By Stephen King
'Salem's Lot was
Stephen King's second novel. It is set in the fictional Maine town of
Jerusalem's Lot. King planned to name his novel after the town, but the
publishers thought that the name Jerusalem's Lot sounded a
religious so they shortened the title to 'Salem's Lot.
The central character is a writer called Ben Mears. When Ben was a
child he spent four years living in Jerusalem's Lot with his Aunt Cindy
and has some happy memories of the town. Not all of his memories are
good though. He once had a bad experience in the old, derelict Marsten
House and the memory has haunted his dreams ever since.
Now Ben has returned to 'Salem's Lot with the intention of renting the
house, and writing a book about it, in the hopes of exorcising
the memory once and for all.
Unfortunately for Ben, someone else has beaten him to it; the house
has been sold to a pair of antique dealers, Barlow and Straker, who
have not only bought the Marsten House, but also the old Laundromat,
which they plan on turning into an antiques shop. Straker makes his
appearance a few chapters into the book, but the mysterious Barlow is
apparently away on a buying trip.
Unable to rent his dream accommodation, but still planning on writing
his novel, Ben has to settle for a room in the local guest house
instead and has barely settled in when he has a chance encounter in the
park with local girl, Susan Norton. Susan is quite a few years younger
than Ben and when they meet she is reading one of his novels, looks up
and sees Ben watching her and recognizes him immediately from his
picture in the book. The pair strike up a conversation and suddenly Ben
has found a new love in the old town.
Ben also forms a firm friendship with local school teacher, Matt Burke,
and he agrees to give a talk to one of Matt's classes. Both men are
well educated and they have a lot in common. In fact they get on so
well together that when Matt begins to see evidence of vampire activity
in the town it is Ben who he turns to for help.
Matt Burke becomes an important character in the story, as does Matt's
doctor Jimmy Cody and a young boy called Mark Petrie—who is also
reasonably new to the Lot. In fact, if you have read Bram Stoker's
this little group might put you in mind of the one that went
after the Count. You may also notice other similarities between the
books because when King wrote 'Salem's
Lot he intended it to be somewhat of a literary homage to
Stoker's story. King even mentions this fact in
his non-fiction book Danse Macabre.
I have read 'Salem's Lot
twice. I have also read Dracula,
and I must
admit that I enjoyed King's book the best. I find it easier to identify
with the characters in Salem's
Lot and the story has a lot more to it
than just vampires. The spooky, old Marsten House, for instance, adds
an aspect of
haunted house story to the tale and I am very partial
to haunted house stories.
Whether you are a fan of vampire stories, haunted house stories—or
just horror stories in general—I can definitely recommend 'Salem's
Lot. They don't come much better than this; it is 483
fantastic fiction. If your reading tastes usually run to Mills and
Boone though, you might want to give it a miss because if someone is
starring into anyone's eyes it means that they are hypnotized, love
bites tend to be fatal, and the only protection needed in this book is