‘Salem’s Lot isn’t my favorite Stephen King novel—that’s The Stand—but it may be the one that’s influenced me the most. It never made me cry the way some other King novels have, but it got under my skin more, cut me more deeply, frightened me more than any of the others. I suspect I could spend entire chapters delving into my psyche and finding all of the scars that ‘Salem’s Lot left behind, but I prefer to think of the imaginative fires it ignited in me.
I know I should remember my first Stephen King novel. It’s possible that in other places I’ve lied about this, but the truth is that I don’t truly recall which of his books I encountered first. I suspect it was The Stand, which I bought in an airport bookstore as a kid, on my way to Florida with my family. It might have been Carrie, which I bought used at a little shop in my hometown of Framingham, Massachusetts. It wasn’t The Dead Zone, which I first spotted in the hands of a bouncer at Liam’s Irish Tavern—he was reading on the job. And it wasn’t Firestarter, which the nuns at St. Bridget’s heartily disapproved of my reading in the sixth grade.
It definitely wasn’t ‘Salem’s Lot.
No matter, though. Whatever else I read before it, I know I loved every word, but it was ‘Salem’s Lot that really woke me up. I’d spent a lot of time in southern Maine in the summers, so I fancied that I knew a little bit about Maine…and it didn’t feel too different from Massachusetts to me. There was an old house a mile or so from mine that we kids all called “the Lavolee Mansion.” I’m sure I’ve spelled that wrong, but you get the gist. The house had been beautiful once, with faux Doric columns in front, though in those days it was a fading, peeling, crumbling mess of a place with broken windows and overgrown grass. In the lore of the neighborhood kids, the house was—of course—haunted, and when we walked or rode our bikes past the old pile, we always picked up the pace. » Read more