When Stars Will Shine is a collection of more than 20 short stories – some very short and some rather more substantial. They are all on a theme of Christmas and, because the book is being sold in aid of a military charity (Help for Heroes ) many, though by no means all, of the writers have chosen to include soldiers or ex-soldiers in the stories. Otherwise these stories have very little in common. Some are funny – some of them very funny. (Lucy Cameron’s What Can Possibly Go Wrong? was a personal favourite.) Some are horror stories. Several, given the Christmas theme, are inevitably sentimental, often combined with a liberal attack on our uncaring society that can become cloying. The message that we treat veterans shockingly badly is one that needs to be heard, but light fiction may not always be the right place.
Obviously I enjoyed some of these stories much more than others, but that is inevitably the way with a collection of short stories by different authors. It will probably be the case for most readers, but what I enjoyed they may hate and what turned them off may have been the ones I most liked. It’s like a tin of Quality Street. Some people like the soft centres and some people like the nuts, but you have to rummage around in the tin and pick out your personal favourites. All of the stories are professional efforts by experienced writers. Given this, I’m not going to go through recommending this or that story. A collection this size will have something to offer almost everybody and, at just £2 on Kindle (https://www.amazon.co.uk/When-Stars-Will-Shine-Helping-ebook/dp/B08234131P) it represents excellent value for money. And all the proceeds go to Help for Heroes, which offers ex-servicemen the help they should be able to expect from government but often don’t seem to get.
I see beggars on our local train clean up every night by pretending to be ex-soldiers. (They aren’t.) People hand over money because, whatever you think of the wars we have sent people to fight over the past decades, the men and women who fought them went because our government sent them and we owe them something. If everyone who gave money to beggars with a hard-luck story bought this book instead (or just donated directly to Help for Heroes) it would make a real difference.