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Old School Vampires are the best kind
on 4 June 2013
I love Vampires. I'll read pretty much any novel that features those creepy blood-sucking monsters that sneak around at night and feast on helpless virgins. But, I have to admit I do prefer the traditional Stoker-esque Vampire to the sparkle-in-the-sun Twilight version. Which is probably why ''Salem's Lot' by Stephen King is one of my all-time favourite reads.
'Salem's Lot has never really been the quiet, peaceful town passers by would think it to be. There is a hint of darkness behind the town's picturesque facade. There is the mother who beats her baby and lies to her husband about how the injuries were sustained, there's the gossips who listen in on other's phone-calls and spy on their neighbours with much-used binoculars. There is the decidedly twisted school bus driver who likes to leave kids stranded four miles from home and the school bully who presides over the school yard like some crazy dictator. But the biggest darkness that hangs over 'Salem's Lot is the Marsten House, the crumbling un-inhabitable Mansion that watches over the town, whose tale is a ghost story to scare children with. The Marsten House was the scene of a murder-suicide that the town has never fully recovered from and that eveyone has a story about.
Ben Mears, disillusioned writer and ex-Salem's Lot inhabitant has his own story about the Marsten House, his own childhood memory that haunts his adult dreams. After the death of his girlfriend, he finds himself returning to the town he lived in as a child, hoping that something there will spark his creativity and help him write his next best-seller. But he finds more than he expected.
Around the same time that Ben arrives in 'Salem's Lot, so do Barlow and Straker, antiques dealers who have taken over an empty store to set up business and also, bizarrely, have bought the old Marsten House. Antique dealers are harmless, right? But it's a strange coincidence that not long after their arrival in town, one young boy goes missing and his brother dies of anaemia. And that's just the start of Salem's Lot's unraveling.
As more and more of 'Salem's Lot's citizens begin to suffer strange flu-like symptoms before dying several days later, Ben bands together with several other unlikely heroes - an aging English teacher, an alcoholic Priest, a doctor and a 12 year old schoolboy - to solve the mystery of the Marsten House's new owners and just what exactly they are doing to their town.
I adore this novel, I really do. The characters are so real, so believable. And it's just creepy enough that it stays in your thoughts when you're no longer reading it. It's typical Stephen King in the sense that it shifts from point of view to point of view (most fascinatingly in this particular novel, the perspective of the town itself). He builds the atmosphere and tension slowly and steadily, creeping to a startling crescendo, giving you time to identify with the characters and really begin to care for them before he puts their lives in peril. And you know, Stephen King takes that whole "kill your darlings" adage seriously, which is probably another reason I love his novels so much - he's not afraid. He does what's necessary. He's a cruel and unjust god to the creatures of his imagination. And it makes him a much better writer than those who aren't.
This book is up there with Dracula as a must-read for anybody who thinks they know the Vampire canon. King taps into the old mythologies and even references Stoker's work in his own. A fantastic, creepy, thrill of a read. I'd recommend it to everyone.