At the time of writing (Oct 2019), I’m forty-seven.
Remember that number, OK?
Right, the book: ‘Salem’s Lot.
In no particular order.
It started slowly. Very slowly. It crawled. But, round about 15%
(Yes, I read on a Kindle so talk about % now rather than page numbers…)
of the way in, I realised that the crawling plot had, in fact, been tying loose knots around my imagination. And when the first few people disappeared, those knots started tightening. That didn’t stop until the end of the novel. And that’s the thing – no one and nothing is sacred in this story. From the initial, chilling sacrifice to the Lord of Flies to the final show down. People drop like, well, flies, I guess. They are there and then they’re gone.
The problem is, most of these people come back. After dark. And these are not nice vampires. They don’t sparkle. They don’t come armed with comedy accents and cliches and dress in cloaks. They are unpleasant and, in some cases, tragic. But the nastiness doesn’t stop there. There’s a house – The Marsten House. Its cellar is almost as scary as some of the monsters. As the author says in the foreword: ‘it’s one of the scary ones.’
But, outside of Barlow and his vampires, and the Marsten House and its cellar, and the superb depictions of some very messed up people there were a few things that jarred.
1 – the vast number of peripheral characters was hard to follow. We’re talking about a town’s worth. Many appear and disappear then reappear and I wasn’t always sure who was who. Are you the useless cop? The horny (pervy) dump manager? The wifebeater. And so on…
2 – the ending was over too quickly. The set up to the final moments were chillingly good, but the final resolution? Over too soon. Maybe it’s better that way rather than turning the last pages into a B-movie gore schlock fest?
3 – where are the rats? They exist in the deleted scenes at the end of the book but were culled from the finished version. I’d have preferred they were kept as some of those scenes are terrifying.
All in all, though, this is another one of those books where I found myself wondering why I had never read it before.
So. Back to my age. You remember how old I am, right? Go check it you’ve forgotten. I’ll wait.
I read the bulk of this book whilst staying in a largish flat in London. I was on my own. Reading late in the evening. Suffering from insomnia. One night – I think it was near the end of the book when things had really gone belly up for the inhabitants of the Lot – I couldn’t sleep. Not because of my insomnia, but because a doubt had crept up on me, rat-like, whiskers tickling the toes of my imagination. Who, or what, was in the other rooms in the flat? I was there on my own, right? Of course I was. Just me. No one else. Not a soul. Only little old me…
A forty-seven year old man got out of bed to check there were no monsters in the closet, under the bed, in the other rooms or hiding on the landing.
Are you laughing at me?
You should be…
Now go read the book. It’s scarily good.
PS Ben Mears (the protagonist) is an author, a ‘serious-minded person’. At one point he meets a young woman’s parents for dinner. After a few beers he goes home while the evening’s young because he wants to write. The reason he gives the woman’s dad is that he owes his current book some pages. I’m paraphrasing (badly), but I think it’s a great idea: an author owing their book words. Guess where I’m going now.
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