’Salem’s Lot is a small New England town with white clapboard houses, tree-lined streets, and solid church steeples. That summer in ’Salem’s Lot was a summer of homecoming and return; spring burned out and the land lying dry, crackling underfoot.
Late that summer, Ben Mears returned to ’Salem’s Lot hoping to cast out his own devils and found instead a new, unspeakable horror. A stranger had also come to the Lot, a stranger with a secret as old as evil, a secret that would wreak irreparable harm on those he touched and in turn on those they loved. All would be changed forever: Susan, whose love for Ben could not protect her; Father Callahan, the bad priest who put his eroded faith to one last test; and Mark, a young boy who sees his fantasy world become reality and ironically proves the best equipped to handle the relentless nightmare of ’Salem’s Lot.
This is a rare novel, almost hypnotic in its unyielding suspense, which builds to a climax of classic terror. You will not forget the town of ’Salem’s Lot nor any of the people who used to live there.
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
Barnes and Noble
Something strange is going on in Jerusalem’s Lot…but no one dares to talk about it. By day, ’Salem’s Lot is a typical modest, New England town; but when the sun goes down, evil roams the earth. The devilishly sweet insistent laughter of a child can be heard echoing through the fields, and the presence of silent looming spirits can be felt lurking right outside your window. Stephen King brings his gruesome imagination to life in this tale of spine tingling horror.