“The town kept its secrets, and the Marsten House brooded over it like a ruined king.”
Salem’s Lot, Stephen King’s second published novel, is the Stephen King book that the author, on several occasions, has called his favourite. Salem’s Lot was first published in October 1975, eighteen months after the hugely successful Carrie.
Salem’s Lot was inspired by Bram Stoker’s Dracula, which Stephen King had covered with his students in a high school Fantasy and Science Fiction course at Hampden Academy. Stephen King said that he wanted to write about what would happen if Dracula reappeared in twentieth century America. His wife Tabitha suggested that he set the book in small town America because, if Dracula reappeared in New York, he’d probably get run down by a Yellow Cab and killed!
Readers of a certain age will no doubt remember the 1979 TV adaptation of Salem’s Lot that featured David Soul. Younger readers will be wondering who the heck David Soul is!
The 1979 TV adaptation of Salem’s Lot was actually one of the few adaptations of Stephen King books that fared well. The story was watered down quite a lot to remove much of the violence and gore, but the plot followed a fairly similar course to that of the book. The British film critic Mark Kermode has said that the Salem’s Lot TV miniseries was very scary and one of the best screen adaptations of Stephen King’s work there has been.
Salem’s Lot – The Book
Salem’s Lot, a shortened version of the name Jerusalem’s Lot, is the name of a small town to which writer Ben Mears returns to after some years away.
Ben begins work on a new book that he is writing about the Marston House, a place where he had a bad experience as a child. He learns the house has recently been bought by Kurt Barlow, an Austrian immigrant who has come to Salem’s Lot to open a store. Strangely, Barlow is never seen out in public.
The arrival in town of Barlow and his business partner Richard Straker coincides with the disappearance a young boy and the death of another. Within a matter of several weeks many of the townsfolk have been turned into vampires.
If you are thinking that reading Salem’s Lot will be like watching a tame Hammer Horror Dracula movie, think again. When Ben Mears and his teenage friend go after the vampires with stakes, crosses and holy water, things get very messy indeed. This is what Vampire hunting would really be like, if vampires really existed.
Salem’s Lot is a book that is dripping with suspense and menace and this early Stephen King work is as wonderfully written as his later books. It’s an age old story rewritten for the modern age and it’s as scary to read today as it was when it was first published more than 30 years ago.
Editor of A Century of Great Suspense Stories Jeffery Deaver said that, with Salem’s Lot, Stephen King single-handedly made popular fiction grow up and made worn themes, such as vampires, fresh again.