“The town kept its secrets, and the Marsten House brooded over it like a ruined king.”
TITLE & AUTHOR: ‘Salem’s Lot by Stephen King
FIRST PUBLISHED : October 17th 1975
MY RATING: 4/5
Thousands of miles away from the small township of ‘Salem’s Lot, two terrified people, a man and a boy, still share the secrets of those clapboard houses and tree-lined streets. They must return to ‘Salem’s Lot for a final confrontation with the unspeakable evil that lives on in the town.
The more I read of King’s novels, the more I love his work. I admit it’s been a while since I read this one, but I can’t leave it unreviewed, because it’s really good. Not as good as Misery or The Shining or Pet Sematary, but really good. And as is the case with Mr. King – it’s huge.
So far I gathered that King loves his descriptions. I mean really loves them. Not that they are bad – he’s able to transport you into a cozy, small town in Maine, USA in just a couple of paragraphs, while you’re (me) sitting in an apartment on the fourth floor of a building in Serbia. I can still picture the quiet streets and shuttered houses of Jerusalem’s Lot, like I’ve been there just last year. Luckily, I’ve never been, because Jerusalem’s Lot is evil.
The town has a long, dark history, but the center of its wickedness seems to be the Marsten house, on the top of the hill. It has stood empty and silent since the previous owner killed his wife and hung himself upstairs. This dark event forever marked the house as ominous to the adults, and a challenge to the local mischievous kids. Every Jerusalem’s Lot native knows this house well, but no one knows it better than Ben.
As Ben Mears, a celebrated author, has just returned to his hometown after years of absence, something seems to be stirring. Ben may have come to face his demons, but there are other newcomers who may be a whole other sort of evil in a town already rotten. Businessmen Barlow and Straker came to Salem’s Lot to open up an antique store, but locals get suspicious because first of all, the two men are rarely seen, especially during the day, and second – the place they chose to stay at is none other than Marsten house. Also – the prices they set at the store are outrageous.
Getting back to King’s descriptions – those are actually the reason I chucked off a star for Salem’s Lot. As I said, I don’t mind the long descriptive passages, but when you combine those with a 500 page book – in this case you get a slow, dry start. The latter part of the novel, where all the action is, is more interesting and has a quicker pace, but the first part is mainly character introduction and descriptions of the town. And there are quite a lot of characters in this one. Other than tens of colorful side characters – there are 6 main ones: Ben, Susan, a local girl he likes, Matt, a teacher, Jimmy, a doctor, Mark, a kid, and Father Callahan, you guessed it – a priest. Talking about colorful. So, understandably, it’s hard to keep up with everyone as they’re being introduced left and right, but if you manage that – you’re all set for a good, creepy story.
Considering my lengthy Goth phase and my love of horror – it’s a surprise I haven’t read a lot of vampire books. So, comparing to Anne Rice’s novels – I can honestly say that ‘Salem’s Lot is one of the better vampire novels I’ve read. The way King describes vampires is mostly similar to the traditional manner of Stoker’s Dracula and of the movie Nosferatu – no glamour or sparkles or love triangles here, just dark, blood and evil. Oh, and vampire kids staring through windows at night.
After I finished the novel, I was surprised to find a short story bonus at the end of my copy. It was Jerusalem’s Lot, which is a prequel and served as inspiration for ‘Salem’s Lot. It added another layer of creepy on the whole matter, so if you loved ‘Salem’s Lot I recommend you read this short story too. Oh, and watch the second season of Castle Rock, you won’t be disappointed.
Stephen Edwin King is an American author of horror, supernatural fiction, suspense, science fiction, and fantasy novels. His books have sold more than 350 million copies, many of which have been adapted into feature films, miniseries, television series, and comic books. King has published 58 novels (including seven under the pen name Richard Bachman) and six non-fiction books. He has written approximately 200 short stories, most of which have been published in book collections.
King has received Bram Stoker Awards, World Fantasy Awards, and British Fantasy Society Awards. In 2003, the National Book Foundation awarded him the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. He has also received awards for his contribution to literature for his entire oeuvre, such as the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement (2004), and the Grand Master Award from the Mystery Writers of America (2007). In 2015, King was awarded with a National Medal of Arts from the United States National Endowment for the Arts for his contributions to literature. He has been described as the “King of Horror”.