- Man vs Bookshelf: Introduction
- Man vs Bookshelf: Horowitz Horror
- Man vs Bookshelf: Lisey’s Story
- Man vs Bookshelf: Devil May Care
- Man vs Bookshelf: Big Little Lies
- Man vs Bookshelf: Good Omens
- Man vs Bookshelf: Grandpa’s Great Escape
- Man vs Bookshelf: Clough: The Autobiography
- Man vs Bookshelf: The Cuckoo’s Calling
- Man vs Bookshelf: The Escape
- Man vs Bookshelf: I Am Legend
- Man vs Bookshelf: Confessions of a Sociopath
- Man vs Bookshelf: Silence
- Man vs Bookshelf: Six Years
- Man vs Bookshelf: The Thin Executioner
- Man vs Bookshelf: The Entrepreneur’s Book of Checklists
- Man vs Bookshelf: John Dies at the End
- Man vs Bookshelf: Harry Potter and the case of the Duplicates
- Man vs Bookshelf: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (series)
- Man vs Bookshelf: Ayoade on Ayoade
- Man vs Bookshelf: Junk
- Man vs Bookshelf: Bobby Moore
- Man vs Bookshelf: The Hard Way
- Man vs Bookshelf: 102 days down (+ Freakonomics)
- Man vs Bookshelf: Dirk Gently (1 & 2)
- Man vs Bookshelf: The Clifton Chronicles (1 & 2)
- Man vs Bookshelf: Twitterature
- Man vs Bookshelf: Pele
- Man vs Bookshelf: The Collector
- Man vs Bookshelf: Cirque Du Freak
- Man vs Bookshelf: Buffy the Vampire Slayer Scripts
- Man vs Bookshelf: The Hobbit
- Man vs Bookshelf: The Lord of the Rings
- Man vs Bookshelf: Odd Thomas (1-3)
- Man vs Bookshelf: Harry Redknapp
- Man vs Bookshelf: Motivation and Doctor Who
- Man vs Bookshelf: The Killing Floor
- Man vs Bookshelf: The Dark Tower
- Man vs Bookshelf: The Moaning of Life
- Man vs Bookshelf: Will You Manage?
- Man vs Bookshelf: Creative Writing
- Man vs Bookshelf: Quantum of Solace
- Man vs Bookshelf: The City Trilogy
- Man vs Bookshelf: Horowitz’s Holmes
- Man vs Bookshelf: Forever Young
- Man vs Bookshelf: Drive
- Man vs Bookshelf: Story
- Man vs Bookshelf: Whatever You Say I Am
- Man vs Bookshelf: Football Manager Stole My Life
- Man vs Bookshelf: Red Dragon
- Man vs Bookshelf: Business Stripped Bare
- Man vs Bookshelf: The Damned UTD
- Man vs Bookshelf: The Gold Standard – Rules to Rule By
- Man vs Bookshelf: The Bazaar of Bad Dreams
- Man vs Bookshelf: Am I Proud?
