This book has fascinated me for decades. The story of a small country town being over run by a physical manifestation of evil sounds both completely implausible and ludicrous (of course) but if you put this concept into the hands of Stephen King and his immense talent, it becomes a whole different story (no pun intended). Mr King's classic (but unofficial) trilogy of horror and the supernatural - CHRISTINE, THE SHINING and now, finally, SALEM'S LOT, are each pinnacles of the genre and yet are clearly unique in their own right. Some similarities do exist within the trio - i will let you find them for yourselves - but essentially they feature tales of battles between light and dark, good and evil, with a combination of both happy and sad outcomes to be found within.
Superficially, one could say that THE SHINING is more frightening, as a family finds itself isolated, trapped even, in what turns out to be an aggressively hostile environment. There is literally no where for them to escape to. Conversely, SALEM'S LOT is set in an open town, with roads leading anywhere to freedom. But the genius of this story (well, one of them) is that each house in the town has the potential to become a mini "overlook hotel". Vampires can turn up anywhere. And in Salem's Lot, they do.
Just like THE SHINING, this book starts out slowly. We meet the the town folk, we get to know the history of the place, and we consume a little bit of the atmosphere. And then Mr King takes his foot off the brake pedal, and without warning, we feel a trickle of fear crawl slowly up our spine. Turn the page and you have a small knot in your stomach that wasn't there before. And then he will knock the breath out of you and produce the literary highlight of the book so far:
For example, taken from part 1, chapter 6, sub-chapter 1: THE LOT (II).
"But when fall comes, kicking summer out on its treacherous ass as it always does one day sometime after the mid point of September, it always stays like an old friend that you have missed. It settles in the way an old friend will settle into your favourite chair and take out his favourite pipe and light it and then fill the afternoon with stories of places he has been and hints things he has done since last he saw you."
You take a deep breath, turn the page and...
"... And the wind begins to blow by the day and it is never still. It hurries you along as you walk the roads, crunching the leaves that have fallen in mad and variegated drifts...
...And if there are no cars or planes, and if no one's Uncle John is out in the wood lot west of town banging away at a quail or pheasant; if the only sound is the slow beat of your own heart, you can hear another sound, and that is the sound of life winding down to its cyclic close, waiting for the first winter snow to perform last rites..."
And then back to the horror. The glorious, glorious horror.