A whopping gathering of thirty-two abrasive and colorful stories: twenty-one drawn from DeMarinis’s three earlier collections, along with eleven previously uncollected tales. DeMarinis (The Mortician’s Apprentice, 1994, etc.), is one of our most underrated writers: a master of aslant character portrayal whose impressively zany fictions feature teenagers maturing (usually in the 1940s) into worlds distorted by adult lust or hypocrisy (—Safe Forever,” “Experience—); loners and grifters who reshape their worlds to accommodate their often unspeakable appetites (—Under the Wheat,” “Medicine Man—); and exhausted Everymen whose mundane disillusionments metastasize alarmingly into comic-horrible crises (the computer executive of “Disneyland,” drawn helplessly into the absurd orbits of his clinically depressed wife, suicidal son, and the latter’s airheaded girlfriend, is a classic example). Here and there, we catch echoes of T.C. Boyle (—Life Between Meals—) or Stanley Elkin (—An Airman’s Goodbye—). Then again, who but DeMarinis could concoct such beguiling horrors as a serial killer in a pawnshop “trying to trade a necklace made of human kneecaps for a machete” or a toddler traumatized by science-fiction movies who “mutilated his new teddy bear with a steak knife—? There are few stories here that don—t raise the pulse rate. Noteworthy among the newer are a complex, funky threnody on the physical sensations of aging (—Borrowed Hearts—); the understandably irritable confessions of a gun moll’s eternally uprooted ten-year-old (—On the Lam—); and a beautifully developed (perhaps autobiographical) episodic story about surviving childhood within a chaotically fragmented family (—The Boys We Were, The Men We Became—). Comic surrealism fashioned with rowdy wit and apparently inexhaustible creative energy.