Crime for a Cause: Crime Fiction Anthologies for Charity

Murder to Mil-SpecFor several years, Wolfmont Press produced an annual holiday crime fiction anthology that benefited Toys for Tots.  2009 marked the last of these, with the 2010 charity anthology—called Murder to Mil-Spec—benefiting Homes for Our Troops, instead. These were fabulous anthologies, and if you can find a copy you should grab one; they were limited in distribution.

I’m not saying authors from other genres don’t do charitable work, too, but crime fiction authors seem particularly dedicated to the idea. I’ve seen crime anthologies benefiting everything from animal shelters and vet centers in the name of personal pets to tsunami relief for Haiti, from individual cancer victims who need care and people about to lose their homes in foreclosure to earthquake relief in Japan.

It doesn’t seem to matter how big or how small the cause is, crime fiction writers are willing to pony up their talents to contribute.

Shaken: Stories for JapanSometimes, the ones who spearhead these campaigns are big names and so are those who contribute. Such is the case with Shaken: Stories for Japan. Timothy Hallinan came up with this project and even managed to convince Amazon to donate its usual cut of the sales so that every penny of every sale went—and still goes—to the fund for earthquake relief. In addition to writing a story himself, Hallinan got contributions from Brett Battles, Cara Black, Vicki Doudera, Dianne Emley, Dale Furutani, Stefan Hammond, Rosemary Harris, Naomi Hirahara, Wendy Hornsby, Ken Kuhlken, Debbi Mack, Adrian McKinty, I.J. Parker, Gary Phillips, Hank Phillippi Ryan, Jeffrey Siger, Kelli Stanley, C.J. West, and Jeri Westerson.

You just know it’s got to be good, right? But maybe you never heard about it. It’s entirely possible that these charity anthologies slide by completely under your radar.

Protectors cover image
From the Protectors site.
Maybe you’re not much into social media, and projects like this are not apt to be widely advertised elsewhere. Especially if the authors are really excellent writers, but people without a huge following. Who will spread the word? How will you ever find out?

Generally, at least some of the names on the roster are recognizable. Since these anthologies tend to be produced by small presses or even self-published, there’s little marketing muscle behind them, so the authors do the publicity themselves and having a few high profile contributors helps get the word out. This is the case, for example, with Protectors, the PROTECT anthology due out September 1 . There are forty-one stories in this anthology by authors whose names you recognize as well as those who will almost certainly be new to you. This is an amazing cause, and will probably be a superb anthology.

The books discussed so far have been traditionally published in that the stories were gathered, edited, published, and then the books sold. Sometimes the sales routes are untraditional—authors buying copies and reselling them at festivals, etc., to be sure the money goes where it should—but the general process is the same as it has been forever.

Now, however, there’s a site called IndieGoGo where many charitable projects find funding. (You may be familiar with Kickstarter, but its Terms of Service explicitly forbid charity projects.) When I look at writing projects on IndieGoGo (or, for that matter, on Kickstarter), for the most part my inclination is to say “I’m not buying anything until I see a sample.”

Feeding Kate, a charity anthology
Feeding Kate
But, that said, if it’s someone whose writing I know, or it’s a cause I believe in, I’m apt to throw a few bucks at it. And crime fiction has turned up on both Kickstarter and IndieGoGo. At the moment, I don’t see any charity crime fiction projects up for funding except one I am intimately familiar with, the Feeding Kate anthology. This one has twenty-three stories ranging from the most hardboiled to the most . . . frivolous. Again, the names range from those you’ll know to those you probably won’t (yet): Ellie Anderson, Laura Benedict, Stephen Blackmoore, Joelle Charbonneau, Hilary Davidson, Neliza Drew, Chad Eagleton, Jenny Gardiner, Daryl Wood Gerber, Kent Gowran, Chris F. Holm, Dan O’Shea, Ron Earl Phillips, Thomas Pluck, Chad Rohrbacher, Linda Rodriguez, Johnny Shaw, Josh Stallings, Clare Toohey, Steve Weddle, Chuck Wendig, and Holly West. Oh, yeah, and yours truly.

So, have you ever bought a charity anthology? What was it for? Did you think it was worth the money, or did you just do it to make the donation? And if you know of other charitable anthologies, please let us know where to find them!

Laura K. Curtis lives in Westchester, N.Y., with her husband and two madcap Irish Terriers who’ve taught her how easily love can co-exist with the desire to kill. She blogs at Women of Mystery and maintains an online store at TorchSongs GlassWorks. She can also be found on Twitter and poking her nose into all sorts of trouble in various spots around the web.

Read all posts by Laura K. Curtis on Criminal Element.


  1. Paul Brazill

    Great article, Laura. I’d just like to give a mention to a charity antho I’m invloved in, True Brit Grit.

    True Brit Grit is a hard-hitting, gritty, crime anthology that contains strong language. True Brit Grit is 45 British writers, 45 short stories. All coming together to produce an anthology, benefiting two charities.

    You can get it here from Amazon.

  2. Laura K. Curtis

    Ooooh, excellent, Paul! And look at the cover!


  3. Deborah Lacy

    Love this post Laura. I have Murder to Mil-Spec and it’s a fabulous.

  4. Laura K. Curtis

    Deborah –

    Tony @ Wolfmont was always very particular about what he accepted, and he turned away a lot of stories. Anthologies are great for lunchtime quick reading, and for discovering new authors!

  5. Tony Burton

    Thanks so much for the kind mentions! I had a blast producing MURDER TO MIL-SPEC, and the stories are awesome. The first four charitable anthologies benefitted the Toys for Tots program, and MURDER TO MIL-SPEC benefitted [url=][b]Homes for Our Troops[/b][/url]. There are still a few print copies left of the Toys for Tots anthologies, mainly from third-parties and from me, although they are no longer in print distribution. MURDER TO MIL-SPEC, though, is still available and the money still goes to Homes for Our Troops. All are still available in ebook formats.

    Again, thanks so much for the mention!


  6. Terrie Farley Moran

    Laura, thanks for shining the spotlight on the great things the mystery community does in supporting good causes. I’m proud to have a story in Murder to Mil-Spec and one of the Toys for Tots anthologies, Dying in a Winter Wonderland.

    So nice to see so many other charity anthologies out there, and short mystery fiction does fill the need when I have just a small bit of time to read and relax.

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