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Salem’s Lot

January 26, 2011

Arts & Literature, Reviews

Written by D:

If vampire novels were cars, this would be the reliable old banger that your dad used to own and still swears was his best ever motor. Although Stephen King was at the forefront of the 1970s horror revival, this work actually represents the very end of a trend in vampire writing, which started seventy-five years previously with Dracula.

Barlow (the original vampire in the story) is a chip off the old block of any Hammer Horror monster. To put it bluntly, we aren’t, as readers, expected to care about his motivation. Like any King villain he’s merely a symbol of the rot which is already deeply ingrained in the small town Maine community of the title. As Yeats might have said, things fall apart, heroes are made, loves are lost and the pretence of respectability and domesticity crumbles to chaos. An author who would later fantasize over and over about the end of the world is here content with having a vampire wreak havoc on a single community and on the minds of the few survivors.

Deceptively ordinary, this novel has survived over thirty years of competition from decadent antebellum houses and vampire anti-heroes with pretty faces and grandiose feelings (not to mention vocabularies) to seal its place as the most successful vampire novel of the 20th century. ‘Salem’s Lot is where anyone could live, and its residents are anyone we might know. King makes that sort of writing look easy. His slight of hand is too good and for that, he is much underrated.

Thousands of miles away from the small township of ‘Salem’s Lot, two terrified people still share the secrets of those clapboard houses and tree-lined streets.

One is an eleven year-old boy. He never speaks but his eyes betray the indescribable horror he has witnessed.

The other is a man plagued by nightmares, a man who knows that soon he and the boy must return to ‘Salem’s Lot for a final confrontation with the unspeakable evil that lives on in the town where no one is human anymore…

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