I absolutely love horror stories but at the same time, I am equally terrified of them. Every so often I feel brave and watch a horror movie, and end up waking every night for a month at 3am watching reruns of Finding Nemo to try and eliminate any scary scenes from my head. The feeling of being scared brings a rush of adrenaline that I love, though, and that it what keeps me coming back. For this terror fix, however, I decided to try a horror book instead to see how I would fare there.
When it came to breaking my horror novel virginity, I really could not look any further than Stephen King, even though I consider him somewhat of an enemy due to the endless sleepless nights It gave me. Needless to say, that was not going to be my first choice of book. Admittedly, I only picked ’Salem’s Lot because I thought it was about witches and they are not all that frightening. It was a pleasant surprise when I realised it was actually about vampires as they are my favourite evil creature (if you can actually have one). Nevertheless, a sense of dread did begin to creep in when others began to tell me how utterly creepy the story of ‘Salem’s Lot is.
Reading ‘Salem’s Lot was a refreshing step back to when vampires were mean, nasty and just plain evil. The plotline is based around a sleepy little town in America where not much has happened since Hughie Marsten murdered his wife and hung himself in their home. Residents are unnerved by the house and believe an evil force still lives there, making it the perfect spot for Kurt Barlow and his assistant to set up home. Ben Mears spent some times lining in the Lot and returns to write a novel based on the town, and of course, the Marsten House. Just a short time into his stay, a lot of unsettling things begin to occur as soon as the sun goes down. As the protagonist of the story, it falls to Ben and a couple of his new friends in the Lot to figure out just what is going on and put a stop to it.
Many readers have complained that King draws the storyline out to much. Roughly the first 200 pages of the book are 80% based on characterization. This was not necessarily a bad point for me and I think the build up made things more realistic. By knowing more about the lives of each character, the reader really gets a feel of the atmosphere of the town. It also made the ‘vampire plague’, let’s call it, more believable. ‘Salem’s Lot was a small town where people helped and had trust in one another. Suspicion was not a common feeling and this led to residents breaking the age old rule of not inviting a vampire into your home. As a result, their neighbourliness ultimately led to an untimely death. Coming from not a relatively small place itself, the fact that such terrible events could take place in even the most mundane of places sent a chill down my spine.
What I liked the best about this book was that there were no really gory scenes. King basically left everything to the imagination which certainly makes things much scarier. We read about little Danny Glick hovering outside windows at night trying to lure people to the eternal life. We know that he succeeds but there is no description of his actual bloodsucking ways. Imagining the scene rather than being told about his actions is far more terrifying, in my opinion.
I also was a fan of the Marsten House. While still reading the first third of the book, I was under the impression that most of the story would take place in the house. Where there are some unpleasant scenes set there, it is not the main focal point of the book. I found this slightly disappointing as I would have liked to read more narrative about the actual interior of the house. Still, it is mentioned many times throughout the novel and by the end, its status as a symbol is evil is quite fitting and we learn just why Kurt Barlow chooses it as his residence.
‘Salem’s Lot is the first Stephen King book I have read but certainly not the last. From front to back, it was a truly creepy read which escalated the terror inside me with each page I read. If you are a lover of horror, and particularly of old school vampire tales, this is a must read for you.
What did you think of ‘Salem’s Lot? Any recommendations for my next King book?