Perhaps the first volume of stories from Britain's Punch magazine--which wasn't published here--was worthy of a sequel. Perhaps not. In any case, these 20 tales are a second-rate lot, far less impressive than those featured in the annual anthologies of Britain's Winter's Tales. And, ironically, the only really successful story here is a familiar one: Paul Theroux's sad, savage publishing-world sketch ""Algebra,"" which was a standout in his 1980 World's End collection. The others, though divertingly varied, are generally skimpy and derivative--with only a few glimmers of the humor you might expect, considering the editor and the magazine. The better items: a quickie parody of Nazi/Bormann/faction fiction by Stan Giblet Davies, Douglas Dunn's endearing look at a working-class Scotsman acclimating himself to his young son's unlikely aspirations (as a classical clarinetist); Morris Lurie's psycho-study of a father helplessly repeating his own father's habits and cruelties; and Graham Swift's ""The Son,"" which swiftly creates a rich family scene--restaurant-owning Greek immigrants in England--before petering out with a cheap twist ending. Such endings, in fact, are legion here. But there are also weak attempts at sci-fi-parable, horror-anecdote, stream-of-consciousness portraiture, political suspense, and coming-of-age sentimentality. An undistinguished gathering overall; if hungry for British short fiction, wait for Winter's Tales and for William Trevor's upcoming new story collection.