Thoughts on ‘Salem’s Lot’ by Stephen King (Novel 1975)


Hi Peoplez! Thanks for coming back. In a change of direction from my previous posts, I’m going to review a piece of horror rather than comedy. I’m an avid reader and I would like to convince the public to do more reading. I figure this is a great avenue to achieve that! Today I’m going to take a look at the classic Stephen King horror novel (and my favorite novel of King’s!) ‘Salem’s Lot. It’s amazing to me that King released this novel in 1975, almost 40 years ago!

Book Cover:

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Being in the vampire sub genre of horror, the concept for this book might seem cheesy or childish to some hard-line horror fans. I insist, don’t let your preconceptions of vampire stories prevent you from enjoying this great book. Don’t think that this novel is anything similar to Twighlight or even True Blood.

‘Salem’s Lot is a great homage to the Vampire classic, Dracula, by Bram Stoker. King makes many references to Dracula in ‘Salem’s Lot and the novel’s characters devise their strategy to defeat the evil vampires based upon the tactics used by Van Helsing in Dracula. King also discusses strategies used against the vampires found in Tales from the Crypt. On a personal note, the title of the book invokes an image in my mind of the Salem Witch Trials which occurred in small-town New England.

Spooky Vampire:

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Ok, so I am going to start with a short plot summary then I would like to discuss my five favorite passages from the novel.

‘Salem’s Lot is set in your typical small New England town in southern Maine. Everyone in the town knows each other and when an outsider moves in, the town people all know and talk about the noobies. The book begins in 1975 and there are 3 new residents in Jerusalem’s Lot; Ben Mears (a writer), Kurt Barlow, and RT Straker. Barlow and Straker are very mysterious figures at first who purchase the “Marsten House” which the town considers to be haunted after many creepy events that have been associated with the house over the years. The majority of the town has lived there for 20+ years so everyone is aware of the occurrences the have happened in and around the house.

Early in the novel, Ben meets a woman named Susan Norton and they begin dating. This eases Ben’s acceptance by the local townies. However, Straker and Barlow remain reclusive in their “haunted house”. Ben is accepted by Susan’s father, but her mother Ann never accepts Ben.

The character Mark Petrie is my personal favorite character in the novel. He is a preteen who apparently is the most knowledgeable town resident on the topic of vampires. He plays a big part in saving what was able to be saved of the town. In one of my favorite scenes of the novel, he beats up a bully after being picked on.

So, after a series of odd deaths and abductions, the town realizes that the new residents in the Marsten house probably have something to do with the bizarre occurrences in the usually quiet Jerusalem’s Lot. Once Susan goes missing, Ben takes it upon himself to go crusading against these vampires. Ben, Mark, an English teacher named Matt, a doctor Jimmy Cody, and the Catholic Priest Father Callahan go on a vampire hunt. Their goal at first is to try to save Susan but then it expands to save the whole town.

Now, for my five favorite passages from the novel:

1. From Part 1, Chapter 5 “Ben (II)”: “There’s little good in sedentary small towns. Mostly indifference spiced with an occasional vapid evil – or worse, a conscious one.” – Matt

Small Town New England

Small Town New England

In my eyes, this is a perfect summary of Jerusalem’s Lot as well as small town America in general. Matt is explaining this opinion to Ben during a discussion about the Marsten House and what has happened there in the past. I believe Matt’s view of small towns is accurate as opposed to the mainstream views which is usually that everyone is friendly and everyone is good.

2. From Part 1 Chapter 6 “The Lot (II)”: “Better sterilization techniques. Better abortions. Gentlemen, if we rip this fetus from the womb in a bloody tangle of unformed arms and legs, it will never grow up to beat an old lady to death with a hammer. Ladies, if we strap this man into a specially wired chair and fry him like a pork chop in a microwave oven, he will never have any more opportunities to torture any more boys to death.” – Father Callahan’s thoughts.

Death by Electric Chair

Death by Electric Chair

I love this passage because of the disgusting imagery it puts in my head. This style of writing is why Stephen King is such a popular author. He is not afraid to invoke a view of abortion or the electric chair in the reader’s mind. It also meshes well with all the other gore and disturbing imagery contained throughout the rest of the book. Finally, it gives the reader an insight into the mind of Father Callahan. As a priest, one would expect him to have nice, religious thoughts. However, that is not the case.

3. Part 2 Chapter 9 “Susan (II)”: “Ryerson screamed, a high, ululating sound full of hate and pain. He took four shambling steps backward. The backs of the knees struck the ledge of the open window, and Ryerson tottered past the edge of balance.” – The effect of Matt exposing his crucifix to Mike Ryerson who recently died in his house.

Boo!

Boo!

I view this passage as significant for a few different reasons. First and foremost, it proves the protagonists theory that these vampires are afraid of crucifixes. This is a significant detail because from this point on, the group will always have a crucifix with them in order to ward off the vampires. They also start to put more faith into other vampire lore and superstitions from past stories. Next, it foreshadows for the reader how future vampire attacks will occur. This will almost always be the vampire coming in through a potential victim’s window during the night and attempting to suck their blood.

4. Part Three The Deserted Village Chapter Fourteen “The Lot (IV)”: “Bonnie eats standing up. She is still too sore to sit down. She hasn’t much appetite, but she eats anyway, so Reggie won’t notice and say something. After he beat her up on that night, he flushed her pills down the toilet and raped her. And has raped her every night since then.” – The domestic situation of the Sawyer household after Reggie found his wife having an affair with Corey Bryant.

Spousal Rape

Spousal Rape

I have two reasons for including this quote. First, every time I think of the name “Reggie” I think of a Rastafarian or a friendly stoner. Or Reggie Bush or Reggie marijuana. I always had the image of a nice person being named Reggie. And second, I think it is interesting that King discussed spousal rape, a particularly dark topic in my opinion. I don’t think spousal rape is discussed enough even though it may be very common. These types of situations are foreshadowed by my first quote about the “vapid evil” in small towns.

5. Part Three The Deserted Village Chapter Fourteen “The Lot (IV)”: “‘Susan Norton is one of them,’ the boy said. ‘Barlow got her at the house. But I killed Straker. At least, I think I did.'” – Mark to Ben about his experience at the Marsten House with Susan.

Ben, Sad

Ben, Sad

This is a very important scene in the novel. It’s the point where Ben decides he’s willing to sacrifice everything to kill the vampires because they have abducted the woman he loves, Susan. From this point on in the novel, the reader can sense Ben’s desperation to liberate Susan and rescue the town from destruction.

Okay, well thats all I have for this week. Thanks for taking the time to read my opinion on this wonderful novel!

Next week I am planning to do a post on how the show Tom Goes to the Mayor has a solution for the Obamacare website. Hopefully Obama reads my post and takes Tim and Eric’s advice!

Ya Boi Julez

P.S. If this post is received well I will discuss more books in the future. The next one I would like to write about is Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace. But, due to the size of this book, that probably won’t happen for around a month or so!

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