‘Salem’s Lot by Stephen King
originally published 1975
Signet, 25th printing, 1982
Genre: Horror, vampires
Synopsis & Review: With the intent of writing a book, novelist Ben Mears returns to the little town of Jerusalem’s Lot, where he once spent several years living with his Aunt Cindy. The book he has in mind involves the Marsten House, a house abandoned since the hot afternoon when Hubie Marsten, a man with possible connexions to organized crime, killed first his wife and then himself. Also new in town is Mark Petrie, a thoughtful eleven-year-old boy with a penchant for horror movies and comics, and two mysterious businessmen, Straker and Barlow. When Ben attempts to purchase the Marsten House, he discovers that the still unseen Straker and his associate Barlow have purchased it. Ben continues writing his book, meditating on the Marstens and the nature of evil, while striking up a romance with Susan Norton, a local girl.
The first to die is a cocker spaniel, nailed up over the cemetery gates. More deaths soon follow, beginning with the disappearance of little Ralphie Glick, and then the death of his older brother Danny. As people all over the Lot slowly start dying and vanishing, others falling ill and bodies disappearing form the morgue, Ben and local teacher Matt Burke slowly and reluctantly realize that Evil has come to the Lot, Evil with a capital E. Mark is more easily convinced, recognizing vampires for what they are when one comes for him at night, but it is not until Ben and Dr Jimmy Cody sit up with one of the victims that they finally, really believe that vampires have come to the Lot–and that they’ll soon outnumber the living.
You can never go home again, they say, and in ‘Salem’s Lot, Ben et alia discover the truth of that aphorism. I think it’s largely agreed that horror (good stuff, at least) tends to reflect cultural zeitgeist, in which anxieties coalesce into a recognizable—and most importantly—tangible evil. ‘Salem’s Lot is a post-Vietnam novel that confronts a changing America. When characters wish to return to their roots, to a small town that nurtured them as children, they discover that it’s dying, both literally and figuratively. If you’ve ever driven beyond the limits of cities and suburbia, you’ve seen small towns, and you’ve undoubtedly seen some dwindling. If they’re not close enough to sub/urban centers to be enveloped in sprawl or convert to bedroom communities, many small towns simply vanish. Jobs move overseas, local resources (timber, mines) are played out, and with the loss of employment, young people move on and don’t return, till all that’s left are the aging; it’s the same history we see in ghost towns all over the West. When people in ‘Salem’s Lot come home (or don’t leave when they ought), they come home to die. Read the rest of this entry »
A Night in Transylvania: The Dracula Scrapbook by Kurt Brokaw
Grossett & Dunlap, 1st printing, 1976
Genre: non-fiction, horror
Synopsis & Review: “To be read only at night,” A Night in Transylvania is a compendium of information about the Romanian region of Transylvania and about the two Draculas that are its major claim to fame: Bram Stoker’s famous vampire and the fifteenth-century prince Vlad Tepes. Opening first with an introduction by the Drs Radu Florescu and Raymond McNally of Boston College, Brokaw moves quickly into an exploration of the legend of Dracula, both as villain and lover, and the mythology of Transylvania in popular culture. The first chapter covers the history of Vlad Tepes’ life and death, and his legacies in Transylvania. Chapters Two and Three explore Transylvania, with an emphasis on locales associated with the Wallachian prince: cities, churches, castles, and his tomb on Snagov. Practical aspects of travel in a 1970s Romania, down to costs (severely outdated thirty years later) and gratuities and the most helpful languages to have. Also included is a wealth of information about hotels, food, tchotchkes, and helpful phrases. Chapters Four and Five detail Dracula on film and in print, with the movies helpfully categorized by quality.
This book CHANGED MY LIFE. I am totally serious. Read the rest of this entry »
Anno Dracula by Kim Newman
Originally published 1992
Avon Books, 1st printing, 1994
Genre: horror, alternate history
Synopsis & Review: It is 1888, and the events of Bram Stoker’s Dracula did not fall out the way with which we are familiar. Rather, Dracula killed Jonathan Harker, turned Mina, and fled into the night past the Doctors Van Helsing and Seward. He continued a rise to power, reaching the apex when he wooed and won Queen Victoria, turning her into a vampire as well and ruling as Prince Consort of the British Empire. Vampires are now common, and London in particular struggles with the burgeoning new upper class. Political cronyism and corruption mirrors the turning of men and women into vampires. In the stews of the city, warm drabs sell their blood to vampires as they once sold their bodies, and those who turn take blood in exchange for their bodily wares. And there is a different kind of killer on the loose, one who targets these vampire prostitutes, ripping their bodies apart with a silver scalpel.
The protagonists are Geneviève Dieudonné, a French vampire older than Dracula himself, and Charles Beauregard, a gentleman of the Diogenes Club. The pair work with the London police force to track down the killer, but there are others searching, as well as those using the killer’s work for their own ends. Political and social struggles threaten to jeopardize the efforts of Dieudonné and Beauregard, who come to realize that their investigation may save or destroy the Queen herself. click here for more on Anno Dracula