I’m a slow reader, and with so many brilliant classic novels out there, I have to be picky with what I choose to spend my reading time on. I’ve never felt that Stephen King deserved my time. Because he’s such a popular author, I had always dismissed his work as pulp.
Moreover, I’ve seen a healthy dose of movies based on his books and, while there are a few great ones, most of them are dreck. But that’s not necessarily a reflection on the author. The movies are hit and (mostly) miss in large part because they’re dependent on who adapts the screenplay, on who directs the film, and on how big the budget is.
I decided last summer that my dismissive attitude towards King was really just snobbery. Popularity doesn’t necessarily equate with drivel, and I felt like I owed it to myself to give King’s work a chance, to see if it was something I might enjoy.
Thankfully I had a King connoisseur to help recommend a first novel. Chris has read a great deal of King’s work and he admits that they’re not all gems – but he was pretty quick to recommend a place to start: The Stand.
The Stand is more than 800 pages long. I had just finished reading War and Peace. I was looking for something a little lighter, so The Stand was NEVER gonna happen!
I urged him to pick again.
He went with King’s second published novel – Salem’s Lot.
It was a good choice.
At 440 pages, it was maybe a little longer than I would have liked for a post-War-and-Peace “light read” but it was certainly a page-turner. Well…eventually.
I found the novel a little slow going in the beginning. There was too much focus on the love story. While I suppose that did help me care more about the characters and what would befall them, I felt it still could have used a little revision.
And there was a long section on day-in-the-life of the many many (many) townspeople – which was an interesting idea to help connect me to the characters, but it felt a bit over-detailed. Trying to remember the names of all those characters slowed me down
Thankfully those slower-paced development sections were inter-cut with some truly suspenseful scenes as King built towards the reveal that there were (Spoilers? I think everyone knows this already) vampires in town. Those scenes worked really well and I can see why he’s credited for his skill with suspense and horror.
Once the vampire storyline started to take off, THEN it became a page-turner.
There were even a few scenes (one escape scene in particular) that set my heart racing. I find it rare that I get an actual visceral reaction to a novel, so for that at least I have to give the author praise.
I’m happy I read Salem’s Lot. It’s a solid novel, entertaining and a good intro to King. I would likely pick up another King book in the future (Chris, I might have to ask for another recommendation) but for now, I think it’s time to put such things aside and set about tackling another classic.
I just have to figure out what that’s gonna be.