Anthologies designed to raise monies for a cause are becoming more and more common. This is true here with Protectors: Stories to Benefit PROTECT features stories about children in danger. Monies raised from the book go to PROTECT, and its parent organization, the National Association to Protect Children, in order to help keep children safe, strengthen laws against child abuse in its many forms, and to assist the victims of such abuse. Along with a detailed explanation of the group in the introduction to anthology, there is information on how to become a member and how to track the donation record. Then, it is on to the stories arranged in alphabetical order by author.
The book opens with “The Search for Michael” by Patricia Abbott. Max knows that he just saw his son on the crowded pier below a San Francisco Restaurant. It may have been ten years, but Max knows what he saw was his missing son.
“The Drowning of Jeremiah Fishfinger” by Ian Ayris comes next. Jeremiah was the youngest of six children and arrived between the wars. As WWII begins, the family experiences war in England and death while the rage within Jeremiah grows day after day.
“The Kindness of Strangers” by Ray Banks opens with the image of a gymnasium full of noisy kids. It is picture day at the school and the photographer as well as school staff has their hands full. It is time for the new picture for the access cards and the narrator takes his job very seriously. He wants to help all the students. But, then things do always go wrong.
Nigel Bird is up next with his story “Baby’s in Blue.” Rox and Sox want to have a baby and want Les to help. His girlfriend Libby wants a child of her own too and is all in favor of him helping out Rox and Sox. Of course, nothing is that simple in this very unsettling story.
“The Black Rose” by Michael A. Black is a tale of Brax, Stevie, and the fact that Tanaka Mishima wants them dead. Who knew the dead hooker would be a problem? While many of these tales feature either the child victim experiencing abuse or the perpetrator doing the abuse, this story one was one of my favorites as it had a more distant relationship with the abuse angle of the anthology and was a complicated mystery.
“Last Orders: A Gus Dury Story” by Tony Black follows next featuring a man with a certain reputation in the fine city of Edinburgh. The annoying man who has come over to him in the pub is Urquhart and he is a Church of Scotland minister. His daughter is missing and he wants to hire Gus Dury to find Caroline Urguhart as fast as possible.
Billy and Daryl are in an alley three streets over from their target as “Repossession” by R. Thomas Brown opens. Daryl has been doing repos for a while now and says the targets always park their cars away from their homes. Bill is new to the business and wanted to learn all he could from the old pro. That was at first, but now he isn’t so sure.
When you are paired with another young guard in Tempelmore it might be best if one was good and one was dirty. Barrret was the good one in “Spectre” by Ken Bruen. Spec was the bad one and he was very good at it.
“A Tall Horse” by Bill Cameron tells the tale of 10 year old David who has had enough. He’d much rather hang out in the basement at home. He has thrown down the challenge and the battle is on.
The kids are not happy in “Seven Ways to Get of Harry” by Jen Conley. It is supposed to be a fun day at the “Great Adventure” park near Manchester. But, Judy’s boyfriend, Harry, is being difficult and not just about the safari deal Danny wants to do. At least his sister, Lisa, has ideas on how to get rid of Harry.
The taxi driver, Billy Joe, in “Dark Eyes, Faith, and Devotion” by Charles De Lint is not having a good Monday night. The woman who flags him down outside a girl-on-girl club is way too beautiful to be playing for the other team. She wants to go and steal her cat back and Billy Joe can’t say no.
Using the history of the Orphan Train program which ran from the 1850s to 1929, author Wayne D. Dundee crafted a story where good intentions went disastrously wrong. “Adeline” is one of those children and she needs help. Miss Maybelle wants to do something about it because Hiram Foster has her and he is the lowest of the vermin around. She needs the help of Clete Rawson and she will get it.
Mercer thought he would feel something when he came back to his old hometown. Instead, he feels nothing in “Go Away” by Chad Eagleton. He wouldn’t be back if it wasn’t to help pull off a robbery.
You can live with somebody a long time. Years even and not really know them. A point Les Edgerton makes well in “You Don’t Know Me.” Two shots should do the trick.
A child hears a voice calling his name and does not want to come out in the very short piece “Security” by Andrew Fader.
Charlotte hates her after school program in “Planning for the Future” by Matthew Funk. She is sure she and Mama are going to hell. One could argue they are already there.
“Things I Know about Fairy Tales” by Roxane Gay comes next featuring the story of a woman and her kidnapping in Haiti. Kidnapping is what happens when you come from one of the better off families. When the inevitable happens nothing will ever be the same.
An alligator is doing what comes naturally to it as “The Lawyer” by Edward A. Grainger opens. The body on a bank of a Louisiana bayou is bleeding into the water while a man known as the “The Lawyer” stands above him. A chilling beginning to a very good western tale featuring Marshall Cash Laramie. This complicated and well done story was also one of my favorites in the book.
Baby Molly has what appears to be simple eye infection in her eyes in the story “A Blind Eye” by Glenn G. Gray. However, Molly’s mom is not the best caregiver by a long shot in this deeply disturbing story. If you can read this one without getting very upset, you simply can’t be human on any level.
While many are going a very long way to California, Lettie isn’t. Instead, in “Lettie in the Ozarks” by Jane Hammons, Lettie is following the old people to their house in the Ozarks. She may have left it all behind in Oklahoma, but, she can’t leave the painful memories.
“1983” by Amber Keller features Reggie and Troy and their plan to go cool off in an old quarry. The quarry is fun but it is no refuge from bullies--familial ones.
