Salem’s Lot by Stephen King

King is the genius of fiction that goes bump in the night…but what did a bunch of thrill seeking book grouper’s make of it?

I have to admit that I was a little wary when Salem’s Lot was chosen as the last book group choice. My horror reading experiences being condensed to my teenage years when I would avidly devour point horror books. Oh I wish I had an excuse to still read them now. But I digress, so when Salem’s Lot was picked I had my reservations. This wasn’t helped by a very slow start to the book that marked the beginning of the novel as sluggish to read.

Thankfully I had a reason to read this book and so trudged on, and about half way through it suddenly dawned on me that I was glad I had stuck it out. I’d gone from minimalist interest to piqued curiosity, King had me hanging on his every written word desperate to see how his dark and ominous plot line would work out.

The novel begins with a prologue where a middle-aged man and a young boy are on the run fleeing their past from what is now a ghost town; Salem’s Lot. The once rural, small town in the US has now, according to a spooky newspaper report, just blown away and dried up, and whilst some say it can be economically and socially explained others suspect that something far darker and more superstitious is at play.

The novel then goes back in time to when writer Ben Mears, one time resident of the Lot, is returning back in the hope of gaining inspiration for his next story. He hopes to take stimulation from the spooky, dark and looming Marsten House, a house ripe with scandalous gossip about its previous occupier who is said to still haunt the mansion.

Ben is trying to exorcise his own demons by renting the house where he once had a dreadful fright as a child. Yet when he arrives he discovers that another mysterious person has beaten him to the post.

Things soon heat up in the town when a young boy goes missing and his older brother develops a serious but unfathomable illness that makes him averse to sunlight and deathly pale. But vampires surely cannot be real can they? Well think again, Stephen King makes the unimaginable real, the unthinkable thinkable and he takes our biggest fears and lays them bare.

The more the novel wore on the more my interest and investment in the story deepened and grew, for the most part his characters are well-built and therefore easy to engage with. With the exception of some truly repulsive characters that king isn’t afraid to chuck in, the book is littered with ordinary people with vivid backgrounds bringing a sense of reality to the novel. It is probably the pains that he goes to in order to make a realistic and believable township that hits home the true horror of what happens in the lot when the sun goes down.

Book Groups Reaction

As always in true book group style opinions were split, well it wouldn’t be fun if they weren’t would it? A few people were so put off that they declined reading this book which is a big shame because like horrors or not I do think this book is well worth reading.

Holly absolutely loved the book and couldn’t put it down, she reported sleepless nights of looking over her shoulder, so much did the book spook her out.

Myself and Dave seemed to have similar feelings of enjoying the book for what it was, an engaging book with a reasonably good plot line that was fun to read. Neither of us felt ridiculously spooked out by it and neither of us felt it touched us in any particular way and thus an interesting discussion evolved when Dave put forward the debate of what is better a literary book or a genre book like this?

Certainly the book group usually sticks to literary numbers that we can pick apart and analyse to death and for me these books will always be superior. But every once in a while it’s good to take some time out and just enjoy a damn good genre book which is exactly what King has achieved here.

There was a little criticism that the book lacked in originality and that it borrowed ideas from Dracula but I haven’t read any other vampire books and so can’t really complain. What did everyone else think? Did the book lack in genuine originality for you? Or did you love it and couldn’t put it down?

This is my first Stephen King book and I’m sure it wont be the last, no I wont rush out and by loads but I’ll certainly keep my eye peeled and when I want a book that’s gripping and fun to read then I’ll reach for some Stephen King magic.

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10 thoughts on “Salem’s Lot by Stephen King

  1. I enjoyed the book like you, even though the baby abuse bits are still going round my mind. I think maybe Ben was too simple a hero, he was just too nice, don’t you think? And the vampire being charming was a bit like Sesame Street. I liked the dialogue though, and the killing scenes. I’m going to try and write a vampire story this weekend because I’ve got to put a scary story in for my MA this week as it happens (as a follow on from the story I emailed you last week which was supposed to be scary)

    • Yea there are some bit in it that made me think ‘really was that necessary’ especially the bit with the baby which was just horrific.

      I found Ben quite stereotypical and the way King went on and on about him being a writer quite boring. I also found Susan a little too nice and goody goody. But like you I liked the dialogue and I loved the way the vampires hypnotized the other people. I really liked the character of Mark too, I thought for a child he was incredibly brave and unique.

    • You thought Ben was too nice? I didn’t find him likable in the slightest! lol. (It’s probably the 70’s idea of masculinity I object to). And as for Susan – Nope, I didn’t like her either. It isn’t that I thought they weren’t well written – I just didn’t like their characters.

      The child abuse (and other abuse) scenes were horrific – they brought more ‘horror’ to the story than the vampires did.

      Personally I thought it was a great Halloween read. :-).

      • Good to hear your thoughts Danielle, I’m glad you enjoyed the book. It was pretty perfect for Halloween.

        I don’t know if I found him too nice, just bland and predictable. Ha I see what you mean about the 70’s masculinity thing.

        I hardly ever read ‘scary’ books so I don’t if this one was good by other standards but it worked for me.

    • Thank you for stopping by, I’ve checked out your blog and see you write horror books yourself! I’ll be sure to keep an eye out for your work. As a horror writer do you like/feel inspired by Stephen King?

  2. just picked up this book, and read to the part where we have the mom hitting the baby.
    is there more like this, i set it down after i read that not knowing if i had a stomache for more. like creepy and scary but not child abuse. what say you? oh and thank you in advance!

    • Hi Ben,

      Thanks for stopping by, it’s being a while since I read it and I don’t remember anything quite that bad happening again, however there are some graphic moments. I’d say stick with it because over all it’s a worthy read and a pretty gripping story throughout. If you do find some of it a little too graphic then do what I did and skip through it. I’m like you, I don’t mind creepy scary stuff, but babies being beat up?! That’s not scary, it’s just disturbing. Do let me know if you finish it and what you think?

      • ok, will do. thank you! oh by the way, im also partway through a book, the house of leaves- a very strange and bazzar read. if you google search it you should get a decent idea of what its about…. some graphic language, a few sex parts, but overall just a atmosphearic creepy read about a “haunted” house…. strange and unique. cant quite call it a horror book, but what else to call it i dont know.
        anyway back to salems lot I go. thanks for the info, have a great day! I will post when im finished and let you know what i thought!

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