The late Richard McKenna (The Sand Pebbles, 1963) found that only in writing did he ""remain free to range across the whole of human experience and to mix intellect with feeling."" He listened to ""the little man in the sub-basement"" to clue him in (all this in a long piece on the act of writing which begins this book), but his heart was with the man in the engine-room. It is about him he writes best in this collection of six stories, three of which are episodes from a novel unfinished at his death. All take place in the Pacific in the 1930's, where McKenna served aboard an unarmed vessel, the Guam station ship, with free access to Japanese ports. In The Sons of Martha, the Depression era is evoked, then turned inside out by the pleasures of liberty in Japan. Reed Kinburn is a twenty-year-old ""son of Martha"" (who ""must wait upon Mary's sons,"" whose care is ""that the gear engages, the wheels run truly""). In three episodes, he is tried out in the eugineroom by his superior, takes a twelve-day liberty and stays with the charming, artless Aiko in a government house, is interrogated for negligence when a man dies in an engineroom accident but spared by a mate's knowledge of faculty equipment. McKenna was a good writer with an increasingly disciplined sense of truth in his mature work; one must regret his loss.