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More Than A Modern 'Dracula'
am 13. März 2003
People always talk of Stephen King as somebody who writes horror stories. 'Blood & guts' is what people think when they hear the name Stephen King. King has became a brand-name for the bizarre, macabre, dark places in our world. But apart from being totally untrue, it is one of the world's biggest underestimations. Stephen King is not merely a horror writer.
He's a writer. Just that. A writer. And if you really need an adjective - he's a humanistic writer. Stephen King writes about people, about lives that took an ill turn somewhere, stranding the ones who live them on a bleak island of desperation and hopelessness. He writes about the dark places in unsuspected corners of life as we know it - and most often than not, those dark places are to be found in our very hearts. Stephen King's stories are based on relationships, how they work and what makes them keep working, and also what ruins them - relationships between husbands and wives, friends, fathers and sons, parents and kids, and so on. And Stephen King writes about horror, darkness that invades these characters, these ill-fated lives, and already hopless hopelessness. It is in this hopelessness that the true heros are born who sometimes find a new strength in the very hour of destruction, enabling them to avert their doom at the last moment. There are monsters and evil men and haunted cars, haunted houses, haunted cemeteries, haunted shops, haunted ironers, haunted towns ... and most of all, haunted hearts.
This book, 'Salem's Lot, is about vampires. And if you watch closely (and that really doesn't have to be that close) you are likely to find quite a few similiarities between SL and Bram Stoker's Dracula. Is it just a modern version of Dracula?
No. It is not. First of all, the story concentrates on the town's inhabitants, on the people who live and die (and there are a couple of handfuls) in 'Salem's Lot (which stands for Jerusalem's Lot). The basic plot is really rather reminiscent of Dracula and need no further mention here, but that doesn't really matter, because that's just stage-setting for a story that goes far deeper than infiltrating vampires.
'Salem's Lot is about writer Ben Mears who - after several years abroad - returns to his childhood hometown, bringing with him quite a few demons of his home, to write a novel about 'Salem's Lot and its evil nexus The Marsten House which has terrified him since boyhood. You better read the details about this in the book.
Ben Mears falls in love with the towngirl Susan, whose only dream is to escape the small town monotony of 'Salem's Lot. When bad things start to happen, Ben Mear's is painfully separated from his new-found love and in turn has to make a decision which is almost maddening and is deeply woven with the one childhood terror that actually drove him to return to SL.
Together with the English professor Matt, the physician Jimmy, Father Callahan, the priest, and eleven-year-old Mark Petrie, Ben sets out to destroy the evil that has settled in the Marsten House. What follows is an eerily intense story, full of gruesome twists and heart-stopping suspense that reaches far beyond the ending of the book.
Scary, deeply intriguing, and utterly remorseless in the pull it has on the reader, SL is the best book about vampires that I have read post-Dracula. It even excells the terrific 'I am Legend' by Richard Matheson. A suberp tale only Stephen King could have written.
If you liked 'Salem's Lot, I also recommend 'Night Shift' - a collection of short stories featuring two tales that deal with the this infamous township!