Summary (Magill's Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition)
King’s second published novel and first best seller was ’Salem’s Lot. It is a variation on the famous vampire novel of Bram Stoker, Dracula (1897), but is set in the modern world and, like most of King’s novels, in a remote area of rural Maine. The main character is Ben Mears, an author who has recently lost his wife in a motorcycle crash. Unable to conquer his grief after many months, he returns, after an absence of twenty-five years, to the town of Jerusalem’s Lot, known by most of its inhabitants as “’Salem’s Lot.”
As a child, Ben had spent four years in ’Salem’s Lot, which he remembers fondly with the idyllic images that most Americans have of life in a small town. He hopes to rekindle pleasant memories, regain a sense of home, and find some peace of mind. Entering the village, however, he is startled by his sight of the Marsten House, a great mansion built on a hill overlooking the town. Ben is filled with foreboding, and the reader knows that the Marsten House is going to be a central factor in the events to come. King describes the mansion as if it is alive, almost conscious, and full of evil. It had been built many decades before by a mobster named Hubie Marsten, who shotgunned his wife to death and then hanged himself. When he was nine, Ben had visited the abandoned building on a dare and had seen an apparition—Marsten’s spectral corpse swinging from a roof beam. Now, he feels almost as if the house has...
(The entire section is 1014 words.)
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Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
In Mexico in 1976, a nameless man and boy pass as father and son, though they are unrelated. The man, once a novelist, maintains an interest in Maine, and he obtains regional newspapers to keep apprised of current events there. He pays particular attention to a lengthy story describing the town of Jerusalem’s Lot, now abandoned. A priest, to whom the boy makes a confession, reveals that the boy wept terribly during confession. Though no details of the confession are revealed, a week later the pair decide to return to Maine.
In 1975, the novelist, Ben Mears, nears the town of Jerusalem’s Lot, pausing at the decrepit Marsten house on its outskirts. Hubie Marsten was a mobster; he killed his wife and hanged himself in the house. When Ben was a boy, he entered the Marsten house on a dare and saw Marsten’s hanged ghost, which opened its eyes as he approached. The house has remained vacant, and the returning Ben, who believes it holds Marsten’s psychic residue, has attempted to rent it, not knowing that Richard Straker has purchased it.
In town, Ben meets aspiring artist Susan Norton, who recognizes him from a dust-jacket photograph. They share ice cream, and Ben reveals he has returned to write about the town: He lost both parents before he was fourteen and was raised by his aunt, a resident of ’Salem’s Lot. They left the town during a devastating fire. Ben’s arrival is noted by the local police, who also note that Susan has been...
(The entire section is 1103 words.)