Friday, June 18, 2004


Stephen King

ONCE IN A BLUE MOON, a well-written horror novel comes along and it makes you feel wonderful to be frightened by the magical realm of the supernatural. ’Salem’s Lot is perhaps one of those novels. It would neither make your hair stand on its roots nor curdle your gore but your flesh would undoubtedly creep under your skin.

’Salem’s Lot depicts modern deviltry against a sweeping contemporary New England backdrop-classic Stephen King territory-notorious for its vampirism, witchcraft and other forms of the supernatural. It could brag of being not one of those unbridled spate of pretentious and puerile pastiche with hackneyed plots devoid of any semblance of credibility that lately clutter the bookshelves. King’s wittily-weaved tapestry of a byzantine and ingenious yarn is based on the premise that the disembodied spirits of the dead in the form of vampires can become reanimated and return to haunt and terrorise the living. As the unheralded novelist Ben Mears returns to ’Salem’s Lot, a Maine resort town, to write about an enigmatic and formidable mansion that has intrigued him since his childhood days and to exorcise the terrors that used to haunt him. He gets entangled in a web of spine-tingling occurrences that leave a growing trail of missing persons and dead bodies behind. Mears’s endeavour to corroborate his suspicions that there exists an evil power equally or more powerful than the power of good forms the crux of this novel.

The denouement is climactic, transporting us into a chillingly bizarre milieu where the daring protagonist, Ben Mears, hammers a stake into the gaunt and cadaverous Barlow's festering soul, apparelled in an effectively black sepulchre hue. The lugubrious atmosphere further enhances the denouement.

Unlike those past stereotypical horror novels which cloud our conscience with washout plots, lacklustre and pedestrian narrative that ramble at excruciating and fluctuating paces, ’Salem’s Lot is in the right sense of the word credible and leisurely paced. Though the plot can be convoluted and complicated at times, King’s writing was not overtly bloated with extraneous dialogue which would otherwise interrupt the novel’s rhythm.

King’s keen ear for dialogue and prose rhythm is evident throughout and with his gripping psychological insights and background detail, a sense of menace is palpable. And with this novel he has done it again by making sleeping at night a nightmare.


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