Review: PROTECTORS: Stories to Benefit PROTECT

Forty-one pieces of writing from 41 writers of crime, noir, horror, fantasy, western, and other pulpy goodness. It’s a helluva bargain and the proceeds to go toward lobbying the protection of children from abuse. That last bit is reason enough to plunk down your dollars, but that doesn’t mean you walk away empty-handed. These aren’t just fluffy pieces, churned out in a fit of charity. Some are hard to read, but it’s because they’re haunting, not for lack of grammar and spelling. I mean, you have people like Patricia Abbot and Ken Bruen involved.

As with any story collection, some are better than others. But, like anything, “better” is a subjective term so your opinion and mine may differ. That said, I’ll tell you about a few of my favorites and if you want to tell me about yours, the comments are open.

“Black Shuck” is one of the longer, if not the longest, of the stories and that gives it space to spread out, not in a blobbish way, but in a layered, atmospheric, moody sort of way that drags you deep into the holler and makes you wonder how you or anyone else will ever get out.

“Adeline” left me with all manner of whatifs, both historically and within the story, the even-if-the-plan-worked-was-it-enough sort. “Done for the Day” is about fourteen kinds of sad and desperate. I found it had almost draped over me the day I read it during lunch and had to shake it off vigorously. “Take it Like a Man” serves as a glimmer of hope in the shape of what, for a while, seems like an all-too-familiar tragedy.

“Planning for the Future” might be easier to accept as a story if I hadn’t met girls like that at work. And “A Blind Eye” is about what can happen when ignorance and meanness are met with an overtaxed system. It’s easy for people outside such systems to wonder why no one would catch the first or report the second, but people inside know how hard it is to spot the girl in Funk’s story and how easy it is to mistake something innocent for something malicious (and vice versa), such as in Gray’s tale.

To summarize or give away anything feels unfair. These stories are so compact that it feels like an injustice to let anything out of the bag. Plus, I prefer wandering blindly into short stories. If you’re not that kind of person, editor Pluck has been giving you a taste of one per day over on his Facebook page.

Pros: Most of the stories are very strong and some are by well-known names. Your favorites and mine may differ, but it’s a solid collection and it benefits and good cause.

Cons: Because of the theme, some of the stories can be a trigger for people who have suffered abuse or may be unpleasant for people who dislike reading about abuse. There’s a lot of protection and vengeance in these tales, but just the same… If, however, you feel strongly about the cause, consider giving a copy as a gift or donating to PROTECT directly.

Bottom Line: 39 stories and 2 poems for $4.99 (digital) or $15.95 (paperback) is a good deal. The fact that it goes to help a good cause? Gravy or whipped cream or bourbon — you know, whichever.