Salem's Lot (audiobook)

Discussion in 'Books' started by Dave, Oct 13, 2014.

  1. Dave

    Dave Pimp

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    [​IMG] Reviewer: Dave
    Review Date: October 13, 2014

    Released by: Random House Audio
    Release date: 8/7/2012
    MSRP: Various
    Audible Audio Edition
    1975



    Back in the 80s, Stephen King had a serious addiction to drugs and alcohol. It was also the time in which he wrote some of his best work. Many argue it was the chemical influences that gave him the magic touch to produce his classics. Yet some of his recent books, like 11/22/63, and even some of his early, pre-chemical books, like Carrie and Salem's Lot, clearly debunk that. King has proven himself a great writer with or without chemical influences.

    Lets travel back to the 70s to explore Stephen King's second novel, Salem's Lot. Spawned from a conversation with his wife Tabitha about the possibility of a modern day Dracula hiding out in Maine, Salem's Lot first hit bookshelves back in 1975. That was in before I was born! As a kid, I loved Bram Stoker's Dracula. I read it probably a dozen times in my youth. While I was a fan of King, Salem's Lot alluded me for some reason (probably because I was busy reading Dracula) until adulthood. It's often heralded as a modern day Dracula. Lets have a look and find out.

    The Story

    Ben Mears, an accomplished writer, returns to his childhood town of Salem's Lot in Maine. His hope is to write a book, specifically on the Marsten house, the local haunted house that he experienced a traumatic event in as a child. Ben had hoped to rent the house from Larry Crockett, a local real estate agent, but he's too late. A gentleman named Richard Straker bought it on behalf of Kurt Barlow. The two are dealers in antique furniture and plan to open a shop in town. Ben decides to settle in at the local boarding house instead. Days later he meets a young lady by the name of Susan Norton. The two quickly fall in love and start a relationship, much to the dismay of Ann, Susan's mother.

    Things start to go wrong in the town when Ralphie and Danny Glick go missing. Danny stumbles home later that night but his brother Ralphie is gone. Danny explains that something in the woods took Ralphie. A search ensues but the boy is never found. Parkins Gillespie, the local constable, begins an investigation. Suspicions around the town turns to the three new strangers in town - Ben and the two antique dealers. Danny is admitted to the hospital for testing and soon after dies of mysterious circumstances. Things in the town continue to darken after a dog is found hung on a spike at the local dump.

    Ben meets a local teacher named Matt Burke. The two becomes friends shortly after Ben agrees to speak to one of Matt's classes about writing. It is Matt who first suggests the possibility of vampires in the town. Matt brought home Mike Ryerson, a local drunk, and after he hears Mike invite someone in through the bedroom window, he calls Ben and the two discover that Mike is now dead. Matt discovered bite marks on Mike's neck that disappeared after he died. Matt wants to drive a stake through his heart but Ben's isn't quite convinced. The two agree to call Parkins Gillespie and James Cody, the local M.D.

    With the Glick boys and now Mike Ryerson, the body count in the small town of Salem's Lot continues to climb. Mark Petrie, a schoolmate of Danny Glick's, becomes involved with the group when he meets Susan at the Marsten house to investigate Barlow and Straker. Ben, Matt, James, and soon Mark, too, realize that indeed there are supernatural forces at work here. They suspect Barlow is a vampire and Straker is his servant. The group turns to Father Calahan, a washed up drunk of a priest that may be the town's only hope of survival. Barlow is a crafty, devilish creature that has a variety of surprises in store for the would-be band of vampire hunters as they attempt to hunt him down and destroy him for good.

    Stephen King successfully brings vampires into modern day while still keeping the gothic tone of Bram Stoker's Dracula. With the recent craze of Twilight and Vampire Diaries adding in a soap opera mix to vampire lore, it's nice to revisit a book that keeps the lore in tact. Salem's Lot follows more than just the tone. You have characters similar to those in Dracula. Matt Burke is a modern day Van Helsing of sorts. Susan Norton is a modern day Mina Harker. I'm not quite sure I would say that Ben Mears is a Jonathan Harker but there are some similarities. Make no mistake, however, King's Salem's Lot is a new tale and not a simple copy cat. You can have nods to the book that started it all but Salem's Lot is its own tale and goes it its own direction. King brings the classic story of Dracula to present day. And King himself has stated, this is a tale of Dracula in modern times. Count Dracula in 1897 was a vampire trying to 'go modern' by relocating to then modern day London. Barlow in 1975 is again a vampire trying to 'go modern' by relocating to America, hiding in the backdrop of the small, forgotten town of Salem's Lot.

    King's strength has always been in his character development and Salem's Lot is no exception. The duo of Straker and Barlow are incredible antagonists that readers will quickly grow to despise. The protagonists, and there are many here, are wonderfully written and you can't help but have you heart broken as the group starts to dwindle. King is, well, the king at writing characters that you care about and then killing some of them off. He's a real bastard in that regard. It's not just the central character of Mears, either. Mark Petrie, the young boy who becomes a man much sooner than any boy should have to. Susan Norton, lovely Susan at the window (wrong book!), you feel pride when she stands up to her mother and gains that independence. You'll root for Father Calahan's as his faith is tested when he confronts the vampire Barlow. With a massive page count of 672, King develops the characters and the story, including the town itself, with rich and wonderful details. The town of Salem's Lot and its inhabitants are a central part of the story. King shows clearly why Salem's Lot, a town with many secrets already, was chosen by Barlow. The Marsten house is a central part of the story.

    There are many ways to enjoy Salem's Lot. As is often the case, the book outshines the movie, though the original 1979 miniseries is enjoyable enough. For this review, I listened to the audiobook that was narrated by Ron McLarty. McLarty did a phenomenal job. If I were rating the narration, it would be A+. It was flawless. He changes his tone for the voices of each character so they each have their own unique sound. That's an absolute requirement for a good audiobook narration. McLarty is clear and well spoken throughout the recording. He truly makes the characters come to life. His voice of Barlow was spot on - a perfect blend of evil and arrogance. Stephen King himself understands the importance of good narration. He dedicated Dark Tower: Wolves of the Calla to the late (and great) Frank Muller with the following: For Frank Muller, who hears the voices in my head." That hits the nail on the head. A good narration leaves you with that impression. That they are literally hearing, and narrating, the voices in your head. It's an amazing, powerful feeling.

    While I love my Kindle and enjoy actual reading, a great audiobook can ruin the written version of a story for me. Never again could I read Salem's Lot. I would yearn to hear the voices. The same could be said for 11/22/63. I could never read the book because I have been spoiled by the audio version. Often times I will hunt down other books done by that narrator and will often times listen to books I wouldn't necessarily have an interest in, simply to hear the wonderful narration they provide. Frank Muller was the king of great narration. He did some of King's Dark Tower books and they were excellent. If you drive a lot, walk a lot, and can give up music now and then, I would strongly encourage you to give audiobooks a try.

    Whether you go with the written or spoken word, Salem's Lot in an amazing story. It was an early novel by a long and ever growing list of books by King, yet it remains one of his best to this day. There's no better time to read it than the month of October. Highly recommended.

    Final Thoughts

    Salem's Lot is a modern day take on Dracula. It's a modern day classic, no doubt. King tells a frightful tale of Salem's Lot as it transforms into a town of vampires and the misfit group of friends that band together to take on the powerful Barlow. The audiobook is amazing with wonderful narration by Ron McLarty. If you're not an audiobook fan, or have yet to try one, give this audiobook a try and you will find yourself hooked. Regardless of how you read the story, be sure not to miss this one. It's essential reading for all fans of horror literature.

    Rating

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    Story - A


     

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