October is the month for all things horror, but since that is generally most (not all) of what I read, I like to focus on one specific sub-genre. This time around it’s vampires. I read Dracula last year. I recently finished, and reviewed, Twilight so that’s out of the way, thank God. So next up are two classics from the king and queen of horror literature: Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice and Salem’s Lot by Stephen King.
Here we go. Ladies first.
Interview with the Vampire
I love Anne Rice, but I’ve always been more of a fan of the Mayfair Witches than her Vampire Chronicles. Interview was a reread for me, but 1987 was a long time ago, and it’s been ages since I even watched the movie, so I approached this book with an open mind and a great desire to love it, and for the most part I did.
Interview with the Vampire, like other Rice’s work that I’ve read, is a beautiful and rich tapestry of sensuality and mouth-watering production design. She made New Orleans, Eastern Europe, and Paris across the centuries come alive for me. The unique world of the vampire she portrays, exemplified by Lestat, is seductive and intoxicating. It’s no wonder his character emerged as the one readers couldn’t get enough of, as opposed to Louis, the novel’s main character and perhaps the most problematic part of the book.
Louis is what every writing manual advises against: the wimpy protagonist. His internal struggle and guilty conscience is difficult to dramatize, and Lestat is never enough of a consistent adversary to make for a sustained conflict.
Despite this rather large flaw, so much about this novel redeems its status to near greatness. Claudia, the child vampire, is both charming and creepy, and the Theatres des Vampires section of the book, added by Rice during the original manuscript’s editing phase, presents a truly dark and imaginative world, with Armand emerging as an intriguing character.
The ending satisfies while leaving enough loose ends for a sequel, of which there are many. I treated myself to the Barnes & Noble leather bound edition of the chronicles, so I’m sure I will pick up where I left off during the long winter ahead.
This is another reread for me, but it’s been a long time since I’ve been in high school. I remember watching the TV mini-series when I was a teen. I watched it again on youtube the other day. It’s dated (David Soul’s hair!) but quite good.
‘Salem’s Lot was King’s second novel after Carrie, and it’s dripping with ambition and juicy metaphors. The author is taking his writing very seriously here. He knows the world is watching, and some of the passages are breathtakingly inspiring and downright frightening.
Although Interview with the Vampire charmed me with its sensual mysteries, Salem’s Lot chilled and disturbed me, reminding me why so many of us readers were drawn to King in the first place. He is in his element here with the where the darkness of the Yankee town meets the darkness of invading evil. The Dracula meets Peyton Place theme cuts straight to the bone.
The story starts out as a slow burn when novelist Ben Mears returns to the small town of his childhood. He’s been haunted by a vision he saw in the creepy Marsten House, a location of a horrible murder/suicide and decides to face his demons by writing a novel about it. He scarcely knows what he’s letting himself in for.
Before long, he’s fallen for the hometown sweetheart, Susan, and the town is being taken over by a vampire plague. At the center of the mystery is the master vampire, Barlow, who King wisely keeps in the shadows till near the end. As the vampires overtake the town, Ben and a cadre of strange bedfellows form of team of fearless vampire killers. But do they have what it takes to confront and conquer pure evil?
There is nothing sexy or sparkly about these vampires. There is genuinely a feeling throughout the story of the town being literally sucked dry, and it’s chilling.
If the novel has any flaws it’s that it could have been judiciously trimmed in some sections. Also, there are a lot of characters to keep track of, and I became impatient when a new one was introduced. But overall, it’s one of King’s best (but I haven’t read them all).
Halloween is right around the corner, but I think I have time to squeeze in one more vampire book before the full moon. This was a thrift shop, paperbacks from hell, find. Can’t wait to sink my teeth in.