The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

Ben Mears, a successful novelist, returns home to ’Salem’s Lot, a two-hundred-year-old Maine town of thirteen hundred residents. He is fascinated to discover that the old Marsten house still dominates the Lot. He meets Susan Norton, a young painter, and while on dates, he tells her of his horrifying experience there when he was nine years old. Hubert Marsten had murdered his wife, booby-trapped the house, and hanged himself in an upstairs room. Several years later, on a dare, young Ben had climbed the stairs, entered the room, and found Hubert, a green, puffy-eyed corpse hanging by his neck. Then Hubert opened his eyes, sending the terrified Ben screaming from the house. Ben tells Susan that he nevertheless had hoped to buy the Marsten house but learned it had been sold.

As the narrator relates the workaday schedules of ’Salem’s residents, four ominous events occur. Cemetery groundskeeper Mike Ryerson finds Win Purington’s beloved cocker spaniel hanging on the high spikes of the cemetery gate. An outsider, Richard Throckett Straker, and his partner buy the Marsten house and an old laundromat from realtor Larry Crockett on the condition that the deal remain secret. Danny Glick and his brother Ralphie are terrified by something while passing through a woods, and Ralphie disappears. Finally, in the cemetery, a dark figure makes a sacrifice of Ralphie’s desecrated body to the Lord of Flies.

Straker orders a huge box delivered to the...

(The entire section is 415 words.)


(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

Bleiler, Richard. “Stephen King.” In Supernatural Fiction Writers: Contemporary Fantasy and Horror, edited by Bleiler. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons/Thomson Gale, 2003. Analysis of the writer’s life and work.

Joshi, S. T. The Modern Weird Tale. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 2001. Contemporary discussion of horror and fantasy, analyzing the evolution of traditional and established tropes over time.

King, Stephen. “On Becoming a Brand Name.” Foreword to Fear Itself: The Horror Fiction of Stephen King. Edited by Tim Underwood and Chuck Miller. San Francisco: Underwood-Miller, 1982. King talks about the peculiar phenomenon in which a person is transformed into a brand in order to sell books.

_______. On Writing. New York: Scribners, 2002. King discusses the craft of writing, both his own creative process and literary practice more generally.

Magistrale, Tony. Landscape of Fear: Stephen King’s American Gothic. Bowling Green, Ohio: Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1988. Analyzes King’s novels from the perspective of popular culture studies, and places them in the context of distinctively American literature.

Reino, Joseph. Stephen King: The First Decade, “Carrie” to “Pet Sematary.” Boston: Twayne, 1988. Details the beginning of the novelists’ career and analyzes his early works, including ’Salem’s Lot.

Russell, Sharon A. Stephen King: A Critical Companion. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1996. Provides an overview of King’s work and his prevalent themes and concerns.