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.
on 28 June 2013
I remember going through my dad's VHS drawer (these were the days before DVD's came out - never mind Blu-Rays) and one VHS caught my eye like no other. It was `Salem's Lot, based on the novel by some guy I'd never heard of called Stephen King (I was only twelve). I begged my dad to let me watch it, but he said it would scare me. When I had done my best impression of Bart Simpson ("Dad can I watch `Salem's Lot?) over and over again, he finally gave in and I sat down to watch it. It was an old film but that didn't bother me. I was captivated by the settings and the scenes and the brilliant acting by the likes of David Soul. But this is a review on the novel and not on the film.
I had recently read Carrie and I wanted to read more Stephen King, based on how much I had loved the `Salem's Lot film. I saved up my pocket money for a few months and went into town and brought about seven books by Stephen King, one of them being `Salem's Lot. I had no idea what I was in for, but as soon as I sat down and read the first page, I knew I was in for one of the greatest literary journeys I had ever been on.
This was only King's second novel, but already he had let his talent grow and he allowed himself to reach higher levels and pass boundaries he had limited himself to on Carrie. The novel had more depth and more structure to it. It was a real whirlwind of both character development and story.
The novel's main character is Ben Mears who comes back to his hometown of `Salem's Lot, Maine, to write a novel based on a house he went into as a child that haunted him up to this day. He finds that the house has been brought by two strange figures - a man named Straker, and mysterious entity that no one has seen known as Barlow. The town of `Salem's Lot soon becomes the domain of evil and people strangely disappear into the night, never to be seen again until they re-awaken as vampires. Ben and a few of the other human residents travel by day to try and stop the evil that has come to the town, the evil that will take over if the vampires and not found and staked. But Ben Mears must stake more than the vampires - he must now stake his childhood fears and save those closest to him.
King originally wrote this as wanting to do a modern version of Dracula and it works. I have read a lot of vampire literature in my time (Twilight is not counted as vampire literature) and I have to say that a long with "Interview with the Vampire" by Anne Rice, this novel is the closest that comes to bringing about the genius of Stoker's Dracula novel. It has everything - an evil vampire who wants to take over a town, an everyman guy who with the help of a group of close friends of doctors and academics become vampire hunters who have to grapple with the horror that has not even bespoken through their nightmares.
What I also love about this novel is the humour that King imposes throughout the characters and scenes. It is not forced either - it feels real and for the reader who is going on this journey, it is much needed humour that they themselves are encompassing in this very dark, horrific tale. What is also a work of genius on Mr King's part is that rather than force the horror of the undead and darkness on to the reader, some of the real horror comes from behind the doors of the houses the townspeople of `Salem's Lot inhabits. What secrets is this small town hiding and what consequences will it have on them and the people?
This really is one of Stephen King's best novels and for me it stands as probably not just my favourite Stephen King novel, but also one of my favourite novels by anyone of all time. It is a book I love coming back to again and again. I love visiting the small township of `Salem's Lot and getting to know its residents again and again, finding out their secrets and rushing through the town with Ben and Co staking the vampires, trying to find their master. There is no book like it and I envy you if you have not read this novel yet - you are going to be really delighted. Just make sure when you do start reading it that you save yourself enough time because when you start this masterpiece, you are not going to want to put it down until you reach the end. And if you are like me, once you have got to the end, you might go right back to the beginning and start all over again.
Believe me, it's that good!
on 12 December 2012
Well. What can I say about Stephen King's Salem's Lot. I bought this book in May & it has sat on the shelf, picking up dust because I kept putting off reading it. What an idiot. Not since Stephen King's IT has a book grabbed me and not let go. This book is fantastic & what a vicious little story it is.
As you all know by now, Salem's Lot is mainly a vampire story, but vampire's are not the only evil residing in Salem's Lot. The story evolves around a young writer called Ben Mears, who returns to his home town of Salem's Lot to write a book and face the nightmare, that he saw in a place called the Marsden house, as a child. The Marsden house is an idol for evil. It attracts bad things, due to the previous owner (The psychotic Huey Marsden) using the house as an alter to practice devil worshiping in.
The house attracts evil, it is one of the main villains mentioned constantly in the book and King creates an inanimate object that feels alive. If I had a Marsden house in my home town, I would not go near it.
