Old friends and aficionados have pried open Smith's four-decade file of published short pieces and selected their favorites, a fair sampling of his best. Like most American heartland humorists, back road rather than cafe-based, Smith is tickled by behavioral oddments of a broad variety and the attack is more often mounted with a putty knife rather than a scalpel. There is the story of a cranky village elder who organized a parade of townspeople leaving only one spectator, and there are faintly apocryphal portraits of some giants of the earth in the '30's and '40's: Steinbeck, brandybraced for an interview; Lowell Thomas adrift in a violent alcoholic ""literary tea""; and the raw facts (with rewrite) of a boxer's dressing-room interview. There are sojourns to watering places in Mexico, Hawaii, and abroad where language is a problem (""you learn more [French] with the roof of your mouth than with the brain""); domestic matters and towering crusades; one jolly salacious piece on choosing a monarch in Bangkok; and some semi-serious matters including a tribute to Mencken and a sizzling essay on the cruel inanities of bullfighting. Some of this is strained, but in the most successful pieces a gritty, caustic sense-of-nonsense shows through and gives some hint of Smith's appeal at its peak.