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
Yeah, I agree Christopher, and I just reread Salem’s Lot a couple of months ago. It didn’t seem near as foreboding as it did the first time I read it, over 30 years ago, but it remains one of my favorites,
I have SNOWBLIND in my reading pile. After reading this post, it just moved to the top of the stack. Cant wait!
We were younger than, and things seem different to us when we read it for the first time. But SALEM’S LOT, to me, still is scary. Thank you for the info.
Want to read SNOWBLIND.
To this day I cannot sit with my back to a window at night. Crazy? Quite possibly, but who knows?
Salem’s Lot was the very first SK novel I read. My mother handed me her copy when I was 11. I was already a voracious reader by this time and was reading everything I could get my hands on. I had an affinity for horror/fantasy and my mother recognized this and began my SK education. I saw the 1979 film when I was 8yrs old and it scared the absolute bejeesus out of me! The scariest part, the part that haunted me the most? Ralphie Glick coming to Danny Glick in the hospital. I had nightmares about it from that point on and any time I’d hear “something” scratching at my bedroom window, I’d bury myself under my covers thinking, “It’s the Glick boys!” lol The novel, on the other hand, was much more frightening and, to this day, have yet to read a vampire novel that is even in the same realm as Salem’s Lot in terms of how terrifying the images are. The Strain series, by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan would be the closest as far as evoking the same type of horrific feelings that Salem’s Lot instilled in me.
I am 43yr old now…32yrs ago, my mother introduced me to the SK world by handing me one book. From that point on, I read anything and everything that was authored by Stephen King. I have tried to do the same with my own children, introducing them to the world of SK, but, it’s a different age now and it seems that this generation is more interested in gaming, social media, ect. In my day, Atari was new, we had 3 TV channels, one of which worked well, the other two being hit and miss, our “social media”, our “texting” and “facebook” was passing notes in class, going to 4-H meetings, ect. I grew up on a farm and if I wanted to “waste” time, books were my way of doing that. My imagination was my “surfing the net”. Today, using one’s imagination is taken for granted and in order to read a novel, in order to have the patience to sit for an hour at a time (or, in my case, it was HOURS at a time) requires the strong use of an imagination; to be able to just fall into a story. Stephen King opened up MY imagination and I sincerely thank him for being there for me, through his novels, movies, short stories, ect,.
Salem’s Lot was my first King novel. Needless to say it got me hooked for decades of devoted reading…I am a Constant Reader. The fact it was based in New England where I grew up made it all the more terrifying! The Stand is my favorite too, perhaps because of my fascination with apocalyptic scenarios brought on by reading “Alas Babylon” by Pat Frank and “The White Plague” by Frank Herbert… but The Long Walk and Salem’s Lot are close behind on my King list.
There’s a bit of Salem’s Lot in all of us. Which is why the book works so well.
Great write up Chris! Thanks for sharing your history with the book and King with us.
Salem’s Lot scared the crap out of me. Hope someday I can finish reading.
Ha ha liked your comments. Maine would certainly be a good place to visit. The very first SK novel I read was The Dead Zone, and loved it immediately, and loved the
movie with good ol’ Christopher Walken. I don’t read too many of the comments
or posts, but yours deserved a comment. Thanks for sharing.
I read Salem’s Lot when it first came out in paperback around ’77 or so. I was 27 then, and, being an ex-teacher, I clearly identified with Ben Mears. The thing is that for however long it took me to read the novel (8-to-10 hours), I found myself lost in a world that was different from my own reality. That’s the sheer beauty of SK’s words. He’s able to transport you to his world for a few hours, which helps with the day-to-day stress of living and trying to make it through life in one piece. I think we all owe him more than can ever be expressed. Without SK in my life for the last 37 years, I have no idea how it would’ve turned out. I believe he saved me with his writing as he did with so many others.
Salem’s Lot was the first Stephen King book I read. I’d been a fan of horror and especially vampires but this book grabbed me and gave me nightmares like I’d never had before. What a thrill ride. I was hooked and can wait for the next.
I read Salem’s Lot when I was in high school almost 40 yrs ago. It scared the hell out of me, but I could not put it down. That is when I became a die hard Stephen King fan.
Salem’s Lot. Wow. Well, I did read Carrie first, but liked Lot so much more, and read it when it was first released. Scary and wonderful and thrilling and– say what?! Who is this King dude?
My favorite King novel!! Scariest scene is gravedigger digging grave. That can send chills if read alone at night .
( I had some of those models too as kid.)