Like his 1990 novel, A Time for Wedding Cake, this second collection of stories from La Puma, who won a Flannery O'Connor award for The Boys of Bensonhurst (1987), is a disappointment: 14 snippets of melodrama and sentiment, only sporadically deepened by authentic ethnic flavor. The best pieces here are simple, undramatic glimpses of working-class childhoods: a sleepy 11-year-old boy in 1940 Bensonhurst (an autobiographical stand-in, presumably) helping his father with after-hours baking; a Puerto Rican teenager shlepping dresses over mean Brooklyn streets to help out his seamstress mother in her illegal home sweatshop. Other slices-of-life, however, are overdrawn or maudlin: a mock-wedding between two homeless people; the marriage and hard-won happiness of a mentally handicapped but financially secure couple--as narrated (a clumsy device) by the husband. Elsewhere, an earthy, somewhat mannered style can't disguise B-movie material: a bookie and his ruthless moll on the run from the Mob; adultery and cocaine addiction in an upper-class milieu; a Mafia godfather under pressure from slimy federal officials. (The most promising story, ``The Hangman,'' about a young G.I.'s experiences on a corrupt Army base in 1952 Japan, remains underdeveloped and blurred.) And weakest of all are four vaguely supernatural, painfully precious anecdotes--involving several ghosts (an old girlfriend, dead spouses, a departed pet cat) and one angel with a broken wing. Crude, thin work--ringing false whenever La Puma moves away from straightforward evocations of Brooklyn neighborhoods.