Salems Lot (Stephen King)

This novel brought up my lapsed Catholicism. About one third of the way in I had taken to wearing a crucifix. I was so absorbed that I only put the paperback down to sprinkle drops of holy water around my bedroom. Hell, why stop there. I even asked the dog and cat to help me out with a few Hail Marys. Back to the book: this is a busy tour de force of how evil small towns can be. Of course that’s total BS but it works for a fictional setting. There is a wonderful intimacy on display with so many characters we can relate to. From the paranoid bus driver aghast at how unpatriotic kids are in 1975… to a Peeping Tom old bag, Mabel Werts, and her binoculars… to the slut-shaming of a teenage girl because she has big boobies. Magic stuff.

This is the ultimate vampire novel. Better than Stoker’s Dracula, although it is unfair to compare works from very different eras. Because the TV movie version of Salem’s Lot was such a hit some people may not want to bother reading the book but they should. There’s a constant third person narrative switch, between the residents of Jerusalem’s Lot (or ‘Salem’s Lot) which offers a unique view into the prowling danger plaguing them. The story mainly follows Ben Mears, who is obviously supposed to be Stephen King. King portrays Mears in a rather more flattering light then most of the characters he intersects with. He’s a writer (natch) who is haunted by a childhood trauma, teaming up with several other people who give the story an interesting touch–such as Matt Burke, a compassionate high school teacher. Then there’s Susan Norton, a highly sexed young woman with plenty of yearning and longing to go to places like New York. You get the feeling she’s way too sexy for such a small town.

King’s writing skills as an author  gives an authentic life to his characters. They seem real. Their malice can be felt dripping from the pages of his books and sticking to your fingers as you hold the book in your hands. He picks up on the most basic of things. He makes it all incredibly real. And what is real should scare you. He is the most earthy of horror writers. Why is Salem’s Lot such a damned town? Because King creates the ultimate haunted house, The Marsten House: and fills it with a dreadful, haunted presence which sets the scene perfectly for a newer, hungrier, type of resident. It is a fitting setting for a vampire and his evil minion to set up shop. And the arrival into the story of the much anticipated Kurt Barlow ramps up the action. Many disappearances ensue as the tension escalates! Will our merry band of vampire hunters be able to stop him? King creates complex characters and family groups only to murder them off, or worse, and all the time there’s a ripping, good adventure running right through the heart of the plot…and an excellent escape. This is heady stuff. Complex, eerie, claustrophobic and dark – I’d recommend Salem’s Lot to everyone. 🙂

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