You can thank my Mum for my latest, rather gruesome story. No, she didn’t serve us someone’s liver with fava beans and a fine chianti. But she did tell me an old World War 2 joke which, while not being about cannibalism itself, stayed with me for years and provided the basis for ‘Rabbit Stew’.
The joke is a bit of a shaggy doy story involving wartime rationing and a restaurant’s claim to be serving rabbit stew. When a man challenges the chef, he admits there’s some horse meat involved, and finally responds with the classic one-liner “Fifty-fifty, guv. One horse, one rabbit.” I first heard the joke aged about eight and was too young to understand what ‘fifty-fifty’ meant, so Mum had to re-tell the whole thing and substitute ‘half and half’. Once she got to the punchline I thought the idea that a horse and a rabbit could be considered equal was hilarious, so much so it’s become a bit of a family joke about the silliness of statistics.
When I heard, a couple of years ago, that fellow noir author Dana Kabel was looking to put together an anthology with a cannibal theme, for some reason the rabbit stew joke was the first thing that came to mind – and ‘Rabbit Stew’ was born. Needless to say there’s a lot more to it than one old-fashioned joke. I’ve moved it to the present day, and turned the main character into an environmental health inspector. Faced with an equally dodgy back-street ‘greasy spoon’ caff he makes it his life’s mission to shut the place down, but the café’s owner may well get the last laugh.
The story’s in horribly bad taste (pun fully intended) of course, but then what better subject for a whole anthology about cannibals and the taste for human flesh? The book features a bunch of gleefully gruesome tales by no fewer than twenty-one authors, many of them well-known names in the noir and dark crime genres, and has been picked up by Down & Out Books. It’s currently available for pre-order on a variety of platforms including Amazon, and is due to hit your kitchens and dining tables on 26 November. So grab a plate, a knife and a fork and prepare to tuck in. And spare a thought for my Mum, who would probably have been quietly horrified to see her joke put to such a hideous use!