A flat, emotionless style deadens the impact of this debut collection of short stories and a novella. Nasty and neutral men (and boys) people these stories, but a good one is hard to find. In ""Starkweather's Eyes,"" the narrator remembers the time shortly after his father left him and his mother in Nebraska, where a serial killer roamed. Carroll is ""Babyman,"" a con artist who impregnates women in order to sell the resulting children. The narrator of ""What Hurts the Fish,"" a boy spending his days with a woman named Evelyn -- who wears a special prosthetic shoe because she was dropped and crippled as a baby -- starts out sentimentally (""I love Evelyn, but I'm afraid of her shoe""), but soon shoots another boy in the eye with a BB gun and hides what he has done. Condon's female characters are equally unfeeling. In ""Coffee,"" a woman whose father called her ""sex-sick"" when she got pregnant at 18 coolly has sex with a man her now 11-year-old son met at the beach. ""The Velvet Shelf"" shows Natalie responding to her boyfriend being brought to her door by the police (he buried her puppy after it was run over by a car, then went back to dig it up, fearing that he'd buried it alive) by taking it as an opportunity to break up with him. There is plenty of violence too. In ""The Emptyheart Boy"" a recently divorced man listens to his female neighbor being abused by three low-lifes without doing anything, even when his girlfriend urges him to, because ""down deep I was afraid of people, period."" The short novella ""River Street"" follows a drifter to a sleazy motel where he is attacked and raped. Too macho for its own good.