‘Salem’s Lot is another gift card purchase. It’s one of King’s earliest (and better-known, at least to me) novels and I’d always been curious, but had always passed it up when I remembered that it was about vampires. After the Twilight craze, I was almost entirely convinced that anything written about vampires—even something written by Stephen King—would just be, well, terrible. And I wasn’t willing to plunge myself into some kind of absurd vampire obsession. Thankfully, ‘Salem’s Lot was nothing at all like the page and a half of Twilight that I once glanced at in the train station, but it still definitely isn’t my favorite genre.
The story begins when Ben Mears, a novelist, returns to Jerusalem’s Lot, the small town in Maine where he grew up with his aunt, to write his next book. As Ben arrives, so do two strangers, Mr. Straker and Mr. Barlow. These two ominous figures have moved into the (ostensibly haunted) Marsten House, which stands on a hill overlooking the town. When Ben was young, he saw something unspeakable in that house when he broke in on a dare—and he’s back in ‘Salem’s Lot to exorcise those demonic memories. But he gets more than he bargained for when people in ‘Salem’s Lot start disappearing—and reappearing, but only at night.
For someone who is completely uninterested in vampires, I really enjoyed this book. Classic King, not too gross (because he can really be gross sometimes), just the right amount of humor, suspense, horror, and sorrow. Ben is wonderfully realistic and likeable, as are many of the small-town personalities that King is so adept at portraying. Along with that, though, come the darker sides of human nature that King is also very good at portraying, and what can make his writing so disturbing at times. From the abusive McDougalls to the gossipy Mabel Werts, King shows all sides of our complex human morality—or lack of it—in this wonderful illustration of a small town besieged by evil.
It’s hard to say much about the plot without giving things away. What I will say, and what I alluded to before, is that it was very much the classic small-town evilness that King excels in. It was very reminiscent of Needful Things (not as gross, thankfully), which I have to get around to reviewing for this blog. I don’t know that I would read it again, because it definitely didn’t hook me the way many other King novels have, but I did like it. Since it was only his second novel (written between Carrie, his first, and The Shining, his third) it’s definitely a good book to read if you want a taste of his early writing style. And you should, because his writing is awesome.