Salem’s Lot, by Stephen King, was first published in 1975 (Doubleday, 439 pages). Written using the third-person narrative it was King’s second published novel (after his debut novel Carrie (1974) and prior to The Shining (1977).
Salem’s Lot is the story of a small American town being overtaken by vampires, and a brave band of people who come together to fight an ancient evil. Events centre on Ben Mears, a moderately successful writer who has returned to Jerusalem’s Lot in order to write a novel based on his early years. He also hopes to exorcise the terrors that have haunted him since childhood. But as soon as he arrives a child disappears, then a dog is brutally killed - and as the list of gruesome events begins to grow he realizes that something is seriously wrong in the town and with it comes the realization that they all face terrifying adversaries.
'You know, don't you,' Matt asked him, 'that 'salem's Lot is in a desperate situation?'
'Even now, his Undead are crawling over it,' Matt said somberly. 'Taking others to themselves. They won't get them all - not tonight - but there is dreadful work ahead of you tomorrow.'
Salem’s Lot starts slowly and nothing too untoward happens in its early pages. But King is using this time to do what he does best – build great characters and create fascinating back stories as he further increases the feelings of tension and foreboding. Once the foundation has been built he ups the ante and unveils the full horror of the vampires.
Stephen King’s skills are many and varied: he has a natural gift for both characterisation and their dialogue that allows readers to feel empathy and many other emotions towards them. He knows how to build tension by setting a seemingly unremarkable town against a supernatural curse. And King has the uncanny ability of appearing to vividly remember exactly what it is like to be a child. Salem’s Lot is a fantastic work of vampire / horror fiction and arguably one of King’s finest. It is genuinely scary at times, it has the ability to raise the hairs on your arms and neck and give you a genuine sense of foreboding, which is exactly what the author likely intended – the slow build does not see much tragedy but the reader know what is likely coming begins to feel increasingly uncomfortable and on-edge.
Salem’s Lot is an easy recommendation to any horror fiction fan, and a must-read for those who love vampire fiction. It has aged so well one can hope it may remain as timeless as Bram Stoker’s Dracula.
"King is the guy who probably knows more about scary goings-on in confined, isolated places than anybody since Edgar Allan Poe" Entertainment Weekly
"An incredibly gifted writer" The Guardian
“The rich characterization, the careful and caring social eye, the interplay of story line and character development announced that writers could take worn themes such as vampires and make them fresh again” Jeffery Deaver
Review by Floresiensis
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