The Marsden house has recently been bought by two gentlemen. A Mr Straker & a Mr Barlow. Not since Henry Bowers, have two villains chilled me to the bone. In Straker, you get a child killing servant of Barlow's, who will do anything to protect and serve his master. But compared to Barlow, Straker is a pussycat. In Kurt Barlow, King has created a remorseless, evil and vicious killing machine. He is a parasite, a walking plague of death and suffering. Barlow is the ultimate killing machine & he will stop at nothing to make sure that he survives the story of Salem's Lot.
The characters in Salem's Lot are fantastic and King really lets you into their world. You root for the good guys & you hate the bad guys. Every character is so well written & developed. No-one writes characters and creates worlds like Mr King does.
As I mentioned before, this is a vicious little book. Its like a pitbull crossed with an evil clown. Violent, tense and creepy as hell. There are many characters in Salem's Lot, and not a lot of them survive. And I mean not! a lot!! Characters are picked off, some return, some don't. King even kills a baby. And very much like the scene in Jaws, where the shark kills a small boy. You read it and think "Jesus! No-one is safe from these animals". The vamps in this book are nasty. More From Dusk Till Dawn, than the vamps of today. They will kill and eat anyone. Even in the end, when the town starts to implode. King describes one of the vampires visiting all the young boys that entered his store, and fulfilling his darkest fantasies. He doesn't tell you what the man does, but those two words (Darkest fantasies), fill your heart and soul with dread.
As per, there's the violence and the gore, but its the fear that King creates, that stands out the most. The woods scene between the Glick brothers, that leads to Ralphie Glick's abduction is terrifying, and any parent that reads this scene, will never let their children go out alone again. A special mention goes out to Mr Flip. Mr Flip is one characters childhood nightmare that lived in his bedroom cupboard and peered out at night. What does Mr Flip look like? White face paint, blood red eyes. A creepy, scary clown. Basically, the most messed up child nightmare, that anyone could have had. Thank you Stephen, I will forever be reminded of Mr Flip, every time I go to bed and switch off the light. I hate clowns (Clownhouse & IT are responsible for that).
I could go on & on about this book, but I wont. If you like Stephen King & you like freaky violent horror, then pick this book up. You will not be disappointed. Old school horror, done right.
Yes as other reviewers have mentioned, there is the odd spelling mistake, you do spot them, but they aren't everywhere.
Pick it up, read, enjoy, and spend your nights crying into your bed covers, hoping that Mr Flip isn't going to pay you a visit.
12/12/12 (Hahahahahaha! I just realised that when I wrote this, the date was all about the 12's) :)
on 19 November 2014
Mesmerising tale of old fashioned vampires - (the kind who don't want to fall madly in love with you)…..plenty of spine tingling thrills, blood, crucifixes, coffins, hissings and spittings…..all the good vampire stuff….I loved the crazy horror of it all, although I have to say I am a bit long in the tooth to get scared by a book (Ha).
Author Ben Mears visits his childhood home to research material for his new novel. His focus is the haunted house on the hill, and at the time he is unaware that the object of his research is researching him.
The dark forces that King explores are not always supernatural. The inhabitants of the town are battling their own demons long before the vampires get to them. Perhaps the worst and darkest belong to Bonnie who thumps her baby in the face for crying….this perhaps one of the the scariest part of the book. Certainly the most horrifying.
King takes us on a roller coaster ride as we go along with Ben, Susan, Mark, Matt and Father Callahan as they attempt to confront the evil that resides in the town.
A gripping tale that will keep you hooked from the first page until the last page.
on 22 February 2012
Well, I give Stephen King's vampire classic five stars. This was always one of my all-time favorite horror novels, and, as a kid, I read it about four times in about six months. That;s how much I loved it. More than 30 years later, I am giving it another reading, and I love it just as much now, as I did back then.
However, I agree with another review about the typos in this re-issue. Where was the editor when this edition was being published? It's one thing if it's being produced by an amateur publishing house with limited resources, but this is a major book publisher, and it seems very strange that they would release a major title like this without checking for errors first.
The cover is pretty cool, and there is an introduction and afterword by King. In addition, there is a section on "deleted scenes" and two short stories, written by King and both very much related to the events in "Salem's Lot."
