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'Salem's Lot

A 1975 horror novel about vampires by Stephen King.

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Welcome to Salem's Lot

  • Oct 21, 2009
In his childhood, Stephen King was heavily influenced by the novel Dracula, and the vampire stories he read in EC Comics growing up.  In terms of some of his favorite novels, Dracula probably ranks among Stephen King's favorite horror stories.  While teaching he had the pleasure of teaching Dracula to his students and that was a fantastic experience.  When having a meal with his wife King wondered about what it would be like if Dracula lived in the modern world.  "He'd probably get hit by a car," Tabitha joked.  King, on the other began to really wonder.  What if vampires invaded a small New England town?  That was all it took.  What you got was Salem's Lot.  A story that mixes the best of Dracula with the best of those EC comics.  This means that while you've got the type of vampires you see in Dracula, they're not the sophisticated delectable type.  Instead they're rather ruthless at what they do.  What Stephen King provides is a story that is pretty terrifying as a result.

Ben Mears is a successful writer who has returned to Jerusalem's Lot (simply known as Salem's Lot or "The Lot").  He has come because he wants to write a story inspired by the mysterious Marsten House.  He wants to write about it because as a child the place scared the living hell out of him.  Being back in Salem's Lot, Ben gets acquainted with some of the locals, including a woman named Susan Norton, who is a fan of his work as well as several other characters.  Salem's Lot has a fairly large cast of characters that manage to all be well developed characters.  There are also several minor characters who appear throughout the story that serve the purpose of showing us what life is like in Salem's Lot and what the locals are like. 

As the vampires come into the picture we see some of our favorite characters become them and other characters who are killed because of their tactics.  This isn't just a novel about the characters, but about the entire small town.  So it's no surprise that the course of the novel also gives us a small glimpse into specific characters that only have a name.  They don't play a major part in the story, but they do play a major part in getting us to believe Salem's Lot is a place that could exist.  We come to Salem's Lot and feel as though we rightfully belong while reading about the place.  This doesn't mean he neglects his main characters as they are very well developed, but the book is written in such a way that it alternates between telling us about the town and telling us about the characters.

The vampires aren't neglected either.  As a result of the vampires here being inspired heavily by Dracula they're absolutely terrifying.  Salem's Lot was the rare moment where I became frightened by reading a book.  It all comes together very nicely in the end and the story ends up being both frightening and amusing as a result.  The characters are fun and as the town becomes overwrought with Vampires and our characters begin to fear for other characters, we begin to feel for them too.  And not only that but throughout the book manages to make clever observations about humanity... even when they're subtle.  There are also little bits of humor sprinkled into what is obviously a very serious situation.

Carrie was Stephen King's first novel, but Salem's Lot is perhaps the one book that began to define him as a writer.  Carrie pales in comparison to Salem's Lot.  In fact, reading both back to back it seems quite fascinating because you wouldn't be able to tell they were written by the same guy.  That doesn't mean Carrie is a bad book.  It's a really good one.  It is only to say that Salem's Lot shows that even early on Stephen King was already growing as a writer and evolving his stories into something more than just simple horror stories with cardboad cutout boogeymen.  Salem's Lot feels very real.  We understand that vampires like those found in Salem's Lot do not exist... but King makes us believe they do, and we fear that they may one day come to our homes hoping that we invite them in.  Reading Salem's Lot is enough to make you start sleeping with a crucifix at night.

For the most part, you'll probably enjoy Salem's Lot even if vampires and things that go bump in the night isn't your thing.  It is by far one of King's best books out there that shows how he began to grow as a writer, and why he can sometimes make us believe the unreal is real.

