Dilapidated fight arenas, Christmas in a psychiatric ward, chaotic emergency rooms - this is the world of Thom Jones, whose stories have a passion and depth which put them in a league of their own. Sonny Liston was a Friend of Mine, a collection of his stories, is a mixture of despair and exhilaration, surrealism and minutely observed realism. A Vietnam Vet swims alone across the English Channel to maintain the 'edge' that kept him alive in wartime. A young amateur fighter stoically endures repetitive beatings because he knows boxing shields him from the even crueller world beyond the ring. An unemployed man performs gruesome experiments on mice. No one writes better or more vividly than Jones about private apocalypses, about lives that swing between pain and sensual gratification, confusion and visionary clarity.