This book, as well as the author, are so iconic that it is perhaps overlooked what kind of risks King took with this, his second novel. The premise in lesser hands could have been disastrous–“What would have happened if Dracula showed up in 20th Century America?” It almost makes you want to giggle imaging Bela Lugosi traipsing around Manhattan trying not to bump into Woody Allen or Andy Warhol.
Yet, in King’s hands, it’s really a triumph. King makes this novel work by not going the obvious horror route and trying too hard to scare us. Instead, he works so hard on the familiar, the everyday, that you believe him when he gets to the terrifying. His craftsmanship in creating the place Jerusalem’s Lot, a small town in Maine, is done very well–echoing Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio or Masters Spoon River Anthology. The book really could be called “Our Town: With Vampires.”
Characterization is also great, although I felt there were a few too many characters at times. The reader does care about the characters, though, and the deaths, even though you know they are coming, are all unsettling.
I really enjoyed picking out the allusions to the Vampire myth that King sprinkled throughout the novel. He really did his homework.
So, the next time you’re bored with Prairie Home Companion or your domestic life seems a little stifling, pick up Salem’s Lot and enter into a terror that bites at your comfy slippered heels long after you’ve put the book away.
Music to listen to while you are reading this: None really. It’s scarier that way. But if you must, Bruce Springsteen’s Glory Days, would be my choice for reading the preface only.