Salem's Lot – by Stephen King

Salem's Lot, by Stephen King (Doubleday, 1975):

King's first major work. In the figure of Barlow, he transplants Count Dracula into a contemporary setting. King plays upon the isolation of a small town in Maine, exploring the possibility of its takeover by nonhuman forces, unknown to the rest of the world (a motif he returns to in The Tommyknockers).

Like Dracula in Stoker's novel, Barlow remains for the most part a numinously menacing offstage presence. His mortal partner, Straker, keeps the vampire's influence in the foreground of the reader's mind, somewhat as Renfield does in Dracula, though the suave, self-possessed Straker is a far cry from the confused, tormented Renfield.

While employing the standard components of vampire fiction made familiar by Stoker — the vampire's hypnotic seduction and other supernatural powers, defense by means of such objects as garlic and holy symbols, ritual staking of the heroine transformed by the vampire lord, a band of heroes complete with an aging scholar as a Van Helsing figure — King downplays the erotic dimension of vampirism, so prominent (for twentieth-century readers) in Carmilla and Dracula, in favour of metaphors of power and corruption.

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