From Goodreads: “‘Salem’s Lot is a small New England town with white clapboard houses, tree-lined streets, and solid church steeples. That summer in ‘Salem’s Lot was a summer of home-coming and return; spring burned out and the land lying dry, crackling underfoot. Late that summer, Ben Mears returned to ‘Salem’s Lot hoping to cast out his own devils… and found instead a new unspeakable horror.
A stranger had also come to the Lot, a stranger with a secret as old as evil, a secret that would wreak irreparable harm on those he touched and in turn on those they loved.
All would be changed forever—Susan, whose love for Ben could not protect her; Father Callahan, the bad priest who put his eroded faith to one last test; and Mark, a young boy who sees his fantasy world become reality and ironically proves the best equipped to handle the relentless nightmare of ‘Salem’s Lot.”
‘Salem’s Lot is the second novel Stephen King wrote and, in my opinion only of course, considerably better than his first. I am rather ambivalent about Carrie; I neither liked nor disliked it. I am glad it wasn’t my first Stephen King novel, as my unadulterated love for all things Stephen King might not have been born. Like Pet Sematary, I put ‘Salem’s Lot in the “classic King” category. It’s a solid, scary vampire novel (as vampire novels should be).
Jerusalem’s Lot, vernacularly known as ‘Salem’s Lot, is the quintessentially pastoral Maine town – on the surface. Scratch that surface and you get the usual lies, corruption, prejudice, and bullying. Scratch a little harder and you’ll discover ‘Salem’s Lot hides abuse, violence, and now, something deeply menacing*. One of my favorite aspects of this novel, like many of King’s novel (particularly Bag of Bones, IT, and Under the Dome), is that the town of ‘Salem’s Lot functions as a character as well as place. The collective psyche of the town’s inhabitants is as sordid as any big city, perhaps more so, thus leaving the town vulnerable and oblivious to the current and new residents. This is ultimately their undoing.
At its core, ‘Salem’s Lot is simply a well-paced, well-plotted novel. The book’s ability to make a simple invitation or an errant scratching noise deeply menacing are what make it terrifying (and what better month to read such a novel than October). Moreover, some of the most disturbing scenes have nothing to do with the vampires and are entirely due to the horrifying proclivities of some of the town’s residents. This is not a novel for the faint of heart. It deals with many of humanities darker issues, the ability of an entire town to look the other way, the triumph of evil and the loss of an entire town. Bottom line: 5/5, I’d highly recommend it.
*On a separate note, I immensely enjoyed the evil nature of vampires in the novel. Originally published in 1975, neither the author nor novel could have predicted the state of vampire literature today. The average vampire novel today is more likely to romanticize and sexualize the bloodthirsty (vegetarian) undead than to make them menacing. In general, I prefer my vampires to be supremely evil (as long as they’re fictional).
Disturbing literature deserves comfort food: Macaroni and Farmhouse Cheddar and Bacon. Feel free to omit the bacon.
Photos: Williams Sonoma