Sometimes readers forget that vampires were the original monsters lurking in the shadows. Stephen King gives vampires their teeth back as they stalk and seduce the townspeople of ‘Salem’s Lot.
King’s hero, Ben Mears, is the typical brooding writer. With a past built by nightmares from a childhood scare at the haunted Marsten house and colored with death, Mears returns to ‘the Lot’ with the intention of writing away all the ghosts that haunt his past.
It’s not long before Mears meets up with Susan Norton, the obligatory young and impressionable girl that every good vampire tale needs. As Mears settles in his childhood town to write, evil appears in the form of Richard Straker, a strange antique dealer who buys the haunted Marsten house with less than pure intentions.
Although the reader may think Salem’s Lot is the least likely place for vampires, King shows it to be a place already crawling with garden variety evil. There’s the couple who fight relentlessly, the jealous boyfriend willing to beat up another man over his girl, and the crazy man who lives in the junkyard.
All are ignored by a town that wishes it could be something better. Even after a string of mysterious deaths, the people of ‘the Lot’ are inclined to turn a blind eye instead of realizing the paint on the white picket fences is peeling.
Ben Mears and Susan Norton, though, are the two who start to make the connection between Straker’s coming to “the Lot” and the deaths. With the help of the local priest, a bachelor teacher, and a young boy who knows all about monsters, Mears and Norton begin investigating the sicknesses and deaths with the assumption that the living dead are responsible.
Lovers of traditional vampire lore won’t be disappointed with the creatures that King sires. Instead of sugar coating the evil when describing the creatures of the night, the vampires that plague ‘the Lot’ are seductive, feral and most of all toothy.
The vampires scratch at windows, crawl up walls and tear their victims to shreds. Each next door neighbor turned vampire is enough to make the reader wish they could pull the covers up and hide instead of continuing on.
Although the novel is a horror staple, patience is a key value when approaching “Salem’s Lot” as a first time Stephen King reader. “Salem’s Lot” may leave readers looking for a fever pitch plot line disappointed. The novel’s focus is shady at best within the first few chapters.
Multiple pages are devoted to describing the people that will eventually succumb to the evil lurking in “the Lot” and can seem unimportant at the start. It’s only at the climax that the detail-heavy introduction chapters begin to make sense.
If time can be dedicated to the novel, the reader is sure to be charmed by King’s clever lines and the people of ‘the Lot’ that eventually become the classic evil of nightmares.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Ana Faria at Ana.email@example.com.
I reread this novel not terribly long ago, and I was surprised at how dated it felt. That’s the first time I’ve had that reaction when revisiting a King novel. It’s still good, though, with lots of great individual scenes and a number of good characters. Also, the datedness isn’t entirely inappropriate; it expresses a lot of angst and desperation over what felt during the mid-’70s as though it could well be the collapse of America’s spirit. I think that’s a social theme that has become relevant agani (if it was ever irrelevant…), and for socially-minded readers, the novel may hold resonances thanks to those elements.