The Collected Stories of Roald Dahl.
Everyman's Library, 888 pages, $30.
I was surprised to learn, from Jeremy Treglown’s 1994 biography of Roald Dahl, that the British short-story writer and now-beloved children’s author was in his younger days a fan of Damon Runyon. I shouldn’t have been. Dahl and Runyon both belong to a grand transatlantic brotherhood of writers (which also includes P. G. Wodehouse) who contributed to the literature of gambling. Many Dahl stories literally concern a bet, whether it be a man placing his life savings on the time his ship will arrive in port (“A Dip in the Pool”) or one chopping off fingers based on how many times a lighter can be struck successfully (“Man From the South”). In satires like “My Lady Love, My Dove,” and “Neck,” the idle moneyed are cuttthroat bridge-players. The lower-class characters of...