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June 10, 2010
I love Stephen King, but some novels are a bit drawn out and long. Salem's Lot was wonderful. It takes a lot to give me a chill, especially with a book, but some parts made my spine tingle. Carrie was the first horror book I ever read; I had to sneak it out of the library so my mom wouldn't find out (I was just a kid!) and have been hooked on King since then. The movie Salem's Lot was also good I thought, and one novel that actually scared me was Pet Semetary - my God, the descriptions King gives in that book was awesome! Your review is fantastic!!
June 10, 2010
Oh yeah, King sometimes has his moments where he an get just a little too deep into descriptions and his books can be long, but for the most part he still knows how to tell a good story.
October 23, 2009
Nice review. This is one of the most beloved King novels IMHO and great work in bringing a fantastic analysis w/out spoilers. Have you read King's book "Black House" or something like that title? I don't have the book but I guess I can make do with the horror movie. Again, fantastic review. Keep up the good work.
October 22, 2009
Now, just to clarify, there have been how many adaptations of this? I recall a full-length film, two TV mini-series, a comic book adaptation and rumors of a new movie in a couple of years.
October 22, 2009
Oh right... one thing that I should probably add to this review is that the book has a HUGE legacy.  There was a full-length TV movie in the late 70's (though no theatrical release), a TV Mini Series in 2004, a comic book... and The Dark Tower Part V features one of the characters in there.  The book is so... popular among King fans that the publishers even released a special illustrated edition of the book where in the back you could see key scenes that King tweaked.  This book has a hell of a legacy for Stephen King fans.
April 03, 2010
By the way, I'd love it if you'd add this to The Vampire Historians community. We need more book reviews over there to balance things out with the abundance of film reviews.
October 21, 2009
This book has the one thing I always cite as the reason I can't really get into King--the kid who just happens to know Houdini's escape tricks. Nice work on the review though. You're obviously a fan who can appreciate the various stages in the man's career.
October 22, 2009
I'ts a fantasy for kids. The other is supposedly written for people a tad older and theoretically at least, smarter.
October 22, 2009
Uh, this is gonna sound a little strange but umm... I don't get it.
October 22, 2009
What part don't you get?
October 22, 2009
The kid knowing Houdini's tricks... I don't get it.  What's wrong with it?
October 22, 2009
It's just so convenient. How many kids would know something like that and it just happens to be the one thing that they're really going to need. It's just clumsy and convenient.
October 22, 2009
Well I can't comment on how many kids would know something like that (only that it doesn't seem unreal a kid could...), but you're totally right about the convenient thing.  Actually, I think that's one of the biggest complaints about King's early work.  Stuff like that happening a lot. 
October 22, 2009
A whole lot. You use that kind of device once, fine, but over and over again?
October 21, 2009
YES. I'm not 100% a Stephen King fan (as in - the stories are great but I'm not so into the execution) but maybe I'll check this out - 'tis the season, afterall! :)
More 'Salem's Lot reviews
review by . October 20, 2010
   Would you like to know something weird about me? In high school, my honors English teacher gave us an assignment to write a book report comparing and contrasting two books but the catch was she got to pick the books for you. What a drag right? I thought so too. But here's the funny thing. She got to my name on the list and she said "Carla, you are so weird that I couldn't possibly give this assignment to anyone else and hope to get anything intelligent and readable. Your …
review by . June 08, 2010
As a novel I really liked it, even if I found the huge ensemble cast hard to keep track of, and Mark Petrie was probably my favorite character because he was awesome. I also loved the fact that it's basically a (more tragic) Dracula retelling set in a small American town; not only was that pretty much how Stephen King got the idea, but there are a lot of explicit parallels in the characters and events of the book.       As a vampire novel I was a bit less in love with …
Quick Tip by . July 15, 2010
Another one of Stephen King's best efforts. Some really great and memorable characters, and a really well-developed story arc with a really good climax (which is a little bit unusual for King).
Quick Tip by . July 09, 2010
One of his best, and earliest novels. I went to bed clutching a crucifix for weeks!
Quick Tip by . July 04, 2010
An intimate, intricate look at how a vampire takes over an entire American town, originally called Jerusalem's Lot. The word "insidious" is the exact definition: Slow, creeping, nearly unnoticed as the "infection" of the town grows. One of King's early works, tight, creepy, well-developed. Absolutely worth your time.
Quick Tip by . June 30, 2010
I my opinion, Stephen King at his best. Truly horrifying and realistic. I couldn't sleep for months after reading this book. But I still love it.
Quick Tip by . June 23, 2010
little hokey
Quick Tip by . June 16, 2010
I am just not into vampires
Quick Tip by . June 15, 2010
King's second best book, next to The Shining. A must-read for vampire fans.
Quick Tip by . June 14, 2010
A great vampire novel
About the reviewer
Sean A. Rhodes ()
Ranked #7
I'm a more analytical person. I believe that the purpose of the review is not for me to give you my opinion but for me to give you an analysis and help you decide if you want to get it. If you reading … more
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Stephen King's second book,'Salem's Lot (1975)--about the slow takeover of an insular hamlet called Jerusalem's Lot by a vampire patterned after Bram Stoker's Dracula--has two elements that he also uses to good effect in later novels: a small American town, usually in Maine, where people are disconnected from each other, quietly nursing their potential for evil; and a mixed bag of rational, goodhearted people, including a writer, who band together to fight that evil.

Simply taken as a contemporary vampire novel, 'Salem's Lot is great fun to read, and has been very influential in the horror genre. But it's also a sly piece of social commentary. As King said in 1983, "In 'Salem's Lot, the thing that really scared me was not vampires, but the town in the daytime, the town that was empty, knowing that there were things in closets, that there were people tucked under beds, under the concrete pilings of all those trailers. And all the time I was writing that, the Watergate hearings were pouring out of the TV.... Howard Baker kept asking, 'What I want to know is, what did you know and when did you know it?' That line haunts me, it stays in my mind.... During that time I was thinking about secrets, things that have been hidden and were being dragged out into the light." Sounds quite a bit like the idea behind his 1998 novel of a Maine hamlet haunted by unsightly secrets, Bag of Bones. --Fiona Webster --This text refers to an ...

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ISBN-10: 0671039741
ISBN-13: 978-0671039745
Author: Stephen King
Genre: Horror, Vampires
Publisher: Doubleday
Date Published: October 17, 1975
Format: Novel
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