“Turn off your television - in fact why don’t you turn off all the lights except the one by your favourite chair? - and we’ll talk about vampires in the dim. I think I can make you believe in them, because while I was working on this book, I believed in them myself.”
That is Stephen King's foreword, and oh does it set the tone!
'Salem's Lot is a genuinely scary read that kept me up night after night.
This is my first read of a Stephen King book. And I learnt why he is one of the bestselling authors of all time. I would argue that making a reader feel genuine fear is one of the hardest things to accomplish. Yet King does this with consistent ease.
One of the incredible parts of this story is how King does not only establish and build on his core characters, but he manages to form almost an entire town of people, with their own unique personalities that are subtly implemented in just a few sentences. This really brought the story to life and is the only book I have read that has succeeded in this.
“Talk did no good with bullies. Hurting was the only language that the bullies of the world seemed to understand, and he supposed that was why the world always had such a hard time getting along.”
The prose of Stephen King is wonderfully accessible to all. It is smooth, inviting and subtly yet effectively relays all the information and tension that King desired. The natural progression of the hurting manages to form so much fear and tension in the reader. It is simply put, masterful.
“For the small children, bedtime is come. Time for the babies to be packed into their beds and cribs by parents who smile at their cries to be let up a little longer, to leave the light on. The indulgently open closet doors to show there is nothing in there.
And all around them, the bestiality of the night rises on tenebrous wings. The vampires time has come.”
As well as brilliantly forming a wide cast, the core group were brilliant. Susan, Ben, Matt, Mark (brilliant), Father Callahan and Jimmy. Together they were so great, with their interactions and dialogue so true to their characters. They each had their own flaws, and you loved them in their moments of strength and bravery.
The singular weakness I can think of this story his that while the ending was good, I personally did not think it was on par with the rest of this wonderfully told story. Still a great conclusion though! By no means at all does the ending make the book of a lesser quality. It just guides it away from perfection.
Overall, 'Salem’s Lot has made certain that I will be reading plenty more of King, probably starting with his short story collection, Different Seasons, which has The Green Mile and Shawshank Redemption within. This is not a story for the fainthearted. A brilliant story of vampires and the terrors of the night.