One of things you have to admire about Stephen King is how he is willing to keep pushing the boundaries of the publishing world. He’s not just content to churn out best-seller after best-seller in hard-cover format, but instead he’s willing to take a chance or two along the way to challenge not only himself but his readers. Some of them work very well (The Green Mile) and some have withered on the vine (The Vine).
King has also been releasing stories via audiobooks for the past dozen or so years and every once in a while he puts out an exclusive audio only story. (King has admitted he’s a an audio reader himself). Sometimes it’s a fairly straight-forward short story and then other times it’s something like Drunken Fireworks.
And while the story will be part of his upcoming short story collection, King said in an interview that this one was meant to be listened to.
It certainly shows.
Thanks to an insurance and lottery windfall, Alden McCausland and his mother spend the warmest months of the year at their three-room cabin on Lake Abenaki. One fourth of July, Alden and his mother light up a few sparklers and other fireworks, setting off an inadvertent contest with their neighbors across the lake, the Massimos. Each summer, Alden tries to find the next big thing to shoot off, only to have the Massimo family ready to counter them with something just a bit better. It would all be in good fun for the two families if Alden and his mother didn’t feel like one member of their family was taunting them with his trumpet.
Listening to the story, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the first season of True Detective and the brilliant interview sequences. From the start, we know that something has clearly gone awry this this year’s celebration but it takes Alden a good hour to set things up and give us the background before we get to exactly what happened.
Drunken Fireworks doesn’t have a supernatural twist or element to it like many of King’s stories do. Instead what it gives us is King having a damn good time, crafting a story that is meant to be heard more than it is read. Part of what makes the story work is the voice he gives Alden. The voice is brought to life by Tim Sample, who does some great work here.
As a solid, entertaining short story Drunken Fireworks succeeds on just about every level. It’s also made me that much more curious and enthusiastic about King’s upcoming short story collection. If this one is just a sample of what we’re going to get there, we are in for a treat.