Falco (the novel Winter in Florida, p. 516) here offers a dozen stories, most originally published in Georgia Review, Virginia Quarterly Review, Gettysburg Review and other literary quarterlies. The pieces are slices-of-life that mainly concern rites of passage from innocence to experience: well-crafted, engaging portraits of subjects ranging from subway alders and perverts to stable workers and the luminously insane. Falco's novel concerned race-track workers, and one story here, ""The Foaling-Man,"" is about a Brooklyn-raised boy, Nicholas, who has become an ""old hand"" on a farm by the time he faces, at 23, a disaster during a foaling: he's forced to break a half-born foal's spine with a bolt cutter while a veterinarian puts Molly, the mother, to sleep. The story renders a gritty moment of initiation with powerful detail. In the taut ""Silver Dollars,"" Coon, an inner-city boy, is told by his mother to spend his day ""riding the subway."" He's picked up by Tal, an eerie man unable to sleep who takes him home; the ensuing scene, though nonviolent, is powerful and frightening, filled with the threat of future sadism: Coon's initiation corrupts him, not because he takes money for sex but because TaPs world becomes his own. In the title story, Danny, a veteran, meets Hooper, a war acquaintance, 30 years later at Scratch Daniels, a bar. Hooper is known to the clientele as Plato, a madman full of philosophical rant; but Danny is changed forever by the encounter, for the life around him, especially in the wake of a department-store suicide, seems absurd. The climactic moral leap isn't convincing, but the story is moving For the most part, then, these are old-fashioned tales made new: they render a variety of worlds without resorting to crafty mischief or contemporary clichÃ‰.