Friday, November 28, 2008

'Salem's Lot [The Illustrated Edition] by Stephen King

Hodder and Stoughton's : ‘Salem’s Lot [The Illustrated Edition] by Stephen King

In the spirit of Patti Abbott’s Friday Forgotten book project, let me add Stephen King’s “Salem’s Lot :The Illustrated Edition”, even if perhaps it is not forgotten by the legion of King’s readers.

This illustrated edition is beautifully bound and a substantial book, and does justice to one of the finest novels of terror I’ve ever read. Making it additionally special is the new introduction and afterword by King, we also get some previously deleted scenes that didn’t make the original version. Unlike the re-issue of ‘The Stand’, these deleted scenes are not re-instated into the novel but appear as vignettes of which the gory rat-attack is an interesting piece [which was removed from the original text as the US publishers considered it to visceral]. Also included are the short stories, ‘Jerusalem’s Lot’ and ‘One for the road’ which are related to the novel [and were originally published in his first short story collection ‘Night Shift’]. The icing on the cake however is the array of surreal photographs [by Jerry Uelsmann] that capture the tense sense of dread perfectly; making this illustrated edition a must for your shelf.

Re-reading this masterwork over twenty years later in this new edition proved to me the power of King’s writing. Not only does ‘Salem’s Lot stand the test of time, but it felt as fresh today as it did for me in 1975, when the horror genre was blossoming. An updating and sort of love-letter to Bram Stoker, we have a vampire tale rooted in contemporary America, that would soon become the structure and trademark for King’s future work. It should also be noted that for readers of King’s fantasy cycle ‘The Dark Tower’, ‘Salem’s Lot is required reading.

The novel is a claustrophobic tale of writer Ben Mears returning to his hometown Jerusalem’s Lot and has to confront the fear of The Marsten House, where a madman resided. Mears watches the town change when the mysterious Mr Barlow and Mr Straker arrive. Soon a young child is found dead, and then the town really changes as the dead come back to life. Mears befriends a young boy Mark Petrie who is fascinated by scary monsters and horror movies and soon they find themselves in the centre of some real-life terror. Mears and Petrie then realise that the town is overrun by vampires and that the sinister Mr Barlow and Mr Straker are at the epicentre of the evil, and decide to take action. The final sections of the novel lead up to a cliffhanger that shows that evil can hide in plain view and to destroy supernatural forces may not be easy, if not impossible. This is nightmare inducing fiction, and I believe in future decades the novel - ‘Salem’s Lot will be become as infamous as Stoker’s Dracula.

Such is the power of this novel, that it went onto be filmed to great effect with David Soul and James Mason in 1979 as a TV Miniseries, and a sequel followed in 2004 featuring Rob Lowe. But you really must read the source material to understand its true power and this edition from Hodder & Stoughton is in my opinion the definitive edition of this wonderful book.

May the King never be forgotten.


  1. I loved this book. One of my favorite King books ever. Thanks. Between this and your last pick, I can see we have similar tastes.

  2. I read this book many mons ago during my years of King mania. It's a good book but then all his early stuff is.

  3. I first read a paperback of this book all those years ago. But I do have a copy of The Illustrated edition as well.
    Good choice.

  4. What a great recommendation! I didn't know the book came in a deluxe edition, and think the inclusion of the two "Night Shift" stories is a great idea. I am currently re-reading my old copy and love how every single SK character is unbelievably folksy, well-read, wise beyond his years, or else a dimwitted yokel. This book is like "Our Town" with Emily coming back and sucking Grover's Corners dry.