So many years since my first visit to Jerusalem’s Lot! Way back in the halcyon days of the early 1980s, when the teenage version of myself decided to move out of high fantasy and explore the horror genre, I began by buying an H.P. Lovecraft collection of stories, and another called Night Shift by Stephen King. I liked both, and wanted something longer, so I bought King’s Salem’s Lot and was hooked. It remained one of my favorite King novels ever since.
As my AP Literature kids settled in for the annual reading of Dracula, I decided to take up some vampire fiction, myself, and return to the Lot. This time the trip was more nostalgic than scary, but was still pretty fun.
Ben Mears, writer, returns to one of the places he lived for a short time as a child. He’s writing a book about the creepy old Marsten house that broods over the town, an evil place that draws evil to it. Ben isn’t the only new guy in town. A couple of distinguished older gentlemen named Straker and Barlow have bought the Marsten house and opened a business in town. And suddenly everyone is getting anemic, then disappearing during the day.
It’s a fun book. King overindulges in similes and rambles off on a few side jaunts that could have been cut out, but compared to a lot of his more recent work Salem’s Lot is a tightly plotted story with lots of action and atmosphere. These vampires aren’t angsty. They’re not in love. And they most definitely do not sparkle.
Returning to the book now, as a much more mature reader, I can appreciate the parallels to Dracula and the homage to Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House. One can see themes and ideas that would recur over and over in King’s later work. I can also see what a huge influence this novel was on some of the trunk novels hiding in my own attic.
Salem’s Lot is a fun, creepy vampire story. Still one of my favorite King novels, and highly recommended.