- Man vs Bookshelf: The Black Angel
- Man vs Bookshelf: Stress and Soccernomics
- Man vs Bookshelf: A Spot of Bother
- Man vs Bookshelf: Word Count & The Good Guy
- Man vs Bookshelf: Amazon Recommendations and Noughts and Crosses
- Man vs Bookshelf: More Word Count and Mother Tongue
- Man vs Bookshelf: Cardio Sucks
- Man vs Bookshelf: Thanks for Nothing
- Man vs Bookshelf: The Finish Line & The Bachman Books
- Man vs Bookshelf: Book 100 & Extraordinary People
- Man vs Bookshelf: Arsenal & MotD
- Man vs Bookshelf: Kevin Master of the Universe
- Man vs Bookshelf: Inbound Marketing
- Man vs Bookshelf: Goosebumps Collection 13
- Man vs Bookshelf: 1001 Days that Shaped the World
- Man vs Bookshelf: Dexter 1-3
- Man vs Bookshelf: The Inbetweeners
- Man vs Bookshelf: Manuscript Makeover
- Man vs Bookshelf: How to Think like Steve Jobs
- Man vs Bookshelf: Harlen Coben
- Man vs Bookshelf: One year, three weeks and Simon Pegg
- Man vs Bookshelf: Jonothon Fairfax
- Man vs Bookshelf: Nolan’s Batman
- Man vs Bookshelf: Discworld (1-5)
- Man vs Bookshelf: Extras++
- Man vs Bookshelf: Diamond Brothers
- Man vs Bookshelf: The Point
- Man vs Bookshelf: The Demonata
- Man vs Bookshelf: Awkward Situations for Men
- Man vs Bookshelf: Peep Show
- Man vs Bookshelf: A Song of Fire and Ice
- Man vs Bookshelf: Doctor Who
- Man vs Bookshelf: Cherub
- Man vs Bookshelf: Expectant Dad
- Man vs Bookshelf: Ferguson & United
- Man vs Bookshelf: Sirens
- Man vs Bookshelf: Carrie
- Man vs Bookshelf: Salem’s Lot
- Man vs Bookshelf: The Shining
- Man vs Bookshelf: Firestarter
- Man vs Bookshelf: The Stand
- Man vs Bookshelf: The Dead Zone
This is going to be a tough one to write.
That’s not to say Salem’s Lot has any emotional relevance to me. I won’t struggle to get through it before the waterfall of my tears sends sparks flying from my keyboard. I mean literally, it’s going to be difficult.
See, my dad has lent me his iPad to see if I might like to buy it off him with the express purpose of me using it at work, rather than the Microsoft Surface I currently use.
There will be benefits to this. Chief of those being that A) the iPad is smaller than the surface, without sacrificing too much screen and B) I can use Scrivener on here more effectively than I can on the surface, as I have a Mac at home, and the Windows and Apple versions of Scrivener are different beasts.
So, I think I will buy the iPad, but there is one large sticking point.
I love Apple but when they made their iPad keyboard they obviously never intended for it to be used.
It’s stiff, and not in a good way. It does not lend itself to easy, quick typing and-
Oh, hang on, I’m actually getting used to it quite quickly.
Maybe this won’t be so bad. Maybe I complain too much, too quickly.
Let’s just talk about Salem’s Lot.
After a quick mention about…
As I mentioned in my last blog, I have spoken about Stephen King a couple of times before, and see no need to repeat myself. So, why not check out my previous blogs via the links below? Then we’ll move seamlessly into Salem’s Lot
Following the life-changing release of Carrie, Salem’s Lot must have been a nerve-wracking proposition for King. The difficult second album, as it were. The novel that would confirm him as an author going places, or stop his career dead in its tracks, returning him to square one.
Though the $550,000 his paperback publishers bought the Salem’s Lot rights for would have likely staved of abject poverty for at least a little while.
Despite this nerve-wracking proposition, King was not tempted to write a sequel or stick to something that was completely like Carrie. Instead, he expanded, moving from a tightly weaved short novel focused around a few characters to a book almost three times as long that encompassed a whole town.
The common thread here was horror. Where the first story looked at telekinesis, this looked at vampires, and when King presented it to his editor, he was warned that this book could lead to him being typecast.
King didn’t care, and Salem’s Lot would go onto to become a huge success.
His editor, as it turned out, was correct. King is still seen as a horror writer today, though a lot of what he writes is anything but.
Salem’s Lot is focusing on a small and dying American town which is visited by a vampire and his human assistant. Said Vampire proceeds to turn the entire town into vampires and has a pretty easy time of it until a few of the town’s inhabitants learn what is going on and decide to stand up and be counted.
Why has said vampire – Barlow – come to town? Why is he hell-bent on turning its inhabitants into inhuman undead monsters like himself?
I probably mentioned this last week (how quickly I forget) but Stephen King is, unlike most genre writers, very much a character writer.
He thinks up a scenario (vampire in a small American town, dome covering a town, cut-off hotel possessed by a mean spirit) and populates that scenario with characters.
