Following the death of his wife, author Ben Mears returns to Jerusalem’s Lot, the town in which he spent his childhood, to continue work on a novel. However, it wouldn’t be a Stephen King story if there wasn’t something sinister lurking in a small town. Did I mention this takes place in Maine?
King has noted that the idea for Salem’s Lot came from a thought he had while teaching Dracula to his high school class – what if the famous vampire landed in America and terrorized New York City? Luckily, Uncle Stevie’s wife Tabitha had a better idea – put the bloodsucker in a small town. Although the novel’s antagonist isn’t the contemptuous Count himself, King imagines a foe on the same grand scale – a centuries-old undead monster with an ego the size of Manhattan. He even monologues like a Bond villain!
Surprisingly, I didn’t find Salem’s Lot as scary as I expected. This might have something to do with the fact that I’ve seen the two-part mini-series from 1979 and seemed to remember most of the more frightening parts from the show, albeit that was at the very least a dozen years ago (that window scene really stuck with me). That being said, I managed to forget enough of the core plot that it ended up feeling pretty fresh overall. After the first vampire rears his ugly head, the facade of happy life in ‘The Lot’ comes tumbling down like a flimsy house of cards. From that point on, the book becomes extremely difficult to put down, firmly establishing itself as one of those page turners that you have to refrain from reading ahead – something I struggled with during many of the action scenes.
In the end I had a few small gripes, and although they didn’t keep me from enjoying the book as a whole, it left me feeling like some elements of the novel could have been cut out entirely along with a few of the characters’ actions looking suspect and oddly motivated. With this being only King’s second effort, it’s proof that he did not suffer from the fabled sophomoric slump that plagues a lot of successful authors. Salem’s Lot is a recommended read for those with limited exposure to vampires, mainly of the sparkly persuasion.