I’ve mentioned repeatedly that I have a hate/love relationship with vampires. Yes, I can deal with the brooding Byronic overtones (especially when you look at Polidori’s inspiration for “The Vampyre” but that’s not for this review); but there’s a point where I can’t take “Woe is me, I am an immortal monster, I feed on innocent human blood and I can’t help myself.” To which I say, if living forever sucks that much, please just stand outside until daybreak and die in a fire. (This other reason why I hate Twilight oh so very much.) Of all my Stephen King books, this is the one that I read most recently before embarking on my library reread project. Because it got to the point that I need a good vampire read, with the vampires being the magnificent charming bastards that they are and blood and death and creepiness. Vampires who do actual vampiring. (I know I keep harping on it with nearly every vampire book I come across, but it’s so easy to mock and point fingers and blame and like actual vampires, it just won’t die and it keeps coming back in the forms of more terrible books and rip-offs and auuuugh.…I’m done. No more mention of that series, I just had to get that out of the way.)King mentions in both Danse Macabre and On Writing (and the endnote in Different Seasons, actually) that Salem’s Lot is his updating of Dracula, and you can definitely tell the parallels between the two. There’s not a direct recasting of each role in the proper place—I actually like that Susan fulfills the role of both Lucy and Mina, and even Mina’s corruption scene is recast in a nice way—and I like that there are so many nods to the original Stoker, while even bringing in more modern ideas (for the 1970s) of the vampire mythos. (Vampires bursting in sunlight started with Nosferatu, for example.) You don’t have to read Dracula to read Salem’s Lot, but it’s nice to pick up on the parallels if you have read both.I also really love Salem’s Lot for the fact that it has its own mythos apart from the larger ‘Verse of Stephen King. There’s “Jerusalem’s Lot” and “One for the Road” from Night Shift, which expand on the whole town history (and future) of Salem’s Lot, and this isn’t even including its involvement in the Dark Tower cycle. (I have not read the Dark Tower books. I know Father Callahan shows up, though.) But even in the book itself, there’s the whole history of the Marsten House, and that another writer could have just done the whole “Town with a Dark Secret” story based on that alone. And that’s not even what I love about the book. The “Town with a Dark Secret” angle isn’t based on the vampires or the devil-worshipping former owners of the creepy house on the hill; it’s the everyday darkness that’s in the townspeople. That’s why this book works so well for me. There’s the main story with Ben and Mark and the other band of Fearless Vampire Killers, but when you add in the little sketches of all the townspeople, that’s what works so well in this book. (I would argue that sometimes, King’s greatest strength is all of these little moments involving periphery characters.) Barlow has a line about how most of his kind would have gone to a city to breed a new army, but this one small town is much more suited to his purposes-- I love that idea. I don’t want to say I dislike Our Heroes, but I’m not as invested in their stories as I am in the little character sketches. Mark is probably my favorite of the bunch, the poor kid. He also gets one of the best lines in the whole book: “Understand death? Sure. That was when the monsters got you.” Mark’s the one who does grasp the situation the best, and he doesn’t have adult rationality to doubt his suspicions. (Taking into account IT, and most of King’s other works involving kids, I think horror works so much better from a childlike viewpoint. Or when it’s simple and not overtly complex.) Matt is another character I really like—could I have had him for my high school English classes instead of the teachers I actually had? It could be argued that Matt is Mark all grown up, realizing that vampires do exist and oh my God we have to stop them…but he does have that adult rationality that forces Matt to realize what he’s thinking and how that will make him look to the rest of the town. Father Callahan is the only other character that I really like; mostly because he could have been so easily turned into a stereotype (alcoholic Irish Catholic priest who’s lost the faith) but it never goes that far. I also really love his confrontation with Barlow and the fallout from that.Ben and Susan are…eh. Ben exists to be damaged and has to be fixed by rising to the situation. There’s no real conflict with his character or even a lot of guilt over what happened with his first wife. Once he meets Susan, Ben feels it’s okay for him to move on. And speaking of Susan—I’ve said it multiple times as I’ve been rereading Stephen King. I think he has some fantastic characters and writing and dialogue, but when it comes to young women, especially if they’re in a lead role, he can’t write them. I’m sorry; I don’t like Susan. She exists to be a victim and has to need Ben to save her. There are good female characters that Stephen King has written, but if they’re between 18 and 35, they tend to be helpless and need a big, strong man.As I mentioned above, a lot of the book’s creepiness comes into play when the whole town is involved in the story. The climax of the population getting vamped is chilling and disturbing, and there’s a town of payoff that was set up in the opening sketches. Even the scenes of the sleeping kids becoming vampires was creepy in how it’s portrayed. And there’s the fact that King does explore their weaknesses and the individual darkness that Barlow uses to seduce people into his service. Is King the first author to do that, especially with vampires? No, but he still does it well.Yes, I have read this a few times in recent years to scrub my brain of whiny ineffectual immortals, and in the post-Meyer influx, it feels good to get back to some good ol’ fashioned blood-letting. (And for the record, Anne Rice—I tried The Vampire Lestat once, couldn’t do it. Although her vamps seem to have more fun.)But even aside from all of that, Salem’s Lot is just a damn good story and a fun and creepy one at that. This has been one of my favorite Stephen King books since I first read it, and it’s still up there.