might be killing Smalltown, U.S.A.

As diverse as they are, in voice and vision, the work of the five celebrated authors assembled in this stunning volume of terror share one common theme, one hideous and terrifying nightmare that can only be contained within the pages of I CAN TASTE THE BLOOD.

The book has an introduction by John F. D. Taff about the impetus of the book and an afterword featuring comments by each author.

Edited by John F.D. Taff and Anthony Rivera.

For more information, visit or

“Canny is in deep dreaming, the kind that takes place on the darkest side of every moon, far beyond recall. It’s an instance of a long-recurring nightmare he’ll never remember having, almost doesn’t belong to him, unfolds in his brain like an inquiline parasite, a non-event that Takes Place. A sort of doodling within a pufferfish-poison trance—scene, figure, face. In this dream he walks a path through an expansive, unfamiliar park, cold wind filtered by branches into fog, the atmosphere misted with the whispered reiterations of F (as in fucked) and S (as in lost. Should he continue this way, the path will lead beneath a stone bridge into the blindness of a troglodytic universe.”

I can taste the blood. Such a simple phrase, that is until you actually take a moment to let it sink in. Let it ignite some synapses, follow the thoughts down the rabbit hole and explore what it can actually mean. Suddenly, that simple phrase becomes something quite heavy.

I can taste the blood. A collection of five ambiguously titled novellas connected only by a simple, yet complex phrase and the fire that it ignites. This is an enjoyable read, and a perfect time for it, as summer fades into fall and all the macabre thoughts and fancies take a magical spin. To me anyway. Really though, what better than reading dark fiction as the nights start to take on a chill? Not much.

I’m sure that I’m in the minority here when I say that going in to this read I had little to zero experience with the group of authors presented here. Yes, I was familiar all five names beforehand, as they are usually followed with “dude, you need to read…” And yes, yes I do need to read. It made this book all the more exciting.

This is not, generally speaking, a horror collection. It is dark for sure, dark as the day is long. But the five yarns that weave the book inhabit different styles, different tones. I wasn’t expecting this at all. With the cover an effective gore on white montage, I figured it was going to horror down the line. Alas, it is not. And anytime I get to step out of my horror comfort zone is a welcome time.

The line-up:

Vision I by Josh Malerman (dude, you need to read Bird Box…) starts things with a fable of sorts. It’s a good read, hypnotic in a way, and I really dug the circumstances as to how the tale unfolds. Great setting and interesting characters, it’s a nice way to kick things off. My first Malerman read, cheers.

Vision II by J. Daniel Stone (dude, you need to read Turn to Ash…) brings a tale of addiction and underground art-house cinema. It’s packed with many unsettling scenes and blanketed by a general sense of unease. My first Stone read, solid.

Vision III by Joe Schwartz (dude, you need to read A Season Without Rain…) is a twisted urban crime yarn. I dug the main character quite a bit. He’s a charmer, a violent charmer. And who isn’t enamored with the trials and tribulations of being hired muscle… My first Schwartz read and it’s an entertaining one.

Vision IV by Erik T. Johnson (dude, you need to read The Chapman Books) brings the mind fuck. Vision IV made me feel intoxicated, which I kind of like, a lot. This one needs a reread, as soon as possible, at least while it’s still fresh. I wonder if I read it while intoxicated will it stop the vortex of dizziness or drive me crazy? My first Johnson read… and probably my second as well. Knuckles.

Vision V by John F.D. Taff (dude, you NEED to read The End in All Beginings…) wraps up the collection with a fun creature feature-ish piece. I dug this one a lot as I am a long time fan of monsters, creatures, and the sort. This is my second Taff read having recently finished The Desolate Orchard, he is a hell of a storyteller, weaving an intricate yarn and this is a fine way to close out a solid collection. (pssst, dude, have you heard the legend about the elusive Sunken Cathedral…)

Step inside, crack that spine, taste the blood. You may find that you crave it.

“It’s a curious thing when you figure out there is no hope.”

Overall score: 4/ 5

Zakk is a big dumb animal!

**Note: I received a review copy of this book from the publisher/ publicist on the promise of an honest review. These are my unbiased feelings.

Purchase and GoodReads Links



Author Biographies

– Josh Malerman

Josh Malerman is the author of Bird Box and Ghastle and Yuleand some forty other novels and stories that he wishes he could release all in one day… and he just might do that! He lives in Michigan with his fiancee Allison Laakko and their two cats Dewey and Frankie. Used to be three cats, but Dandy died on Halloween, begging the question: will the color orange always make Josh sad? Or will he see Dandy amongst the pumpkins, deliriously, happily, for the rest of his days…

– J. Daniel Stone

J. Daniel Stone is the pseudonym for a hotheaded Italian kid from New York City. He has been a menace to society since 1987 and continues to terrorize local bookstores, art galleries and dive bars.

