This volume makes possible the publication of what is market-wise a rather difficult form, and these four short novels have a definite literary demeanour- if a rather sombre cast. Shelby Foote's Ride Out is a gaunt, intense story of a Negro hot jazz artist who blows his lungs out on his horn and goes on ""that last fast ride"" in a Mississippi electric chair- for the roadhouse murder of a gambler. Elizabeth Etnier (On Gilbett's Head) has a wistful to desolate piece about a young couple who leave a meagre life in the city for an island in Maine where, with the advent of two children, they are innocent and inept in their attempt to earn a living. Clyde Miller, the only new contributor here, shades the irony of his Gentle Season through the eyes of a youngster who witnesses the ruin of his aunt's romance. And Jean Stafford's A Winter's Tale returns Fanny, in her self-enclosed bitterness, to a raddled love affair of her youth....For the discerning reader, these stories- disconsolate as they may seem- have both taste and talent.