The seventh volume in this now-established series is a welcome mix of stories by new and established authors, drawn from a wide variety of magazines, from The Black Warrior Review to The New Yorker. Of the 17 selections, five or so are from collections already published, including a lopsided and funny piece by Padget Powell (from Typical) and a strained and serious excerpt from Nanci Kincaid's novel Crossing Blood (p. 419). Lesser-known authors are represented by the often glib and predictable writing-workshop style of Susan Perabo's ``Explaining Death to the Dog,'' about a grieving young mother; Elizabeth Morgan's ``Economics,'' which explores race and sex from a young girl's point of view; Karen Minton's ``Like Hands on a Cave Wall,'' about a hobo trapped under a house in an Arkansas earthquake; and Dan Leone's deep-imagistic ``You Have Chosen Cake,'' an inconsequential road-story. Mary Ward Brown's ``A New Life'' deals with that old-time religion in a direct and sympathetic (though unbelieving) fashion. Lee Smith and Alison Baker serve up some middlebrow comedy about a small-town girl at a ritzy women's college in Virginia, and again about a happy pair of black Siamese twins. James Burke's excellent ``Texas City, 1947'' draws on elements from his Robicheaux mysteries; Cajun Catholics on the Louisiana bayou deal with death, guilt, and ``the nature of consequence.'' And the two most stunning pieces come from old master Peter Taylor and Algonquin's own Larry Brown. Taylor's lengthy ``The Witch of Owl Mountain Springs'' is a deceptively nostalgic tale of romance in the Old South; Brown's ``A Roadside Resurrection'' is southern gothic in the Flannery O'Connor vein, an over-the-top, no-holds-barred tale about a legendary backwoods faith-healer. Despite its regional focus, Ravenel's annual anthology nevertheless manages to reflect a catholicity of taste. No short- story fan should miss it.