Fourth edition of the annual collection, now coming from Norton: 15 inventive and diverse stories, all set in the West and all published in 1990 in a variety of literary magazines. Here, old western myths encounter contemporary realities and human frailties. The best include Gladys Swan's ``The Old Hotel,'' in which Jewel comes of age in her parents' run-down, debt-ridden hotel patronized by only two boarders--Mr. Ferrill, a high-toned drifter, and Viny Trilling, not quite all there. After Ferrill deserts a pregnant Viny, Jewel, in an apt epiphany, sees ``a time when the hotel would be gone without a trace and she'd be out somewhere in the world.'' Ken Smith's ``The Government Man'' is a taut drama where the political and personal converge when FDR, in the 1930's, wants to kill off excess cattle to increase the price of beef (``a hare-brained scheme''), while rustlers, following the government man, want to use the beef to feed families. In Robert Day's ``My Father Swims His Horse At Last,'' a ritual joke between a folk- philosopher father and a son who sells mortgage insurance turns into an affectionate fictional memoir. Other noteworthy pieces: Antonya Nelson's ``The Mud Season,'' about an estranged couple ``fated to continue for a while longer, on a different path'' after the sudden death of their daughter; Ron Tanner's ``Jackpot,'' about three near-crazed people in the desert who hunt for mustangs; and poet Joy Harjo's short ``The Flood,'' a Louise Erdrich-like mystical account: ``When I walk the stairway of water into the abyss, I return as the wife of the watermonster....'' The strongest edition yet: it transcends its regional emphasis by using place to take the measure of loneliness and mortality.