Until, of course, Big "E" Evil waltzes--by your invitation--into town.
...Tourists and through-travelers still passed by on Route-12, seeing nothing of the Lot but an Elks billboard and a thirty-five-mile-an-hour speed sign. Outside of town they went back up to sixty and perhaps dismissed it with a single thought: Christ, what a dead little place...
In terms of plot, 'Salem's Lot is essentially Dracula; an ancient European vampire relocates from East to West and begins vampirizing the populace. But the book is actually far more than that. In his introduction to the 2005 Illustrated Edition, King talks about the naive arrogance of a 23-year-old writer thinking he could rewrite Bram Stoker's Dracula as "the great American novel." Maybe it would be a stretch to bestow that title on 'Salem's Lot, but what amazes is how close King actually came. Forty-two years after its publication, the novel rings true more than ever. This is the story of a rural American town well past its glory days; no jobs, no hope, no future. In their despair the townspeople make a Faustian bargain with a stranger, a man who comes into their lives with empty promises of great things. Submit to him, put your faith in him, and he will make you great again. Out of quiet desperation they turn their backs on the light and lose their souls in the process.
In the wake of the 2016 election and the more recent events in Charlottesville, 'Salem's Lot seems very relevant.
When horror works, and it works extraordinarily well in 'Salem's Lot, it does so because it makes us uncomfortable with ourselves. Vampires don't cast reflections, but 'Salem's Lot makes us squirm because it turns the mirror on us. Dracula was a very 19th century novel, in which the liberal and democratic British easily put down the threat of foreign imperialism. But 'Salem's Lot emerged at the tail end of the 20th, and just a generation removed from the people who fought World War II, King understands fascism far better than Stoker ever could have. Fascism, whether it happens in Germany or Italy or middle America, is always the willing submission of the populace, the surrender of morals and freedoms, born out of despair. Fascism is something that must be invited, like the vampire, into your home.
Like Eminem says in the song, he can't bear the idea of growing old in 'Salem's Lot. He's desperate to escape and become something more. And that is what the vampires in King's novel feed on, far more than blood. They drink up that quiet desperation, that ennui. With their cold dead smiles they seem to say "don't you worry about a thing, close your eyes and I will make everything go away."