‘Salem’s Lot, by Stephen King

18128For some reason, people keep asking me if I’ve read this book so I finally bit the bullet and read it. I rather like King’s early work, Carrie being my favorite. ‘Salem’s Lot is not a bad read. I could see a clear influence from Dracula. I enjoyed that a lot, what with what’s happened to the vampire in fiction recently. It was good to see a monster being a monster*.

After a short preface, this book begins with a long, long introduction to the small Maine town of ‘Salem’s Lot (short for Jerusalem’s Lot). Not much happens in the town, and people still talk about the big fire of 1951. King spends whole chapters telling the small stories, good and bad, of the towns’ people. The first time I tried to read this book, I got stuck and gave up. But this time, I managed to roll with it. I saw that ‘Salem’s Lot is more a character than a setting. With all the foreshadowing of the town’s immanent doom, reading these little vignettes actually helped set the mood for the rest of the book. Reading about the protagonist, novelist Ben Mears, was almost an anticlimax compared to reading about the town.

About the same time that Ben moves into Eva’s boarding house, two foreigners named Barlow and Straker set up shop in town selling antique furniture. Barlow and Straker also shock the town by buying the old Marsten mansion. The house has a bad reputation and kids in the town dare each other to go up and look in the windows or steal something from inside. Soon after the furniture store opens, people start to go missing or dying after suffering from “pernicious anemia” and flu-like symptoms. Within about a week, there aren’t many people walking around in daylight in ‘Salem’s Lot.

Ben, a boy named Mark Petrie, a school teacher named Matt Burke, a priest, and a doctor figure out that–in spite of all reason–their town is infested with vampires and that Barlow is at the center of it. After the long introduction, King launches into Ben’s campaign against Barlow. The second half of the book is addictive reading. Sure, there are a lot of parallels between Ben’s campaign and the fight against Dracula in the eponymous novel. But I didn’t mind so much. As I said before, I liked to see vampires as monsters. They’re supposed to be mysterious and terrifying. Barlow hits the mark on both counts.

* And not, say, sparkling.

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