“And all around them, the bestiality of the night rises on tenebrous wings. The vampire’s time has come.”
‘Salem’s Lot is easily considered one of Stephen King’s best horror novels, and definitely one of his classics. His take on the vampire is pretty disturbing, and revolutionary for its time. As he explains in the foreword, King takes vampire elements from the legends that came before him and add his own unique twist which ends up being the perfect recipe for a terrifying monster. The story begins by following the author Ben Mears as he returns to Jerusalem’s Lot, a town where he spent part of his childhood. He is led there by an unforgettable memory from his past involving the haunting Marsten House that looms over the town. Ben is trying to make his way back to this notorious house to get some inspiration for the novel he is working on. When he returns to the Lot and finds the house recently occupied by strangers, a new evil is set loose on the town.
I have been looking forward to reading this one for a while. Not only is it a classic vampire story and a crowd favorite among King fans, but it’s also the first appearance of Father Callahan! Being the Tower junkie I am, I had to read Callahan’s origin story to enrich my second read through of The Dark Tower. Whatever my reasons were for finally reading this book, I’m so happy that I did! I’m glad this wasn’t a King book that kept getting pushed back as I journeyed through his work. It had everything I could want from a horror novel. Vivid imagery, a spooky atmosphere, some emotional scenes, and frightening monsters. The Glick funeral just about had me in tears. And Mark, one of my favorite characters, had me fighting back tears during some of his scenes. I think that Father Callahan was an awesome character all on his own in this novel. But after already knowing him from the Tower, I loved him even more. I enjoyed how his desire to fight evil is really laid out as his character is introduced. Just knowing all that he goes through in King’s universe made me appreciate him even more.
Without going into too much detail, I have to say that King created some terrifying vampires! Their unnaturalness and undead features made them extra creepy. I did have some issues though. It was King’s second novel so I think he was still developing some of his skills. Overall I think the characters were pretty underdeveloped. And the ‘intimate’ scenes were just utterly painful for me. I also had a distinct image of Barlow in my head from the popular movie adaptation. I was quite startled when Barlow’s description was nowhere near what I had expected. That is not King’s fault though, so I have to blame the movie for that. Nevertheless, I loved Barlow, and he still managed to give me the creeps! Other than that I think King’s ability to scare us is displayed really well, especially in the second half of the book.
I was lucky enough to read the short story, Jerusalem’s Lot in his book, Night Shift. It was a prequel to ‘Salem’s Lot and it gives insight into the history of the town and what evils lurk there… I highly recommend reading it before the novel, it’s also super enjoyable all on its own and Night Shift is a great short story collection. All in all, it’s probably safe to say that this has made it into my top 10 kings. Although it might be closer to the bottom of the list. It’s only because I think his writing improves leaps and bound throughout the years. Despite it not getting a full five stars from me, I’d recommend to this book to anyone interested in horror, or anyone who is a fan of King’s work.
“The town cares for devil’s work no more than it cares for God’s or man’s. It knew darkness. And darkness was enough.”