Great book. Just a shame about the typos. Maybe Hodder should think about re-releasing this edition with all typos
on 18 March 2014
I first read Salem's Lot when I was 13 or so and since then (many years ago now!) I'm never without a copy, believe me I've worn out so many editions of this dark tale and it still gives me chills. This, in my humble opinion, is one of King's best and I've read everything he's written at this stage.
You know when people decide to take a day away from the world, put their feet up and just enjoy their own company for awhile (they call it a duvet day if I'm correct) well...I have salem's lot days!!!!
This is a great read, its fun, its scary, and its a great take on a sleepy small town who just didn't see the evil coming!
If you've got a duvet day coming up soon I suggest you get a copy of this book, you'll be pleased as punch you did!
on 25 July 2014
'Salem's Lot by Stephen King is the author's second novel, published in 1975, and it is absolutely incredible.
Set in the town of Salem's Lot, Maine, we see vampires taking over the town. Writer Ben Mears must do all he can to try and stop the main vampire who not only takes over the town, but turns Ben's life upside down.
I absolutely LOVED the book. Absolutely incredible! The way it's written and how the vampire turns Ben Mears's life upside down, to me, was just amazing.
Stephen King went from being a good writer (Carrie - 1974) to an amazingly incredible writer with this book.
I 100% recommend this book to ANY horror fans - this book blew my expectations out of the water.
on 19 April 2015
I remember reading his many years ago (when I first discovered King). I am slowly re-reading most of them and what it treat this is.
This is one of King's very early books and now considered a classic vampire story. In fact, I would say it is good old-fashioned vampire yarn in King style which we have now grown used to and love so much: small new England town, a host of different characters -usually a writer amongst them. King himself said (according to Wikipedia) that this is his favourite book. While it is maybe not my favourite King, I certainly enjoyed it very much, being one of his earlier works. . Re-reading it now in 2015, it was also nice to read about a world where there is no internet, no Netflix - just a town and people. Research is still done by getting books from the library and books are written on typewriters. And as a bit of a King connoisseur, I can also see his writing style emerging. The writer in me noticed the setting with prologue, epilogue and the emerging of the main story - not a single page wasted.
Clearly influenced by Bram Stoker's Dracula, it may be a good book to get you started on classic vampire - before they were all cute and fell in love with the pretty girls. So, if you are from the younger generation, give this one a try. If you are new to King, this is a very good introduction. Horror? yes, but no spilled guts kind of horror. Supernatural - yes, but as always, set in a normal town with townsfolk going about their business. This is what King does best.
Published first in 1975, "Salem's Lot" is only the second novel written by Stephen King in his long and eventful career, but it is also one of his best, deepest and most influential books.
It is probably not much of a spoiler to precise that this is a modern horror novel about vampires. It is however important to say, that this is not just ANY bloodsucker's story, but the only book which is on the same quality and influence level as the two founding books of vampire lore, namely "Carmilla" by James Sheridan Le Fanu (1872) and especially "Dracula" by Bram Stoker (1897). Since then, vampires never entirely disappeared from the market and thanks to the cinema all things vampiric became a real modern mythology, reinforced by Anne Rice books and excellent "Buffy"/"Angel" series and then even more by the phenomenal success of "Twilight" books and films (to name just those three franchises).
Most of those modern vampire books and films, including the best of them, take many liberties with the "classical" vampiric lore, as described by Sheridan Le Fanu and Stoker. In "Buffy"/"Angel" series and "Twilight", we could see "reformed" vampires who can control themselves to the point of not attacking humans, a male vampire conceiving a child with a human and even one female vampire (Darla in "Angel") who gave birth to a baby (!). Anne Rice series also presented vampires very different from Count Dracula and his women... But unlike those "revisionist" versions, "Salem's Lot" follows a very "classical" approach, when placing the action in a modern (well, for 1975 at least) American little town.
The fundamental point in the "classical" vampire lore is that vampires are EVIL and there is no way around it! As vampiric lore appeared in predominantly Christian areas (even if the myths can predate Christianity), the connection between the vampires and Satan (the Devil) was unavoidable. There can be no "good vampires" - they are all creatures from hell (or the Underworld, if you prefer) who kill people. Dead bodies of their victims are then "hijacked", becoming receptacles for new evil spirits, which will use the physical aspect and memories of deceased to cause more pain and devastation amongst the living. The souls of the previous owners are in the same time trapped and have to assist powerless to all the evil caused by the "illegal squatters" of their former bodies, unless finally the vampire is destroyed, the evil shade (demon) is chased away and the tormented human spirit can find its place of eternal rest. This is why the faces of destroyed vampires usually regain a solemn and noble aspect, as sign of peace and release from suffering...
