The cruelties and sensualities of affluent modern New Orleans occupy the attention of four or five stories in this noteworthy first collection. Most effective of these are ""Rich"" (a banker's murderous despair over his hyper-active adopted daughter); ""There's A Garden of Eden,"" in which a divorcee and her carpenter lover float in a canoe down a flooded street; and the title story--about ruthlessness at the tennis club, which Gilchrist makes as unpleasant as a chipped glass. But angular naturalism isn't the only talent on display here, merely the flashiest. A loosely related group of stories revolves around a spoiled, willful, completely independent girl named Rhoda, a manipulator yet somehow also an innocent--and Gilchrist, through her, in no time has you convinced that selfishness is an attribute so trivial as to be ultimately benign. Elsewhere, too, this elasticity of reaction can swing stories from the tawdry to the lovable in an easy arc; in ""Traveler,"" for instance, a young girl's summer with a newly-motherless cousin becomes a lovely evocation of the adolescent as self-historian. Gilchrist with her jaw set, then, as in the New Orleans stories, is a sharp writer. Relaxed, she's an even more interesting one. And this collection, though patchy, is full of promise and gift.