A superb novel set in classic Stephen King territory - a small new England town about to be engulfed by terror.
Turn off the television - in fact, why don't you turn off all the lights except for the one over your favourite chair? - and we'll talk about vampires here in the dim. I think I can make you believe in them.
Stephen King, from the introduction. Salem's Lot is a small New England town with the usual quota of gossips, drinkers, weirdos and respectable folk. Of course there are tales of strange happenings - but not more than in any other town its size.
Ben Mears, a moderately successful writer, returns to the Lot to write a novel based on his early years, and to exorcise the terrors that have haunted him since childhood. The event he witnessed in the house now rented by a new resident. A newcomer with a strange allure. A man who causes Ben some unease as things start to happen: a child disappears, a dog is brutally killed - nothing unusual, except the list starts to grow.
Soon surprise will turn to bewilderment, bewilderment to confusion and finally to terror....
©1975 Stephen King; (P)2004 Simon and Schuster Inc.
"An incredibly gifted writer." (Guardian)
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"OK story, great narration"
So far the only male narrator that hasn't made me cringe when doing female voices
"An interesting tale, but not what I expected."
Perhaps it is because it has not aged well, but I was disappointed by Salem's Lot. The story played out in a fairly predictable pattern, the characters all did what you expected them to throughout the book, and the conclusion played out with very little in the way of twists or surprises.
For a Stephen King vampire story I expected more in the way of chilling horror and suspense, of which there was little. If you are looking for scares, look elsewhere.
If you are a big fan of Stephen Kings style, and want his take on a vampire story, then it's worth a listen, but he has written better books since.
Excellently creepy and atmospheric perfect for a Halloween read 🎃 King at his very best
"Painfully Drawn Out"
Taking advantage of the Audible sale on Stephen King titles of late, I concluded with the classic Salem's Lot. Thinking about it now, this was my first ever horror genre title I'd read and so was hopeful of something to send a chill up my spine and also being a riveting read. Sadly, neither of these was true of this book for me. I've read a few King books and felt that Salem's Lot would be a fairly safe bet given the fact it had been brought to the small screen some years back but I can see that after my similarly disappointing experience of Christine that this book fell well short of my most elementary expectations.
Now, King is indeed an excellent author and I very much liked the other books I've read like The Stand, Under The Dome and 11-22-63. However, it appears to me that both Salem's Lot and Christine suffer from the same problem which is that they are far too slow. King has always been a master of painting a vivid picture of a small American town replete with a multitude of diverse and believable characters but Salem's Lot spends hundreds of pages painting this picture and one might almost forget that there is supposed to be a vampire story lurking somewhere within. it seemed to me at times as if Salem's Lot was more a sort of Big Brother type story where we see into the lives of various people without a great deal of purpose or content to it other than for its own benefit. Of course, building the scene and setting the stage is an important part of a good novel but King draws this out in a painfully slow way and it felt to me as if more than half the book was spent doing this with very little else of any real interest going on. Sure, there are little events which sprinkle the first half of the book but these are few and very far between and in my case were just about enough to keep me from driving a stake into the heart of this book and quitting it. King spends so much time on lengthy dialogue that does very little to drive the narrative other than to slow and clutter it. As an example, there is a burial scene for the first victim and we are treated to the priests near verbatim prayers over the coffin. This just seems unnecessary to me and drags the whole scene out. We are also forced to endure pages of mostly irrelevant self reflection from Father Callahan during his prolonged reverie which although some might say reveals the inner man, I would argue could've been edited down somewhat and the reader would've still gotten the essentials of his character. page after page rolls by with not very much of real interest and central to the plot going on. This is sometimes made worse and drawn out further by flowery or dreamy prose that just seemed like padding to me and didn't add much at all other than the sense that this was a very long read.
It seems to me from King's later books that he refined and improved his story telling skills by weaving more events of interest into the character development that he does so well and given that Salem's Lot and Christine are both of a similar vintage, I suspect this might well be the case. I have to wonder today whether a publisher would heavily edit down this book if it were being published now.
Rather oddly, in King's foreword to Salem's Lot, he explains that he wanted his vampires to rip and tear at their victims instead of a gentle neck bite and yet King shies away from delivering any such thing as I recall and pulls away just before the bite in each of the sparse attack scenes and leaves the rest to the readers imagination. It's like a "soft" horror flick aimed for the under 15's back in the 70's when the fatal bite was never actually seen and all we saw was the preamble to the attack before the camera switched scenes. This is exactly what king does here and so when we finally do reach a victim scene, the poor reader is robbed of the very long wait they have endured prior to that point.
King is clearly skilled at the "slow build" and especially at creating an entire and believable community but this is what the vast majority of this book is given over to sadly. Perhaps it's just me in that I always found the whole vampire horror genre to be somewhat silly and far more style than content and this is how I'd sum up Salem's Lot I'm afraid.
Things do pick up a pace in the final stages of this book but I would liken this story to a rollercoaster that takes an absolute age to climb to the top and once there the ride is short and disappointing.
A word on the narration; A great and competent job is done of this and the voice is spot on if rather like that best suited to a 30's detective novel at times. In the latter stages of the book I found his delivery took on either a dreamy quality which added to the often flowery prose which served to make me feel sleepy or perhaps it was just the narrator feeling so bored by the whole thing that he found it hard to stay awake!
A harsh review perhaps but I just had to call it how I saw it. This may be a king novel but it is, in my opinion, far from his best. It's as if he worked too hard on creating atmosphere and ended up drawing it painfully out.
This is not a book I'll want to ever read again unlike the cited examples of his better stories above and I will consign this one into its own coffin and bury it.
'Salem's Lot is Stephen King's updated love letter to Bram Stoker's Dracula. A lot of similar tropes of vampirism are explored in the story, but I found King's story more accessible and exciting than Stoker's classic.
Ron McLarty was excellent too.
"Classic vampire story"
This is a brilliant book wonderfully narrated by Ron Mclarty who really brings it to life!
"Fantastic story that draws you in..."
Surely one of his very best. Really well read, though pronouncing buttocks like clocks grated
Amazing and timeless. A horror classic. This story will stay with you and you'll keep coming back.
"Good but not Kings best!"
Interesting Characters with a lot of depth and emotion. Story falls short, anti climax disappoints.
"Trash. But good trash."
Can't understand how I haven't read this before, as I've been reading King for years! A good listen.
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