When he is not causing mischief, Stone reads, writes and attends as many rock shows as possible. He is the intermittently proud father of two bastard children: The Absence of Light (2013) and Blood Kiss (2016). Somewhere, out there in the dark, one can find more of his illegitimate spawns telling imaginative stories. Find him on Twitter @SolitarySpiral.

– Joe Schwartz

In 2008, Joe’s Black T-Shirt: Short Stories About St. Louis was published as a personal favor for friends of Joe Schwartz. The idea that people outside of Schwartz’s limited Midwestern world could find these dark, and occasionally personal, stories entertaining was as exciting as it was mysterious for the first-time author. Since then, he has written two more collections of short stories as well as the novels A Season Without Rain and Adam Wolf and The Cook Brothers – A Tale of Sex, Drugs and Rock&Roll. The kind of stories he tells have been described as “a sharp punch to the gut” and disarming “like a sunny day in Hell.”

– Erik T. Johnson

Erik T. Johnson doesn’t believe in order or boxes. He became a writer because he can’t make a straight line to save his life—since stories consist of terrifically asymmetrical, random sequences of random shapes. Also because of what Georges Bataille meant by: “I write the way a child cries: a child slowly relinquishes the reasons he has for being in tears.”

Johnson is a Written Backwards DARWA Voice Award-winner whose fiction appears in renowned places, such as Space & Time Magazine, Tales of the Unanticipated, Qualia Nous, and all three volumes of the award-winning Chiral Mad series.

Erik is certain unreliable narrators don’t exist—only unreliable authors. He will prove his uncompromising reliability when his first book of short stories is published in 2016.

Visit Erik at

Stalk him on Twitter @YES_TRESPASSING.

Curse him at your own risk, do other stuff when it suits you.

– John F.D. Taff

John F.D. Taff has been writing for about 25 years now, with more than eighty short stories and four novels in print. Six of his stories have been awarded honorable mention in Ellen Datlow’sYear’s Best Horror & Fantasy.

His collection Little Deaths was named the best horror fiction collection of 2012 by HorrorTalk. His 2014 collection of novellas, The End in All Beginnings, was published by Grey Matter Press. Jack Ketchum called it “the best novella collection I’ve read in years,” and it was a finalist for a Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in a Fiction Collection.

Taff’s work also appears in Single Slices, Gutted: Beautiful Horror Stories and The Beauty of Death.

He lives in the wilds of Illinois with a wife, a cat and three pugs.

Praise for I Can Taste the Blood and for Grey Matter Press

“Only a group of psychopaths would assemble a book such as this. Bloody brilliant, and beautifully executed. Taste this.” – Michael Bailey, Bram Stoker Award-winning editor of THE LIBRARY OF THE DEAD

“I CAN TASTE THE BLOOD is a tour de force for Grey Matter Press and for the five outstanding dark fiction authors gathered here. If you’ve read their work before, then you’ll know what we’re talking about, and if you haven’t, you won’t find a better place to start than right here.”
– Shane Douglas Keene, THIS IS HORROR

“It is the slow burn, the creeping doubt, the inherent violence, the lore made real. Through exotic locations, where the wind blows from within; flashing across the silver screen, violence echoing into the night; pulled from the trunk of a car, dark deeds that deserve retribution; a monster lying in wait, one more city down every road. Haunting and disturbing, even now, I CAN TASTE THE BLOOD” – Richard Thomas, author of BREAKER and TRIBULATIONS

“While this quintet of authors may taste the blood, we readers will feel the fright of their nightmare visions, sense the dread, the thrills, the awe of their standout voices. MALERMAN, STONE, SCHWARTZ, JOHNSON, and TAFF: The five points of a brilliant star that herald short horror mastery.” – Eric J. Guignard, fictionist, winner of the Bram Stoker Award and finalist for the International Thriller Writers Award
Praise for Grey Matter Press

“Grey Matter Press has managed to establish itself as one of the premiere purveyors of horror fiction currently in existence via both a series of killer anthologies –SPLATTERLANDS, OMINOUS REALITIES, EQUILIBRIUM OVERTURNED — and John F.D. Taff’s harrowing novella collection THE END IN ALL BEGINNINGS.” – FANGORIA

“The dark, all-encompassing theme seems to be the trademark of Grey Matter Press. When asked for a referral I often state without hesitation to the very press that has enchanted my reading attention.” – Dave Gammon, HORROR NEWS

About Grey Matter Press

Grey Matter Press is a Chicago-based publisher whose mission it is to discover and cultivate the best voices working in dark fiction. The company is committed to producing only the finest quality volumes of exceptional fiction for its readers.Since the publication of their first volume in late 2013, Grey Matter Press has released a succession of bestselling titles, including two of which that have been nominated for the prestigious Bram Stoker Award. FANGORIA Magazine says of the publisher: “Grey Matter Press has managed to establish itself as one of the premiere purveyors of horror fiction currently in existence.” For more information visit or follow the publisher on Twitter at @GreyMatterPress.

Like to Feature?

If you are a professional blogger or media outlet, please contact Erin Al-Mehairi at about a review copy or to schedule an interview or feature with any of the authors.

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