Then he writes. He spends little or no time thinking about plotting or weaving together an interesting and multi-layered story. His entire focus is on letting his characters expand and grow and come to life as the pages turn.
This has led to some incredibly memorable characters over the years, but the counterbalance is that the plot is often sacrificed.
So Salem’s Lot is a good set up, but King is only interested in seeing how the characters of this town will cope under the vampire encroachment. He is not interested in why the vampire is there in the first place.
And when I say “the characters of this town” I mean that almost literally.
Salem’s Lot has a handful of central characters (the outsider, the teacher, the preacher, the brainy kid, the doctor, the Smurfette) but, beyond these, King spends a long time writing about characters from all over town.
It is a feature of King’s writing, giving backstories to people who appear in only one or a handful of scenes. It’s part of what makes a book a Stephen King book. But this is the first time he employs it, showing us a school bus driver who hates the kids on his bus, a cable guy having an affair with a dangerous man’s wife, and two cops who work in a town so small they’ve never really had to do any police work.
I am not, nor have I ever been, a fan of King’s excessive characterisation. I find it superfluous and often find myself skipping such segments. It was the same here to some extent, but there was a difference.
When we are given the life story of the pharmacist in The Drawing of the Three (the second Dark Tower book) there is no point to the section. This is a character we will never see again. He does not matter.
In Salem’s Lot, though, King wants to show us how this town goes from being a vibrant little community to completely depopulated in a short space of time. Thus, we see it’s inhabitants picked off one by one.
Any writer can do this, but by giving us time to get into the heads and lives of so many different characters, it stops feeling like cannon fodder being blown away when they die later on. We watch this town picked clean and because of King’s character work we are affected by each and every demise. It makes the book longer, but gives its contents more weight too.
That, in my eyes, makes this characterising of every man, woman and child in the fictional Salem’s Lot worthwhile.
And the main cast?
I read a review of this book recently and said reviewer called the cast of Salem’s Lot paper thin.
I didn’t find that. I found myself empathising with each of our main cast. I found them believable and naturally written, as King’s characters always are.
I also found the way they come together effectively, and the twist death of one of them halfway through the novel was great.
They grew as a team, and that fuelled the forward motion of the latter part of the book, as they came together to face Barlow, the main vampire in a tense and frightening altercation.
The only negative, for me, was that we know right from the beginning who lives and who dies thanks to King’s prologue, set after the story. This foreshadowing is something King does a lot, letting us know who lives and who dies ahead of time then making us sweat to find out when and how. A lot of the time it works well, but here it was frustrating going into that final battle knowing what the outcome would be.
All that being said, this was a well-written novel. It encapsulates a whole town and, while it dragged at points, the characterisation was done brilliantly.
The final act was fast-paced and exciting, leading to a heart-pounding climax between good and evil.
I enjoyed it this time far more Than last and, if you’re going to get into King, this probably isn’t a bad place to start.
A short word on the short works
This edition of Salem’s Lot contains two more stories after the main work. The Salem’s Lot sequel, One for the Road, and the Salem’s Lot prequel, Jerusalem’s Lot.
I could try to talk about the first of these but the truth is I skimmed it, so I won’t bother.
The second story I have read at least some of before, but this was the first time I read it all.
Jerusalem’s Lot is set in the fictional town of Preacher’s Corners, in 1850. Like Dracula, it is told through a series of letters and diary entries, mainly those of its main character, aristocrat Charles Boone, although his manservant, Calvin McCann also occasionally gets involved.
It is a horror featuring the cursed Boone family home and the nearby town of Jerusalem’s Lot, an abandoned town where strange happenings have taken place in recent years.
Despite my distaste for epistolary stories, this is a well-written tale that builds on an impending sense of dread up to an action-packed engaging finale.
I’m not sure how it would stand up alone, but it’s a neat little extra to add to Salem’s Lot proper.
Next up it’s the story often attributed as King’s best – and the one book we know Joey Tribiani has read.