Vampires have existed in fiction for well over a hundred years now, stretching back to John Palidori’s The Vampyre, published in 1819. In all that time, they’ve morphed into tragic heroes, romantic lovers, and even managed to…sparkle?
No. Real vampires are supposed to be scary. They stalk you in the dead of night, their bite draining you of blood and transforming you into one of them, doomed to wander in search of people to feed on yourself. That means stories like Nosferatu, Dracula, and Stephen King’s masterpiece, Salem’s Lot.
Only King’s second novel, Salem’s Lot is his take on the story of Dracula and vampires, introducing them to the new world through the small town of Jerusalem’s Lot, Maine. The story is focused on Ben Mears, who returns to Jerusalem’s Lot years after leaving as a child to write a book about the abandoned mansion call the Marsten House. Arriving at the same time is an Austrian immigrant by the name of Kurt Barlow. Not long after, people start disappearing, then reappearing in the dark depths of the night, thirsting for the blood of their family, friends, and community members. It falls on Ben, Susan Norton, a college grad, Father Callahan, and a young boy by the name of Mark Petrie to discover the source of the evil and battle it.
Salem’s Lot isn’t just my favorite. The year after it was released, in 1976, it was nominated for the World Fantasy Best Novel award. Stephen King even said himself in an interview with Playboy in 1983 that it was his favorite. (In an interview with Rolling Stone in 2014, though, his answer changed to Lisey’s Story.) It also regularly breaches the top five in lists of King’s best works, and has over 80,000 five star reviews on the book review site Goodreads.com.
This is more than just a horror novel about vampires. It’s a time capsule of classic Americana, at least before the vampires overrun the town, and an example of a book which is nearly perfect on all the cylinders of plot, characterization, and description. It’s an example of some of the best that writing can be and a book that anyone with any interest at all in horror or vampires should read.
If you disagree, I hope little Danny Glick comes tapping on your window in the dark of night. He’ll be able to convince you far better than I.
Featured image courtesy of halfmanhalfmovie.com