The Fire Escape Stories, Volumes 1&2 by Chuck Cascio

Where does a fire escape lead? Can it really save lives? Is it, in fact, a way out of danger? These questions are at the heart of the 17 episodes in The Fire Escape Stories, Volume II, a coming-of-age collection set in the early 1960s that builds upon the nine tales in The Fire Escape Stories, Volume I, which are set in the 1950s. In Volume I, cousins Sally-Boy Boccanera and Mike Burns, are born one-minute apart on the same day in the same Brooklyn Hospital in 1948. The fire escape is the safe shared space where the two youths talk, play, and try to understand the world that is emerging. In Volume II, the fire escape transforms into a different space. It is where teenagers Sally-Boy and Mike share stolen beers, swap stories, take girls, and confront one another. In Volume II, life starts to change significantly for the boys. Decisions become more difficult and potentially serious consequences loom over every choice. Though the fire escape remains a sanctuary of sorts, as the boys grow and their paths threaten to diverge, the question begins to loom: Can the fire escape provide all the safety and answers they need? Slowly, the boys see distinctly different worlds emerging. Sometimes together, and at other times on their own, they confront the emotional confusion of adolescence and grapple with their choices, decisions, and directions. Other people enter the boys’ lives, impacting their closeness to one another and posing challenges for them to consider…for better or for worse. Along the way, the boys experience laughter, sorrow, and change…and each realizes he must make a life-altering decision: Does he take the fire escape? Or does he choose a different route?
Available on Amazon

“Provoking continuation of adolescent growth through the halcyon ’50s to the turbulent ’69s”

Five Star Review on Amazon By D. A. Douglas

The maturation of Mikey and Sally-Boy from boys to men in vol. 2 nicely follows the time period of the (somewhat) more peaceful 1950s into the time the country was turned upside down in the 1960s. Again we see the fantastic character development of the two cousins where one who is headed towards a different track in life is excelling in (then) rural N. Virginia, while the other is headed towards a more negative path stuck in Brooklyn. Both get together through the story, with Mikey traveling back to Brooklyn frequently. But which each subsequent trip, not only does Sally seem different as he grows deeper into crime, but that Brooklyn itself to Mikey seems darker, less friendly, with vivid descriptions of streetlights, smells and the parks. Not that Virginia doesn’t have its own problems, still feeling the effects of Jim Crow South.

As the boys develop into teenagers the story is interspersed with the events of the 60s: assassinations; Vietnam; civil rights movement. And it is interesting to read the different takes on current events from the boys’ perspective, which is a great barometer showing how much they are growing apart.

Vol. II is darker, but also more thought provoking dealing with much more serious subject matter. However, again the writing is fantastic and the characters and scenery jump from the pages. It is a great read and very hard to put down. This was before my time, so I imagine if you were coming of age during this difficult part of American history, it will mean even more.

About the Author

Chuck Cascio is an award-winning journalist, educator, short-story writer, and business leader. The author of The Fire Escape Stories Volumes I and II, as well as three nonfiction books, Chuck has had hundreds of news stories, feature articles, and opinion pieces published in a wide-range newspapers, magazines, and journals. Among Chuck’s awards are a National Endowment for the Humanities grant, a Suburban Newspapers of America Award for Column Writing, a Distinguished Teacher Award in the Presidential Scholars Program, a Rothman Institute Award for Entrepreneurial Leadership, and other honors and citations for journalism, creative writing, teaching, and business. A native of Brooklyn, NY, Chuck moved to the Washington, DC, area at an early age, but he remains a New Yorker at heart. He earned a BS degree in Economics and Business from Wagner College on Staten Island, NY, and an MA in Communications from the American University in Washington, DC, where he later became an adjunct faculty member. Chuck also taught high school and was faculty advisor to student newspaper publications in Fairfax County, VA, receiving extensive recognition for his innovative approaches to teaching. After leaving the classroom, Chuck served as Vice President for the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards and then as Vice President for Educational Testing Service. Chuck and his wife, Faye (an award-winning science educator), are dedicated gym rats, who live in Reston, VA, near Washington, DC. Chuck now focuses on writing fiction, though he does provide commentary and experimental writing on his blog, “Blog On!” at chuckcascioauthor.com. Chuck can be reached at chuckwrites@yahoo.com.

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