Joe R. Landsdale comes next with “The Boy Who Became Invisible.” Marble Creek, a small town along the Sabine River in East Texas is the setting. For Hap and his friend, Jesse, everything changed in the fifth grade and not in a good way.
Most of the stories in this book are about bullying and the effects on those bullied. Like the preceeding story, “Take It like a Man” by Frank Larnerd is one of those stories. 7th grader “Squeak” is one of those kids that everyone picks on. At least there is a gun at home in the trailer.
Jack likes to slap his partner around in “Stoop-It” by Gary Lovisi. The duo has done too many jobs back east and the heat is on so Jack had the bright idea to go to California. Jack is supposed to be the smart one of the pair. His plans get the narrator out of his cage and working.
In the twilight of the afterlife victims see things differently in “Monsters” by Mike Miner. While they had no idea he was out there, now as victims, they can see the predator as a burning flame moving through the streets of Los Angeles. To see the predator this way would have been helpful when they were alive. They can also see the detective and the toll the killings are taking on him. They may not be able to stop the killer, but they can help the detective a little bit.
The agencies supposed to help have a problem in “Community Reintegration” by Zak Mucha. Patient Troy Gaylen is a problem patient who is doing everything he can to resist treatment. Once he turns 21, he can do as he wants despite his long history and other factors described in this story of emails and clinical narratives.
It’s a bad situation in “Done for the Day” by Dan O’Shea. Mom is dead, Billy is getting worse, and dad is overwhelmed. The fact that the nosy neighbor next door keeps calling the police does not help.
George Pelecanos is next with “String Music” where Tonio Harris lives for pickup basketball games. Life is very rough in the fourth district of D.C. but hitting the asphalt with a basketball is escape. That is until one game goes a bit sideways with ripples that will affect a number of people.
Thomas Pluck contributes next with his story “Black Shuck.” Nine years old and out with his dog, Shuck, life in the holler don’t get any better. That was until Wade and his friend saw the guitar player known as Blind Joe Death. He has a reputation and not in a positive way. Now there is a thirst for vengeance in the air with death coming again before the night is out.
It is time for the threshing crew to get to work in “Jolly’s Boy” by Richard Prosch. It is a cold ride on a cold morning as Tom and his father ride in their Model T to where they need to harvest. Tom wants “Jolly’s Boy” to hurry up and show up as Tom has a point to make.
Keith Rawson follows with “She Comes With The Rain.” Ella went to God one Friday when the cancer became too much. For the widower left behind, everything changed. That included his relationship with their daughter, Sabrina. It has all led to this in a haunting piece.
Ed came back from North Africa bitter and missing an arm in “The Greatest Generation” by James Reasoner.” Coming back to Lockspur, Texas this way is a far cry from going ashore in Morocco with General Patton. As bad as he feels about himself there is somebody far worse off in a war at home.
It is a nightmare for Wade and his wife, Liana in “Baby Boy” by Todd Robinson. Ben is missing and nobody knows anything. The hours pass into days and the pressure mounts on the couple with no sign of their child.
When you live on “Gay Street” in this story by Johnny Shaw you learn very quickly how to fight. It’s a hard neighborhood anyway and the street name does the kids no favors. The boys live by a code of honor. Little Jimmy Little is one of them at age 10 and has been hurt. He will be avenged.
Gerald So offers a poem with “Hushed.” A quick powerful poem about Cousin Lee and his bruises.
The plan is to finish smoking dope in the 67 Bonneville and then burgle the house they are watching. Tom and his older brother got stuff to steal for Junky Bob who wants 10 percent of the take. Supposed to be an easy gig in “Wooden Bullets” by Josh Stallings. It isn’t, of course.
16 year old Joseph lives next door “In Dreams” by Charlie Stella. Joseph also knows how to get an eight year old little boy up to his room in this very disturbing story. Money and toys don’t make what is happening right.
“Placebo” by Andrew Vachss comes next with a narrator who knows how to fix things. Sometimes the stuff that needs fixing goes far beyond his building or his normal jobs. One example is the little boy upstairs and his monsters.
“Steve Weddle” is next with “This Too Shall Pass.” Staci and Rusty are out in a field watching the stars. That is until they got interrupted by other party goers. Teen angst, a legendary story, and more is at work in this fine tale.
Austin Parker is missing in “Runaway” by Dave White. Coach Herrick thinks the boy might have had good reason to take off considering the living conditions at home. Haunted by guilt over what happened with one boy in Afghanistan, he tries to save another here at home. Easier said than done in so many ways.
The final story of the book is “Season Pass” by Chet Williamson. It tells the story of Mr. & Mrs. Youngers, the passing of time, and solving a problem in this twisted tale.
The 41 tales arranged in alphabetical order by author are good ones in Protectors: Stories to Benefit PROTEC. While the stories are good ones, this book is not in any way light, easy reading. Most of these stories feature horrific and occasionally graphic child abuse in some form. These are stories that often slap the reader in the face with the kinds of horrific abuse and neglect that are all too common stories in the media today. The level of hurt in these stories makes for very tough reading at times in a powerful book designed to raise money to support the mission of PROTECT.
Protectors: Stories to Benefit PROTECT
Editor Thomas Pluck
Goombah Gumbo Press
August 31, 2012
E-Book (also available as a paperback through CreateSpace)
Estimated print length 374 pages
Material was supplied by Editor Thomas Pluck for my objective review. Material was read on my laptop via the free “Kindle for PC” program.
Kevin R. Tipple ©2012