As you may already know if you follow us on Facebook, the reason I chose ‘Salem’s Lot as the first book to read in our Six Weeks of Halloween celebration was a deeply personal one. ‘Salem’s Lot was the first book I ever fell in love with.
Even as little kid, I’d always enjoyed reading. But while my classmates were still enjoying Judy Blume and Beverly Cleary, my sweaty little hands were busy swiping “the good stuff” from my mother’s bookcase – and Mom was a horror fan. We watched the ‘Salem’s Lot television adaptation together, huddled up on the couch and clutching at each other like our lives depended on it. I was scared to death, and I absolutely loved it. I was begging for the book before the miniseries had even ended and, although she resisted, eventually poor Mom gave in. She didn’t stand a chance, really. She had three kids to look after on her own, and attempting to steer my rampaging infatuation with horror was the least of her worries.
So, part of the reason I chose ‘Salem’s Lot was nostalgia, and part of it was plain old curiosity. I hadn’t had a chance to reread the tale about vampires insidiously taking over a small New England town in several years, and I was curious to see how it held up.
‘Salem’s Lot will scare the shit out of you, and that’s before it even gets to the vampires. As an author, there is perhaps no one better than King at depicting the domestic darkness lurking in men’s hearts. This was his second book and, although it wasn’t set in that quaint little circle of Hell he eventually named Derry, he had already mastered the kind of everyday depravity that goes on in a small town and – perhaps – puts a kind of supernatural malignancy on the map. For Ben Mears, the protagonist of this story, that malignant beacon draws him back to Jerusalem’s Lot (‘Salem’s Lot for short), the town of his childhood, where he had a brush with something terrifying and inexplicable. Unfortunately for Ben and the people he comes to care about, he isn’t the only one drawn to the ‘Lot.
Which brings us to the vampires… Holy shit, son! These are not those sparkly, wannabe bloodsuckers. These are the kind of vampires that make Nosferatu look like maybe he’s just misunderstood. Hide yo wife, hide yo kids, even hide yo dog! They’re laying waste to everyone up in here!
My one criticism of this otherwise amazing book is that, as wonderfully rendered as most of the characters are, Ben Mears’s love interest Susan Norton is fairly one-dimensional. She isn’t given a lot to do except rebel against her parents and swoon over Ben, and in my opinion it doesn’t seem as though she is as fully realized as most of the other characters. Perhaps for that reason, I thought her relationship with Ben felt a little flat and I never really felt invested in it.
All in all, if you are looking for a good, creepy story to keep you up at night, I would highly recommend paying a visit to ‘Salem’s Lot. I hear the kids there just love visitors.