June 23, 2014

Audiobook Review: 'SALEM'S LOT by Stephen King



Description:  Ben Mears has returned to Jerusalem’s Lot in hopes that exploring the history of the Marsten House, an old mansion long the subject of rumor and speculation, will help him cast out his personal devils and provide inspiration for his new book. But when two young boys venture into the woods, and only one returns alive, Mears begins to realize that something sinister is at work—in fact, his hometown is under siege from forces of darkness far beyond his imagination. And only he, with a small group of allies, can hope to contain the evil that is growing within the borders of this small New England town.

With this, his second novel, Stephen King established himself as an indisputable master of American horror, able to transform the old conceits of the genre into something fresh and all the more frightening for taking place in a familiar, idyllic locale

My Thoughts on the Audiobook version of 'Salem's Lot by Stephen King and read by Ron McLarty

Being a recent subscriber to Audible and having credits to use, I wanted to select a book that I knew would grab me and I thought Stephen King made a good "go to" author.  The problem would be in selecting a work from his voluminous library.  When I glanced at 'Salem's Lot, I recalled watching the 70s era miniseries and how badly it scared me.  ("Let me in.  I want to play with you!"  Need I say more?)  So I was in! 

There is a reason that Stephen King is a prolific and well-respected author and 'Salem's Lot is largely why in my opinion.  This book is near perfection.  Yes, you have the requisite creepy/haunted house and small town where strange things begin happening and residents begin disappearing but King sets the atmosphere so flawlessly the book appears almost without effort.  These characters take on their own lives and very quickly you will find yourself immersed in 'Salem's Lot - - the town and the book.

Having watched the miniseries many years ago, I knew what the "secret" was and yet . . . I was still on the edge of my seat, full of suspense and plainly shouting at my car's radio "No!  Don't go in there!"  Crazy because they are characters in a book and they can't hear you.  And you also know darn well and good they are going to go there anyhow but I was so invested in every one of them I couldn't help it.

Ben Mears is a great hero for the book because he's not invincible and as readers, we can relate to him.   He's returning home to 'Salem's Lot for the first time in years and through his somewhat jaded eyes, we see the town as he does.  As King writes in many of his books, this is a rather ordinary small town with rather ordinary people subjected to an extraordinary event or events. 

The book is indeed horror but it's more a deep psychological terror than flat out gruesomeness.    It's far more frightening and intimidating to think the worst may be happening, with darkness descending on you, and no idea who you can trust versus you and the entire town knowing what's out there.  

I find it incredibly amazing that 'Salem's Lot was only King's second published work.  Many authors need a few books to work out the kinks of their writing but King manages to do it and do it handily by his second book.  This work is far superior to Carrie in my opinion and despite being written in 1974 or 1975, remains as fresh as it did forty years ago.  Sure, there are some areas that are dated - - prices of gas, food, etc. - - but the overall story could have been written this year.  Scary is scary, ya'll. 

I was delighted that this audiobook version is unabridged and serious kudos are owed to Ron McLarty, who does a fantabulous (yes, that is a word in my lexicon) job narrating.  Having many central characters could be a difficult job for any narrator but Mr. McLarty pulls it off with ease.  He has the correct nuance of sinister, plaintive and resigned to make this work. 

As an added feature to this audiobook version, there is a relatively brief introduction by Stephen King himself. 

I finished listening to this book last week and my mind is still with this story, not wanting to let it go.  I can't even begin to tell you how many evenings I would get home from my commute and still be in the car, wanting to listen just a little bit longer.  (The audiobook version of "one more chapter!")  This is storytelling as its very best and if you are a struggling writer, I encourage you to read or listen to 'Salem's Lot for a guide on how to write a genuinely good and genuinely scary story.

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FTC Disclosure: This book was from my own private collection, purchased by me. I was neither paid nor compensated in any way for this review.