Books: Just Plain Stories

THE CHINA RUN (247 pp.)—Neil Paferson—Random House ($2.75).

Drifting on a lazy stream of subconsciousness, some modern short-story writers seem to forget that they owe their reader-passengers a destination. Not so Scottish Neil (Behold Thy Daughter) Paterson, a canny navigator with some of Somerset Maugham's gift for piloting a narrative to home port. The China Run, eight stories long, boasts several twist-of-fate tales that are polished and sardonic enough to have been told by the Old Party himself.

In the title story, Author Paterson's narrator potters about in a house full of 19th Century...

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