Small Towns Have Long Memories

(‘Salem’s Lot)

I have read ‘Salem’s Lot several times, including during my recently begun attempt to read the works of Stephen King in roughly the order of publication.

I want to like it.

While Carrie might not have really been part of the multiverse, ‘Salem’s Lot definitely is. The Lot pops up again in King stories. And one character from the book becomes incredibly important in The Dark Tower series, which is one of my favorite things that King has done. And I like that character. I feel like I should like ‘Salem’s Lot for those connections.

On top of that, this book is one of the favorites among the Constant Readers out there. I want to like it because so many people who like King’s work cite this book as one of their favorites.

I like the concept of ‘Salem’s Lot. I like vampires. I like stories about writers.

I don’t like this book.

On the upside for intrepid blog readers, that means this post will be short. Even having read this book recently, I don’t retain a lot of it.

To me, it reads differently than a lot of Stephen King’s other work. I generally like him because it feels like he’s a regular person talking to a regular person. He’s a regular person who’s a gifted storyteller, for sure. That’s not precisely a regular talent. But I find him relatable. It’s as if you discovered the neighbor that you have friendly chats with every day and feel you know pretty well also had a talent for telling stories. He’s got a somewhat rare talent, and he’s unusually good even among the people with that talent, but he’s also relatable. A guy-next-door, if you like.

This book, though, reads to me like someone who has tried very hard to write a literary horror novel. That hardly seems Kingian, as he’s talked at length about being snubbed by critics and writers who view horror – or any genre writing – as somehow less-than. But it’s there, nonetheless. This book feels pretentious. While we’re at it, Ben Mears also seems pretentious. The story seems slow, and full of boring details that don’t need to be there. I know that this is early on in my postings, but trust me when I say that “too much detail” is not a common complaint from me. And even the Stephen King books I don’t like as much rarely seem slow to me. But this one does.

Susan Norton barely seems like a person to me. I feel like there’s more characterization in her overbearing mother than in the ostensible female lead of this story. She’s underwritten, and if she were all that I knew of Stephen King’s writing of women, I probably would never have bothered with another of his books.

I do like Father Callahan – when he turns up later in the Dark Tower series. I’d be lying if I said he made much of an impression on me here.

It’s worth noting that ‘Salem’s Lot has been adapted as a television miniseries twice, the first miniseries was given a sequel, and it was made into a radio drama in the UK. I have seen, or heard, none of these. Jerusalem’s Lot is mentioned in the series Castle Rock, which is a Hulu series set sort of in the Stephen King multiverse, with characters inspired by Stephen King characters, but is not actually a Stephen King work. I have seen that, but the brief mention of Jerusalem’s Lot is really just that – it sheds no light on the book, or anything else, really.

There’s also supposedly a theatrical release coming, according to Wikipedia. It was announced in 2019 and Gary Dauberman was confirmed as director in 2020, but nothing’s come out. Stephen King properties do seem to get stuck in development hell a lot of the time, and I have no idea what’s happening with this one. If it ever comes out, maybe I’ll watch it. Or maybe I’ll get around to watching the original miniseries. Or the second miniseries with Rob Lowe. If I do, I will update. I would love to find something that makes me like this story more, but currently, the whole subject of ‘Salem’s Lot just turns me off.

I would suggest that people who love King and haven’t read this book give it a try. I don’t actually think my dislike for it is typical. And if you plan to work your way through the Dark Tower series, it’s worth reading just to meet Father Callahan in his original story, I think. It does add layers to what happens later. Completionists should also read it. And I’ll probably try it again at some point. I’m truly dissatisfied that I don’t like it. But, for the time being, I just don’t.

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