A first collection from veteran Goran (a memoir, The Bright Streets of Surfside, 1994, etc.) consists of 11 low-key stories set in and around an old neighborhood hangout--the Irish Club--where the locals get together to drink, to dance, and always to talk. The locale is working-class Pittsburgh in the years following WW II, a period when the fires from the steel mills still lit up the skies and jobs were plentiful. The mostly male habituâ€šs of the club, founded by the Ancient Order of Hibernians, Local No. 9, have known one another from boyhood--""they entered as children, put on years, wrinkles, and emerged on other spring evenings decades later accomplished drunkards."" Protagonists are mostly Irish-Americans, though a Jewish neighbor, Clifton, is the narrator in several stories, including ""A Girl Like Sheila,"" ""The Madonna of the Jukebox,"" and ""The Road to Damascus,"" in which, respectively, Jimmy McKenna, a veteran obsessed with Sheila, a young woman, ends up being hospitalized for his violent behavior; an image of a woman, perhaps the Madonna, appears on the wall behind the club's jukebox, only to be painted over by the exasperated barkeeper, tired of the crowd sitting and watching it; and Neil, a noted philanderer, describes how he lost Deirdre when a friend of his waylaid her on her way to an assignation with him and told her she was ""too young to make decisions that'll stay with you forever."" In other notable pieces, Conall O'Brien, who loves prostitutes, can't forget them even when he marries (""The Payment""); and Jack Lanahan, the high school art teacher, finds his ecstasy-inducing ""visits"" from the past more meaningful than his belated success as a sculptor (""The Last Visit""). A gritty and vibrantly ethnic Pittsburgh is the liveliest presence here. Otherwise, Goran's tales fail to strike a fresh note, seeming more like set-pieces with unsurprising characters behaving in predictable ways.