Twelve stories about the gritty world of gyms, barracks, brothels, and loony bins that Jones (Cold Snap, 1995, etc.) has already staked out as his own. The tough-guy approach in fiction has fallen (partly) out of favor since Hemingway's day, but Jones can pull it off with style and without embarrassment. Most of the characters here are decent working-class stiffs who find themselves swamped in a world of mendacity--like Ondine, the Marine sergeant of ""The Roadrunner,"" ""A Run Through the Jungle,"" and ""Fields of Purple Forever,"" who sees action in Vietnam and cannot settle down to peacetime routines afterward. Instead he takes up swimming as both career and pastime, and travels the world to swim across the English Channel, the Straits of Gibraltar, and the Bosphorus. There's another kind of malcontent in ""40, Still at Home"": Matthew Billis, a depressed middle-aged bachelor who is looked after by his harried mother Margo in their nightmarish suburban home (""The room's textures and color schemes were a fright, like the marriage of Transylvania and Graceland"") ""Tarantula"" depicts the gradual breakdown of an ambitious graduate student who accepts a high-school post in hopes of becoming headmaster but is driven crazy by the stress of teaching. ""Daddy's Girl"" consists of an old woman's reminiscences about growing up with her two sisters--one of whom eventually became a doctor, then converted to Catholicism and lived the life of a missionary and nun. Best by far is the title story, an elegiac portrait of Kid Dynamite, a small-time boxer past his prime who can't bring himself to give up the game that is killing him. Slice of life that will not be to everyone's taste, rendered with honest realism (and without nostalgia) by one of our finer stylists.