Welcome to the Lot by Christopher Golden
‘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.
When I read about the Marsten House, though it was surely much grander and more isolated than the haunted house of my own locale, I understood its ominous power. When Ben Mears pulls the car over while driving back into ‘Salem’s Lot, I could feel his dread as my own. But the sense of intimacy I felt—the closeness to the novel—only grew from there. When Ben meets Susan Norton for the first time, I felt so happy for them. I smiled at the familiarity of summer afternoon barbecues with the lazy voices of Red Sox baseball announcers as soundtrack. I grew up Catholic—went to Catholic school for a dozen years—and am Irish on my father’s side, so Father Callahan felt as if he had stepped out of my own life.
I knew Mark Petrie, because there was a little bit of Mark in me—I had the same Aurora monster model kits, and still had the tactile memory of handling them, building them. And I knew Danny and Ralphie Glick and the dynamic of their relationship all too well. Like Ralphie, I had an older brother close to me in age and the Glick brothers’ dialogue sounded an awful lot like the real life dialogue of the Golden boys. The Glick brothers and the Golden boys would later be an enormous influence on certain key elements in my novel Snowblind—which is quite heavily influenced by ‘Salem’s Lot, with its tragic brothers and its tapestry of characters whose past and present are so tightly intertwined that the grim occurrences in the town begin to unravel all of their lives.
‘Salem’s Lot is in me. It’s a part of the fabric of who I am as a reader and as a writer—and as a person—in a way that few others novels are or ever will be.
And now, of course, having written this…I realize I must read it again.
Like Ben Mears, no matter how frightened I might be, I can’t stay away forever.
The complete list of the books to be read can be found on the Stephen King Books In Chronological Order For Stephen King Revisited Reading Lists page. To be notified of new posts and updates via email, please sign-up using the box on the right side or the bottom of this site.
CHRISTOPHER GOLDEN is the award-winning, bestselling author of such novels as The Myth Hunters, Wildwood Road, The Boys Are Back in Town, The Ferryman, Strangewood, Of Saints and Shadows, and (with Tim Lebbon) The Map of Moments. He has also written books for teens and young adults, including Poison Ink, Soulless, and the thriller series Body of Evidence, honored by the New York Public Library and chosen as one of YALSA’s Best Books for Young Readers. Learn more at ChristopherGolden.com