First ion cover
|Cover artist||Dave Christensen|
|Published||October 17, 1975|
|Media type||Print (Hardcover)|
'Salem's Lot is a 1975 horror novel by American author Stephen King. It was his second published novel. The story involves a writer named Ben Mears who returns to the town of Jerusalem's Lot (or 'Salem's Lot for short) in Maine, where he lived from the age of five through nine, only to discover that the residents are becoming vampires. The town is revisited in the short stories "Jerusalem's Lot" and "One for the Road", both from King's story collection Night Shift (1978). The novel was nominated for the World Fantasy Award in 1976 and the Locus Award for the All-Time Best Fantasy Novel in 1987.
In two separate interviews in the 1980s, King said that, of all his books, 'Salem's Lot was his favorite. In his June 1983 Playboy interview, the interviewer mentioned that because it was his favorite, King was planning a sequel, but King has said on his website that because The Dark Tower series already continued the narrative in Wolves of the Calla and Song of Susannah, he felt there was no longer a need for a sequel. In 1987 he told Phil Konstantin in The Highway Patrolman magazine: "In a way it is my favorite story, mostly because of what it says about small towns. They are kind of a dying organism right now. The story seems sort of down home to me. I have a special cold spot in my heart for it!"
The book is dedicated to King's daughter Naomi.
The novel's prologue follows a man and a boy, whose names are revealed in the story proper as Benjamin "Ben" Mears and Mark Petrie respectively, as they flee across the country from 'Salem's Lot. A year later, they decide to return, and the story of the events that lead to their flight is told.
Mears, a fiction author and a childhood resident of 'Salem's Lot, returns to the town as an adult to write his latest novel, about the Marsten House: an old, supposedly haunted house that overlooks the town. He strikes up a passionate romance with attractive college graduate Susan Norton, and becomes friends with high school teacher Matthew "Matt" Burke.
Mears hopes to stay at the Marsten house. However it has already been bought by one Richard Straker and Kurt Barlow. The two ostensibly plan to open an antique furniture shop in the town, and live at the house. Only Straker is ever seen publicly. Unknown to all, Barlow is an ancient vampire and Straker is his servant. Barlow plans to found a vampire colony of the town's residents. Straker arrives first and prepares the way for his master's subsequent arrival. This leads to a number of macabre events occurring, most notably a child, Ralph Glick, disappears (implied sacrificed by Straker), and his heretofore healthy older brother Daniel mysteriously dies of anemia.
Daniel Glick is in fact Barlow's first victim in the town, and thus becomes the town's first vampire. He turns other residents, including his own mother, Marjorie Glick. These new vampires turn other residents, spreading vampirism nightly among the townsfolk as per Barlow's will. Meanwhile, Barlow also turns town dump custodian Dud Rogers and telephone repairman Corey Bryant. However, Matthew Burke, Mears, Burke's doctor James Cody, and young Mark Petrie, a classmate of Danny Glick, become aware of what is happening via separate encounters with vampires Michael Ryerson, Marjorie Glick and Daniel Glick respectively; Burke's encounter with Ryerson causes him to suffer a heart attack due to fright, putting him in the hospital. Deducing Barlow's and Straker's true nature and relationship, the three of them, along with Susan Norton and Father Donald Callahan, a Roman Catholic priest, band together to hunt and destroy Barlow.
However the hunt comes at great cost. Susan Norton and Mark Petrie attempt to destroy him at the Marsten House, but are captured by Straker. Petrie escapes, but Norton falls victim to Barlow, who turns her. She is subsequently found by the others in the group at the house, and is staked through the heart and destroyed by Mears. In his escape, Petrie incapacitates Straker, leaving him bloody; Barlow subsequently kills and drains him, unable to resist. Barlow vengefully invades the Petrie home and kills Petrie's parents, shortly after Petrie arrives with Father Callahan to take them to safety. Callahan tries to drive Barlow off with his cross when the vampire seizes Petrie. Barlow instead challenges him, offering to release the boy if Callahan discards his cross and faces him "faith against faith". Callahan agrees, but does not have enough faith to follow through when Barlow releases Petrie, rendering Callahan's cross powerless against him. Barlow overwhelms him and forces him to drink his blood. Rendered unclean, and unable to re-enter his church (he is almost electrocuted on touching the doorknob), Callahan flees 'Salem's lot.
Burke subsequently dies in the hospital from a second heart attack, and Cody is killed by a lethal booby trap Barlow has his vampires set at his daytime location, which Cody discovers with Petrie. Only Mears and Petrie now remain. By this point, nearly all of the town's residents have been turned. Mears and Petrie go to Barlow's daytime location. In a dramatic sunset confrontation, Mears stakes and destroys Barlow just as he rises. Mears and Petrie then flee the town. The vampires subsequently turn the last remaining residents (though a few sense what has been happening and flee during that final day), rendering the town a virtual ghost town, seemingly empty and abandoned during daylight hours as the vampires sleep, hiding from the sun. Thus, though he is destroyed, Barlow’s will is done.
The epilogue ties the story to the prologue. After recovering somewhat from their ordeal, Mears and Petrie return to the town a year later. Mears starts a brush fire in the town near the Marsten House, with the intent of completely destroying the town, removing the vampires' hiding places as the first step in an all out effort by him and Petrie to destroy them all.
