In keeping with Halloween…up for review is my first experience with the master of horror!
I will never forget reading this book as a kid when it came out. I have absolutely no doubt that I did some permanent damage to my psyche by reading it far too young. Still, to this day, I hesitate to walk by a tall broom closet when it’s dark or I’m home alone and it’s storming outside; I just know that door will slowly creak open and something hideously toothy is going to jump out leaving my furry feline protectors to fend it off for me as I stand staring paralyzed and mute in fear. Then of course there’s the alternative scenario where a machete miraculously appears in my hand and I whack its head off and walk away from the bloody mess as everything fades to black to the musical strains of “Carry On (My Wayward Son)”. Yeah, I like that scenario much better.
Anyway, back to our regularly scheduled program! It’s so easy now as an adult to read this book and draw the comparisons between Ben Mears and Stephen King himself, I could get thoroughly cerebral about this but I’ll forgo that temptation and simply say I really feel King pulled from his own life in the telling of this tale…well, to a degree anyway, I do assume that Bangor, Maine (where Stephen King lives) is vampire free but I have no doubt that the ghosts in his own past have made him into the writer who can craft such a subtly terrifying story.
The main character, Ben Mears, has a homecoming of sorts. He has come back to town after many years to try to rid himself of demons from his past and hopefully find inspiration for his writing (hmmm, gee…wonder who that sounds like?) Two other visitors arrive in town as well….strangers who take up residence in the old Marsten house and things begin to go very wrong in this quiet little town. People begin to get ill with a strange disease or simply disappear, the coincidences keep piling up and become impossible to ignore. Well, impossible to ignore until a young boy floats up to the exterior of a second story window, scratches, and keeps asking to be let in…then the puzzle pieces begin to fall into place. It’s now time to go down the mental monster checklist of symptoms. Floats in mid-air? Check! Pale, pasty white skin and dead eyes? Check! Has to be invited in? Check! Eureka! Jerusalem’s Lot has a vampire infestation and these blood-suckers aren’t of the glittery Twilight variety…they mean business! Where are Sam and Dean Winchester when you need them?!
Granted, this book isn’t full of gory slasher scenes and non-stop action as so many people today expect, instead it’s a psychological thriller but King is gifted at getting into the readers subconscious. You feel the dread, you feel the terror and just like everyone else in the town…you wonder who is responsible. This story plays on the dark recesses and suspicions we all have in our minds; it affects nice, normal, everyday people and the person responsible isn’t necessarily the creepy guy who keeps to himself and slinks around cemeteries; it could be someone very well respected, clean cut, and friendly…someone no one would suspect. King realizes in writing this story that it’s the unknown and the person who blends in that you would never suspect that is truly terrifying and he crafts his story very well around it. He knows we all have those dark broom closets of our childhood where anything scary or monstrous could leap out at us. Of course we know in reality that wouldn’t happen, but…..what if? King writes the “what if.”
If you haven’t read this one yet and love a good thriller check out Salem’s Lot, you’ll be glad you did.