'Salem's Lot': Spoiler Alert

27.05.20 03:03 PM Comment(s) By Lorne

The Reason I Write... 

Hello again, welcome back, good to see you all. I hope everyone is well. Yes, I am, thanks for asking. Although this may be considered my second blog posting, it really is the first official one. The previous was more of an introduction. In the coming days, weeks, months, and even years, hopefully, I will be talking about my own writing, other writer’s works, and offering tips on what to read and some tips that I hope you will find useful, if you’re a writer.

First, I want to go into “Salem’s Lot” a little more. I mentioned previously that I found inspiration in the book to begin writing alternative fiction. This is true, as it is the first horror story that I ever read. It was soon followed by other King books, Koontz, Barker, Straub, and a multitude of others. What I’ll say now, before I go on is, this is not a review of “Salem’s Lot” although some of it will sound a bit like one. When I write reviews on sites like Goodreads and Amazon, I do not include spoilers; rest assured, that if you continue reading this issue of “The Write Stuff and More” you will find within, spoilers on the book “Salem’s Lot”. So, if you haven’t read it, and intend to, you will find out things that you might not want to know, yet.

So, fair warning, stop reading, now.

For those who have kept at it, here we go: As far as I’m concerned “Salem’s Lot” has everything in it that a reader could possibly desire in a book. There’s action, romance, tragedy, scary scenes, a haunted house, and monsters as the ultimate villains. There’s much more, and all those things probably fall, in some way or another, in the ultimate plot of good versus evil.

Ben Mears returns to Jerusalem’s Lot, where he spent a portion of his childhood growing up. As a child, he wanted to join a club. One of their membership criteria was that he go into the old house on the hill—the Marsten house—that has been deserted for decades after Hubie Marsten killed his family, and then himself. Ben does this, and has an encounter with the ghost of Marsten. This incident becomes a central point in his life, and it eventually brings him back to the Lot to not only confront his demons, but to write a book inspired by the house. It is a great way to get past the tragic death of his wife, which happens before the story begins, and to get past his writer’s block.

In this, we have the haunted house, we have a character-building incident, and we have an interesting motive to lure our main character back to his childhood hometown.

One of the first people Ben meets upon his return to town is Susan Norton. She is a bit younger than he is, and she’s reading one of Ben’s books when he meets her for the first time. They quickly discover they enjoy each other’s company and begin a relationship. Susan’s father loves Ben but her mother does not. This leads to some great character-building scenes between Susan and her mother, which in turn leads to a pivotal event in the story that lands Ben beaten badly and in the hospital. It wasn’t all Ann’s fault, not by a long shot; Barlow, the main antagonist, also had a hand in this.

Alas, this part of the story ends tragically when Susan is turned into a vampire and Ben Mears is the one who has to drive a stake through her heart. It is a gut-wrenching scene that also drives a figurative stake through his own heart. This is the first book where I have cared so much for a character that I actually had to close the book for a moment and just sit and contemplate what had just occurred. When I read it that first time, I knew right then that I wanted to be able to write a character so well that people could legitimately empathize with them. Of all the deaths in this book, and indeed there are many, this is the one that truly stuck with me.

When things in the Lot really get cooking, a group of people come together to try to stop the spread of vampirism. There’s Father Callahan, Ben Mears, Mark Petrie, a 10-year-old boy, Matt Burke, a 63-year-old teacher, and Jim Cody, a doctor. Though, for the most part, they are not friends, they do form a bond stronger than most friendships have. There’s nothing like supernatural creatures to bring a group of guys together. Other King stories have featured bonds like this, including “The Body” which was made into the film “Stand by Me.”

I found the bonds these men developed inspirational, and reading of them, it made me almost feel like I was part of their group. I wanted to write like that, and I think I’m getting pretty damn close to doing so.

Though not at the end of the book, the ultimate showdown between good and evil happens between Barlow and Callahan in the kitchen of Mark Petrie’s house. After the ancient vampire has unceremoniously killed Mark’s parents, he has a hold of Mark. The priest is holding a crucifix up to ward the vampire off. Barlow makes the offer to let Mark go, if the priest will put down the cross and face him, faith in God against Barlow’s evil. Callahan agrees, but then doubts his faith for a moment. He doesn’t put the crucifix down, but its power has been lost due to the doubt.

Barlow doesn’t kill the man, but instead makes him drink blood from the vampire. What eventually happens to Callahan, I’m not certain.

Along the way, Matt and Jimmy also meet their makers, leaving Ben and Mark alone to finish off Barlow. They have their action-packed confrontation in the basement of Eva Miller’s boarding house. Though they do manage to kill the ancient monster, the war with the undead is far from over, and it will continue beyond the pages of the book.

This book was the first one to ever leave me wishing there were more pages to read. “I want to do that,” I thought, and now hope that I am doing it.

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