Book Name: ’Salem’s Lot
Writer: Stephen King
Release Date: October 17, 1975
Ben Mears has returned to his childhood home of Jerusalem’s Lot that has haunted him for years. With hopes of renting the Marsten House which looks down on the Lot, Ben learns another new resident has already taken it. A man named Richard Straker and his unseen partner Kurt Barlow now have the Marsten House and are opening up an antique store. ’Salem’s Lot is a town with secrets and the residents are about to face an ultimate horror. With people slowly disappearing, creatures that prowl the darkness and shadows could destroy the small Maine town.
Written by Stephen King, ’Salem’s Lot was Stephen King’s second published novel. Following Carrie in 1974, ’Salem’s Lot was released to positive reviews and is often cited as one of King’s best novels. The book was made into a mini-series in 1979 and remade in 2004.
The ’Salem’s Lot mini-series was one of my first exposures to horror as a child…and I was terrified. With this backing and childhood fears, ’Salem’s Lot also always had some extra Baggage when I read it…but it still holds true as a great modern work of horror fiction.
The book was meant to be a modern telling of Dracula. The original title was Second Coming (thankfully changed) and can be seen as one of the real first modern vampire tales. Vampires had never disappeared, but King’s characterizations in the novel and greater depth of storytelling changed how vampires were seen. Moments like the tongue depressor cross and other makeshift plans to battle the vampire probably can be seen reflected in films like The Lost Boys and Near Dark in the ’80s. Vampires in a modern setting became the norm soon after this book’s release and the idea of vampirism as a disease-like infection is also inventive.
More than a vampire book, I see the book about small town life where on the surface, everything is peaceful and tranquil. Before the vampires even come, there is a darkness in Jerusalem’s Lot not just in the typical “haunted house” of the Marsten House. The people are carrying on affairs, illegal land deals, etc…even good people have dark secrets. The book is rightfully compared to the small town tell all book Peyton’s Place and I think this almost outweighs the horror.
Part of the reason is that Stephen King continues to prove to be an author who excels at characterization. When you start to read a Stephen King character, the character almost immediately feels real and ’Salem’s Lot is loaded with real characters from the leads to even the smaller supporting character. This is King’s greatest gift as a writer…you might not always like his plots, but he writes good, strong characters.
’Salem’s Lot is a great horror novel and helped cement King as one of the best of the genre. Jerusalem’s Lot has been revisited in other King tales like “Jerusalem’s Lot” and “One for the Road” in 1978’s Night Shift (actually written before the novel) and even in King’s Dark Tower saga in The Dark Tower V: Wolves of the Calla and The Dark Tower VI: Song of Susannah. King followed ’Salem’s Lot with The Shining in 1977.
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