Another such fundamental point is the fact that vampires are DEAD human bodies animated by an evil force (a demon, an evil spirit) and therefore able to lead a grotesque parody of life - but they are nevertheless corpses and therefore, once we can perceive them clearly, they are repulsive, no matter how seductive their bodies can initially appear. By their smell, by their movements, by their voices they betray their true nature quickly enough - and only their ability to mesmerize their victims with a hypnotic look and chanting spells allows them to confuse people to let them approach... This ability grows in force with time and therefore some truly ancient vampires, like Count Dracula, could actually pass themselves for humans with quite a lot of success for extended periods of time - but even them could be seen in their true forms of animated corpses by those with strong will and enough knowledge... Also, becasue they are dead, vampires bring with them an atmoshphere of corruption and their hideouts, even those which can seem impressive at the first glance, unavoidably feel cold, smell foul and if one looks well, they always contain some revealing flaws...
And finally, vampires are PREDATORS, lusting for HUMAN blood, controlled by their eternal unquenchable thirst and simply UNABLE to resist it... Therefore, there is no possible peace or even truce between them and humans, there is no possible understanding or arrangement, there is no possible co-operation or co-existence - except for an occasional thrall (quite frequently a madman), for vampires humans are only cattle on which they feast and which, once exhausted, just serves to make more vampires.
This is exactly because vampires are both evil AND dead, that in all the regions where legends about bloodsucking creatures appeared it is admitted that they can not suffer the sight of cross. The cross is the symbol of the most fundamental element of Christianism - the victory of life over death! It is therefore only normal, that a creature which is (according to the legends) essentially a corpse animated by an evil spirit, should fear and loath such a sign... This is for the same reason that vampires are supposed to be unable to enter the dwellings of people until expressely invited - the common law of all humanity is that the dead are not allowed to stay amongst the living...
All those and other elements of "classical" vampire mythology are respected to the letter in "Salem's Lot" and it gives to this book a unique flavour - and allows for a great lot of tragic but also very touching moments. It also certainly gives to this book the same aura of fear as in Bram Stoker's "Dracula", because here all people who became vampires are really greatly wronged, being not only robbed of their lifes but also becoming prisoners of evil forces and subjects to terrible sufferings which can last for centuries and millennia if nobody releseases them... This tension and atmosphere of REAL danger for the characters, combined with the great quality of writing, make the "Salem's Lot" in a classical and fundamental vampire novel, only the third (together with the first two founding books cited above) to really merit this distinction.
The story happens in a little town situated, as most King's books, in the state of Maine. The name of town is Jerusalem's Lot - and I will let you discover yourself the (very peculiar) reason behind this name...))) However everybody calls the place just "Salem's Lot" to make short. There are around twelve hundred people living there and the town, although rather a nice place to live, is kind of dull. The only thing really out of ordinary (and very shocking) that ever happened there was a murder/suicide which happened in Marsten House, a large villa situated on a hill slightly away from the town itself. Since the horrible death of the owners, the Marsten House was abandoned for more than 30 years, until finally one day, a distinguished British gentlemen named Richard Straker acquired it to spend there his old years, together with his friend and business partner, Mr Barlow (to arrive later). Almost in the same moment, a young writer named Ben Mears, who once lived in Jerusalem's Lot in his childhood years, also makes his appearance and begins to show a sustained interest in Marsten House and also in a local young girl, Susan Norton (much to the annoyance of her mother)... The rest is for you to discover.
Other than the excellent writing and careful respect of "classical" vampire mythology, the interest of this book resides also in the importance of one of the characters in later King's books in "The Dark Tower" series. The main vampire is also a very, very impressive creature, one nobody would EVER want to meet... Frankly, the Master from "Salem's Lot" is as fascinating, maleficent and scary as Dracula himself.
