Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The Second Coming of Vampires in 'Salem's Lot

One of the books that I had the pleasure to read recently is 'Salem's Lot written by the master of horror Stephen King. In my opinion, it is a masterpiece of vampiric and gothic literature. King as a scholar himself and reader of this kind of literature creates his own vampiric myth. He actually transforms the old-type vampire like Count Dracula to the contemporary, cruel and beast-like 20th century vampire, a vampire that emerges from the gross vampiric movies and cheap comics editions.

His writing is alluring and enchanting, it is frightening and tense... It is a well-written novel with many literary allusions that makes it pretty interesting to the well-informed reader. Without losing its horror point the novel has parts that will make us smile and parts that will make us even laugh. But not for a moment we aren't going to believe that vampires may not be a possibility... A thrilling novel, that's what it is.

In the novel we encounter some very old and common gothic motifs, such as the function of the house, The Marsten House, as trasmitter of the bad energy in the town, the house as carrier of the cruel things that happened inside it, the house as a reference point to the madness that runs in the minds of its owners. 'Salem's Lot is a town haunted by a house and the vampires are the mere result of its malignity...

Moreover, the whole city itself is a vampire that lurks in the night, a town where everything is well kept from the light of truth; echoes lying in the air like the signals that travelling from the old telephone wires. The city knows the darkness that is hidden within and when the vampire appears everything is ready for it flourish. Most of the town people are ready to embrace the darkness, ready to manifest its existence... and this realisation creates fear and discomfort to the reader because in an instance the familiar becomes unfamiliar and his deepest fears come to the light...

Another common motif is the role of the female in the novel represented by Susan Norton. She is a girl who doesn't fear as she should the filthy "Count" and finally she is trapped by him later to be proved that she was merely an instrument to him.

I could go on for ages writing about all the motives that run through the novel since it is written on purpose to remind us of the old gothic literature. However, it succeeded in being a whole literature text on its own that respects the old texts and that tries to tell also its own story...

Finally, I found more details about the novel and I would like to share them with you:

Salem’s Lot is a horror novel by Stephen King, written in 1975. It was King’s second published novel. The book was adapted into a 1979 TV miniseries of the same name, starring David Soul and James Mason. A sequel film, A Return to Salem’s Lot, was made in 1987. A new miniseries was made in 2004, starring Rob Lowe, Andre Braugher and James Cromwell.

The title King originally chose was Second Coming, but he later decided on Jerusalem’s Lot. The publishers, Doubleday, shortened it to the current title, thinking the author's choice sounded too religious.

In a 1999 preface to the book, King discussed the importance of Dracula and formulated a theory that The Lord of the Rings was “just a slightly sunnier version of Stoker’s Dracula, with Frodo playing Jonathan Harker, Gandalf playing Abraham Van Helsing and Sauron playing the Count himself.”

The Legacy

Salem’s Lot was the first of King’s books to have a huge cast of characters, a trait that would appear again in later books such as The Stand. The town of Jerusalem’s Lot would also serve as a prototype for later fictional towns of King’s writing, namely Castle Rock, Maine and Derry, Maine.

King revisited the character Father Callahan, the local priest whose faith falters in the dreadful presence of Barlow, in his The Dark Tower series. He appears in Wolves of the Calla, Song of Susannah, and The Dark Tower, and provides insights into his experiences after being exiled from 'Salem's Lot. In addition, the central characters of the Dark Tower books acquire an actual copy of ’Salem’s Lot at the end of Wolves of the Calla, which leads them to seek out King himself in one of the many realities featured in the series.

’Salem’s Lot was also the first novel by King in which the main character is a writer, a device he would use again in a number of novels and short stories.

Mark Petrie's chant used for repelling the vampiric Danny Glick is reused in another King novel, It.

At one point, Mears explains his experience in the Marsten house, including seeing the body of the dead previous occupant. Mears describes it as being a leftover or a remnant of what had happened there, just like the haunting of the Overlook Hotel in King's The Shining.

The exit sign for the town off Interstate 295 (now part of I-95), is noticed by characters driving past it in Pet Sematary and Dreamcatcher.

source: wikipedia

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