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by John Oughton

THIS SECOND volume of the "collected short stories" of Hugh Hood A Short Walk in the Rain (Porcupine`s Quill, 174 pages, $10.95 paper) includes 13 previously unpublished tales from his apprenticeship period that were not in volume one, Flying a Red Kite. As Hood himself acknowledges in a rather lengthy introduction, not all of the stories are successful or even terribly original. He is frank about the influences that inspired him -- notably Hemingway and, more surprisingly, Ray Bradbury -- and the place these stories had in helping him find his own voice. Now, 30 years after most of the stories saw light, only two of them -- the title story and the final one, a compelling SecondWorld-War survival story, "From the Fields of Sleep" -- really stand on their own as anything more than period pieces. In one story, Hood develops a pair of characters, and then reverses the point of view in the next to try things from the other character`s perspective. His attempt at Bradbury-like fantasy, "The World by Installments," shows why he hasn`t tried the genre again since. "The Regulars," set in a bar, tries for the sort of easy portrait of working men drinking in a bar that Morley Callaghan could easily create; the young Hood, however, found it tough going. A grim and none- too-believable account of a fanatical Catholic who murders his newly converted fiancee so she`ll stay in a state of grace shows by its context how much the Catholic church has changed in a few decades. But those moments of perception -- and the two good stories -- may not be enough to convince the general reader that this book is worth buying. J.0.

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