Veteran Elman (The Breadfruit Lotteries, Taxi Driver) he re compiles some 30-odd fictions written about Nicaragua between 1978--the year of his first visit there--and 1987. The book is a fictional companion to an earlier collection of essays, Cocktails at Somoza's (1081), but it reads more like embellished journalism. In those terms, it's a successful collection. ""Richard,"" the narrator of many of these sketches, is a composite of the author, of his friends, and of stories told to him. Prudhomme, his sidekick, is a convenient foil and sounding-board who allows the narrator to make sense, or to try to make sense, of the events he witnesses. Roughly, the book divides into three types of tellings: journalism told in the guise of fiction; character sketches; and fully-formed fictions. The journalism is most prevalent: ""When They Killed Macho Negro,"" for instance, is a precise description of post-Somozan nerves among young soldiers. Elman has a good journalist's eye for quick characterizing detail. ""Sucking Chest Wounds"" evokes a vivid impressionistic account of a day in the life of a journalist, and ""The Secret Admirers"" effectively uses Hemingway banter to tell the story of a near-encounter with Graham Greene. The character sketches build a complex portrait of life in Nicaragua from shortly before the Revolution to the present day: ""Managua 4:30 p.m."" sees the Revolution from the eyes of a prostitute; ""Lillian"" is about a flighty and promiscuous upper-class woman who marries a journalist; and ""Alberto y Sylvia"" is about nightclub singers from the States. Of the fully-formed fictions, ""Little Sharks,"" ""The House Watcher,"" and ""The Anvil of the Times"" are most notable: in each, we see the complex human face of the Central American conflict. A book finally of more interest to followers of Central American affairs, who want something besides what the papers and columnists report, than to aficionados of contemporary short fiction.