In these nine wistful and mordant, humane and brutal stories, Brad Vice leavens his own sympathetic inclinations with exquisitely timed, self-inflicted jolts of southern gothicism. Ranging widely in place and time - small-town Texas or Disney's Magic Kingdom, the Great Depression or some future, postpetroleum economy - Vice's stories are likewise rich in their variety of characters: a grieving but well-to-do cookbook author, an aged farmer with dirt under his nails and black magic in his soul, a software engineer dabbling in corporate espionage. In Tuscaloosa Knights, an infidelity unfolds along an Alabama back road. Inside the car Marla, an out-of-place northerner, trysts with Pinion, a local lawyer and friend of her husband. Outside, unreason rules - and it's robed in white. The woods are alive both with revved-up Klan members just back from a cross burning and with mental patients escaping a nearby state asylum. pregnant daughter injured in a car wreck, a brood of purple martin chicks, a favored son lost in a hunting accident - to portray a poor southern family falling apart even as it regenerates itself. In Report from Junction, a football scholarship to Texas A&M is Kurt Schaffer's best hope to escape a life spent riding fence lines under the killing sun. However, the Aggies have just appointed a new coach, Paul Bear Bryant (who moves in and out of a number of these stories, both in body and in spirit). Daily news dispatches of the Bear's brutality leave Kurt wondering what else life may offer but pain and hardship. Plenty, would be Brad Vice's reply. But, as the Bear would advise, don't get too comfortable, and keep looking over your shoulder.