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A thoroughly entertaining tale without the horror or sadism that usually permeates his books!

Drunken Fireworks - Stephen King, Tim Sample

Drunken fireworks, author, Stephen King; narrator, Tim Sample

This short story will be part of King’s latest book, “The Bazaar of Bad Dreams” which is due out in November of 2015. In this story, two families, from the right and wrong side of the tracks, living on opposite sides of a lake, are engaged in a feud involving fireworks and a trumpet player. Like an arms race, every year, on the fourth of July, they compete to have the best fireworks display.

The Italian Massimo family is very wealthy and possibly well “connected” as in with unsavory characters, according to the McCauslands. The Massimos have the wherewithal to buy and accomplish anything they choose. As a result, they always win the competition. Not well educated or rich, but dedicated to the rivalry, the McCauslands, Ma and Alden, try every year to create a better display then the Massimos, although Ma sometimes finds the sound of their triumphant trumpet to be far worse than the experience of being bested by their display.

Mother and son are very close. They live together in a cabin bought by Mr. McCausland in ’91 and although they thought with his death they would have to sell it, a fortuitous insurance policy and a lottery win has made them solvent. They have enough money to sit around and do little more than drink the day away, at least for a certain period of time, after which, they will deal with what comes. The two families are portrayed as being on opposite ends of the spectrum, but in the end, they may not be that different.

I thought the ending was the perfect culmination to a neighborly dispute. I think any other ending might have seemed obvious and contrived. In this ending, there was the justice of an eye for an eye, but not literally. I thought the word touché, summed it up perfectly.
While I believe that the vulgarity and racial slurs might have been necessary for the tale, I still found them uncomfortable, but I thought that King expertly handled their treatment.

The narrator was perfectly in tune with the characters in tone and accent, and I think he enhanced the “reading” experience. I don’t know if the story would be as entertaining in print, but as an audio, which is its only format right now, it was excellent. The humor comes through with the personalities of the characters, and it reminded me of the old Steven King, the King who wrote stories that did not simply shock the reader with tales that were sometimes difficult to read because of their content, but challenged them instead, with creative and imaginative tales. This was just a good story without the horror and/or sadism that has been so prevalent in many of his novels.