“The basis of all human fears, he thought. A closed door, slightly ajar.”
A couple of weeks ago I started reading Stephen King’s “Wolves of the Calla”. In the first chapter a character was introduced named Callahan. He was from a town called Jerusalem’s Lot and that rang a bell. I Googled it and yes he was from another King book, “Salem’s Lot”. It turns out that Callahan has a big part in The Dark Tower series as it goes on too, becoming quite important to Roland’s ” ka tet”. Seeing as I wanted to read more King anyway, I took a break from Midworld and bought “‘Salem’s Lot”.
This was really classic Stephen King, with a struggling writer, some alcoholic characters, a Maine setting, and plenty of King-isms. The story centers around Ben Mears and his return to the titular town. Things in his past mean that Ben has a history with The Lot and, in particular, the supposed house on the hill. All typical horror fare I guess, but King makes it feel strikingly original.
The best thing King does in this book is conjure up a feel of the town as a whole, as a singular entity. The story jumps about between the townsfolk and the small town issues they deal with – alcoholism, abuse, and affairs. (It all feels very “Twin Peaks” and one scene in which a grieving parent falls in an open grave MUST have been an inspiration for the show.) Everyone knows everyone and after a few pages it feels like ‘Salem’s Lot will carry on existing even when you put the book down.
The book is a vampire story and you can tell Stephen King has a love for the movies, stories, comics, and folklore around these horror staples. The whole vampire side of the story builds up slowly until it explodes in blood and death in the third act. It’s works in it’s favour that King leaves it so long. The vampires are methodical and they’re plan to take over is foolproof. It also helps that King has fleshed out the town so well as it makes it so much more dramatic when the start getting picked off, and their small town lives get torn apart.
It has a few of the King-y issues I guess, like the kids never sound like kids, they sound like a Stephen King. But that’s nothing in the grand scheme of excellent horror and really great characters. It’s worth reading this to see King at his peak. There really is no one who can do what he does. He captures that feeling of Middle America like no one else, and it feels like he tried to make every single line in the book original (perhaps to a fault once or twice). And also Father Callahan is by far the most interesting character in a book stuffed full of interesting characters, so I’m glad Stephen King decided to carry his story on.
Overall, I highly recommend “‘Salem’s Lot” for fans of horror or even Stephen King doubters, just to see why he is considered so good.