Those Summer Frights

Salem's Lot

Almost everyone thought the man and the boy were father and son.

This summer marked the start of my reading an author I had wanted to experience for such a long time but whose reputation for horror had kept me at bay. As a girl with a vastly active imagination, I decided that, after a commute filled with Stephen King, walking home in the heatwave of this summer was decidedly more appealing than attempting the dark autumn nights with snapping-twig accompaniment.

‘Salem’s Lot was recommended to me by my Uncle, a prolific SK fan, as his first and favourite King and, with Stoker’s Dracula being one of my favourite novels of all time, the vampiric world of ‘Salem’s Lot seemed the perfect starting point to begin my journey into the world of the master…

The author Ben Mears returns to the town of his childhood, hoping to finish his next his masterpiece whilst facing the demons that have haunted him his whole life. With the ominous Marsten house looming over the residents of Jerusalem’s Lot, all is not as it seems as Ben soon discovers that he is not the only new guest in town…

King’s writing is modern in style but unmistakably classic, playing homage to the traditional vampire tales and Stoker himself in his choice of names for the two bringers of evil. There is something effortless in the way he modernises the traditions of vampires, particularly in relation to Stoker, that so many other writers fail to capture effectively. Even in ‘Salem’s Lot, King’s second novel, you can see the ease of his storytelling and his famous ability to write with gritty suspense. He doesn’t shy away from making cut-throat decisions, choosing to put the demands of the plot above any sentimentality towards his characters, which for a horror novel (even a supernatural one) is exactly what you want – to suspend belief and transport you into a town where no one is safe!

The Lot is not only home to the terror of the supernatural however. The town of Jerusalem’s Lot is a character all of its own, a breeding ground for horrific acts, as King uses the intimacies and secrets that accompanies small-town living to explore the darkness deep within the humans themselves. The capabilities of some of the Lot’s residents, even without the fall-back of eternal damnation to blame for their actions, creates some of the more disturbing and effective scenes within the novel.

There is no doubt that King’s reputation is deserved. He is a detailed and considered storyteller, who layers narrative and meaning with ease and style. I think, as is the case with every built up novel/play/film, I expected more horror than the novel delivered but that doesn’t mean I will throw caution to the wind and happily reread in the dead of winter (pun absolutely intended)!. As a ‘modern’ vampire novel, written in 1975, there are parts of the story that are, inevitably, dated but that’s easily over looked when you consider that ‘Salem’s Lot celebrates all that is spinetingling about the undead, delving into the darker side of the human condition and unearthing the horrors within.

3 star


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