And then, there is also a very skillfull treatment of Christianity, when it comes in contact with vampire lore. Unlike in so many other modern vampire books or movies, here the importance of REAL faith is crucial (pun very much intentional). Crosses, holy water and prayers are described as being much, much more than just some "magic talismans". The questions of faith, sin, innocence and impurity are also raised - a lot. And as the result of this the character of local Catholic priest, Father Callahan, is not only one of the most important but also in the same time one of the most complex, touching and tragic in all King's books.
The atmosphere of life in a small provincial American town in the 70s is also well presented. We learn a lot about many of the inhabitants before the tragedy strikes - local constable, Parkins Gillespie, a non-nonsense Korea War veteran; Matt Burke, an old teacher from local high school; Jimmy Cody, a young local doctor; Mabel West, an aging lady specialized in local gossip; Dud Rogers, a hunchback and a proud "manager" of a local waste dump; Mike Ryerson, a merry grave digger; Lawrence Crockett, a weasely real estate agent; Mark Petrie, a particularly clever and courageous young boy; Marjorie Glick, a rather happily married housewife and mother of two little boys; and many, many others. Knowing those people and their lifes make them closer to the reader - and therefore it is unavoidable to feel concerned for them, when the darkness falls...
This most excellent book was filmed twice, in 1979 and 2004, both times as TV miniseries. The first adaptation (with David Soul as Ben Mears and James Mason as Mr Straker) was better, the second one (with Rob Lowe as Ben Mears and Donald Sutherland as Mr Straker) I think you can skip without losing anything. But even if you already saw one or both of them, believe me, it is still worth your time to read "Salem's Lot". I count it as one of my most favourite modern horror novels and recommend it fervently. Enjoy!
Salem's Lot, Stephen King's second published novel, is a tale of small town America being assailed by supernatural evil. It is also the book, I would argue, that first showcased so many of the characteristics and themes that came to typify King's best qualities as a writer - in particular his ability to propel a story onwards at a pitch-perfect pace; his ability to create believable characters and, perhaps best of all, his gifts for writing on a grand scale.
The novel begins in a very low-key fashion. Characters are introduced, foremost among them being Ben Mears a successful author simultaneously escaping his recent past and returning to his childhood home, and Susan Norton, the all-American girl trying to escape the constraints of small-town life. And then King does something brilliant - he introduces the town itself. A working day in the life of 'salem's Lot is portrayed with all its quirks and peculiarities, its oddball characters, its sleazy ordinariness of furtive affairs, petty crimes and lazy policemen on the one hand and its respectable hard-working doctors and inspirational teachers on the other. The good, the bad and the ugly of small-town America is laid bare and quietly brooding over it all on its distant hilltop is the Marston House, complete with its mysterious new occupants - the creepy Mr Straker and the never-seen Mr Barlow. Once the scene has been set King slowly introduces the weirdness - a dog is brutally killed and a child disappears, and then amidst outbreaks of a flu-like illness, strange tales begin to circulate about vampires.
'Salem's Lot has been described as Peyton Place meets Dracula: a weird intermeshing of slightly sleazy small-town drama with supernatural horror. As a shorthand description of the book it's not bad but it doesn't really do King justice. In the hands of a lesser writer the novel could have come across as faintly daft but King carries it all off with aplomb. You genuinely believe that this sleepy little town with its ordinary inhabitants is slowly being reduced to a haunted landscape of supernatural nightmares. Some of the set-pieces are striking: - a corpse coming back to life on the undertaker's table, for example; a vampire writhing and blistering in the sunlight, or a school bus being infested by Nosferatu-like schoolchildren. Also, and this is a great strength of the book, it is in no way predictable. The good guys don't always make it back into the light and some of the worst atrocities are inflicted by people, not vampires.
I first read Stephen King back in the mid-eighties, racing through perhaps a dozen novels and collections of short stories in as many weeks. But then as university and adulthood loomed I moved on to other things and other authors. Recently, though, I've got back into King's work and it has been a revelation. Of course he can tell a great story - that has never been in doubt - but he is also a genuinely accomplished and talented writer, one who can handle a large cast of characters and make pertinent observations about American life ('salem's Lot has a lot of interesting things to say about sleepy Nowheresville towns in the US). Back in the 80s 'salem's Lot was the first King novel I read and, having just reread it thirty years on, I still think it's a fine novel. Big sales and decent writing, as 'salem's Lot proves, can go together. Recommended.