While teaching a high school Fantasy and Science Fiction course at Hampden Academy, King was inspired by Dracula, one of the books covered in the class. "One night over supper I wondered aloud what would happen if Dracula came back in the twentieth century, to America. 'He'd probably be run over by a Yellow Cab on Park Avenue and killed,' my wife said. (In the Introduction to the 2004 audiobook recording that Stephen King read himself, he says it was he who said, "Probably he'd land in New York and be killed by a Taxi Cab, like Margaret Mitchell in Atlanta" and that it was his wife who suggested a rural setting for the book.) That closed the discussion, but in the following days, my mind kept returning to the idea. It occurred to me that my wife was probably right – if the legendary Count came to New York, that is. But if he were to show up in a sleepy little country town, what then? I decided I wanted to find out, so I wrote 'Salem's Lot, which was originally titled Second Coming." Though King initially planned to title the novel Second Coming, he changed it to Jerusalem's Lot on the advice of his wife, novelist Tabitha King, who thought the original title sounded too much like a "bad sex story." King's publishers then shortened it to the current title, thinking the author's choice sounded too religious. King's paperback publisher bought the book for $550,000.
King expands on this thought of the 20th-century vampire in his essay for Adeline Magazine, "On Becoming a Brand Name" (February 1980): "I began to turn the idea over in my mind, and it began to coalesce into a possible novel. I thought it would make a good one, if I could create a fictional town with enough prosaic reality about it to offset the comic-book menace of a bunch of vampires." Yet the inspirations for 'Salem's Lot go back even farther. In Danse Macabre, a non-fiction overview of the modern horror genre, King recalls a dream he had when he was eight years old. In the dream, he saw the body of a hanged man dangling from the arm of a scaffold on a hill. "The corpse bore a sign: ROBERT BURNS. But when the wind caused the corpse to turn in the air, I saw that it was my face - rotted and picked by birds, but obviously mine. And then the corpse opened its eyes and looked at me. I woke up screaming, sure that a dead face would be leaning over me in the dark. Sixteen years later, I was able to use the dream as one of the central images in my novel 'Salem's Lot. I just changed the name of the corpse to Hubie Marsten."
King first wrote of Jerusalem's Lot in the short story "Jerusalem's Lot", penned in college, but not published until years later in the short story collection Night Shift. In a 1969 installment of "The Garbage Truck", a column King wrote for the University of Maine at Orono's campus newspaper, King foreshadowed the coming of 'Salem's Lot by writing: "In the early 1800s a whole sect of Shakers, a rather strange, religious persuasion at best, disappeared from their village (Jeremiah's Lot) in Vermont. The town remains uninhabited to this day."
Politics during the time influenced King's writing of the story. The corruption in the government was a significant factor in the inspiration of the story. Of this he recalls,
I wrote 'Salem's Lot during the period when the Ervin committee was sitting. That was also the period when we first learned of the Ellsberg break-in, the White House tapes, the connection between Gordon Liddy and the CIA, the news of enemies lists, and other fearful intelligence. During the spring, summer and fall of 1973, it seemed that the Federal Government had been involved in so much subterfuge and so many covert operations that, like the bodies of the faceless wetbacks that Juan Corona was convicted of slaughtering in California, the horror would never end ... Every novel is to some extent an inadvertent psychological portrait of the novelist, and I think that the unspeakable obscenity in 'Salem's Lot has to do with my own disillusionment and consequent fear for the future. In a way, it is more closely related to Invasion of the Body Snatchers than it is to Dracula. The fear behind 'Salem's Lot seems to be that the Government has invaded everybody.
In 2005, Centipede Press released a deluxe limited ion of 'Salem's Lot with black and white photographs by Jerry Uelsmann and the two short stories "Jerusalem's Lot" and "One for the Road", as well as over 50 pages of deleted material. The book was limited to 315 copies, each signed by Stephen King and Jerry Uelsmann. The book was printed on 100# Mohawk Superfine paper, it measured 9 by 13 inches (23 cm × 33 cm), was over 4 1⁄4 in (11 cm) thick, and weighed more than 13 pounds (5.9 kg). The book included a ribbon marker, head and tail bands, three-piece cloth construction, and a slipcase. An unsigned hardcover ion limited to 600 copies, was later released. Both the signed and unsigned ions were sold out. In an interview with the printed trade journal Fine Books & Collections, King said of the illustrated folio version of his 'Salem's Lot, "I think it's beautiful!" A trade ion was later released.
In the short story anthology A Century of Great Suspense Stories, or Jeffery Deaver noted that King
singlehandedly made popular fiction grow up. While there were many good best-selling writers before him, King, more than anybody since John D. MacDonald, brought reality to genre novels. He’s often remarked that 'Salem's Lot was 'Peyton Place meets Dracula,' and so it was. The rich characterization, the careful and caring social eye, the interplay of story line and character development announced that writers could take worn themes such as vampires and make them fresh again.
In 1979, 'Salem's Lot was adapted to a two-part television miniseries of the same name. It stars David Soul as Ben Mears, and was nominated for three Primetime Emmy Awards and an Edgar Award. It was filmed on location in Ferndale, California. A truncated two-hour version was also released in cinemas in some countries.
In 2018, the eighth episode of the Castle Rock TV series (centered around the fictional town created by King) entitled "Past Perfect" was aired, which briefly showed a present-day bus stop in Jerusalem's Lot. A traffic sign indicated that the town was located 24 miles away from Castle Rock. The Marsten House is featured in the show's second season.
On April 23, 2019, New Line Cinema announced that a theatrical film based on the novel would be made, with Gary Dauberman and James Wan producing. Dauberman wrote the screenplay for It and It Chapter Two. No release date for the film has been set. Dauberman was confirmed as director on April 10, 2020.
|Wikiquote has quotations related to: 'Salem's Lot|