Jerusalem’s Lot and Salem’s Lot – Lovecraft and King
“Jerusalem’s Lot” and Salem’s Lot share a few plot points. Both have towns named Jerusalem’s Lot, both have vampires, both have “bad” houses, and within both, the abandonment of the towns of Jerusalem’s Lot play major roles to the stories conclusions. Beyond this, the stories deviate quite significantly.
“Jerusalem’s Lot” takes place over 100 years earlier than Salem’s Lot. The protagonists of Salem’s Lot live in the Lot, as opposed to the protagonists of “Jerusalem’s Lot,” who live in Chapelwaite, a house outside of Preacher’s Corner, which is near, but not in, Jerusalem’s Lot. In Salem’s Lot, Ben tries to rent the “bad” house (the Marsten House) to live in, but fails, while Charles inherits and lives in the “bad” house (Chapelwaite) in “Jerusalem’s Lot.” The number of active characters also varies greatly. We are introduced to a wide spectrum of residents in Salem’s Lot, but “Jerusalem’s Lot” contains no more characters than are strictly necessary to make the story’s plot clear. Another difference is when and why the stories were written. “Jerusalem’s Lot” was written in 1967 as part of a course King was taking at the University of Maine (Ringle, 208). King did not write Salem’s Lot until 1975, after already publishing professionally and creating his own tone and voice.
“Jerusalem’s Lot” uses “…overwrought Lovecraftian prose…” (Ringel, 208), however this is not the only place where Lovecraft’s influence can be felt. The basis of the plot -- a family secret, an inherited “bad” property, and hidden passages within the existing family homes are direct parallels between King’s “Jerusalem’s Lot” and Lovecraft’s “The Rats in the Walls.” Another parallel is seen between the protagonists’ assistants, both of which (Calvin in “Jerusalem’s Lot” and Capt. Norrys in “The Rats in the Walls”) die as a result of their assistance rendered to their friends. Even the horror that is uncovered in the climaxes of the stories is similar -- in both cases, relatives of the protagonists have feasted on others. Finally, there is the matter of forgotten lore. Lovecraft’s creation of the Cthulhu mythos is mirrored by King’s creation of “The Worm that Doth Corrupt,” and the Necronomicon is a parallel to De Vermis Mysteriis (The Mysteries of the Worm).
While reading “Jerusalem’s Lot,” it felt as though I was reading a variation on “Rats in the Wall” -- maybe a first draft that was rejected because it was too bland, boring, and obvious. It read like an attempt at mimicry, or a school assignment. Knowing that King did it as a school assignment makes me convinced that he was merely testing an idea, trying to see if he was capable of writing like Lovecraft. While he was capable of it, the story suffered because of it, and I felt like there were no truly original ideas within it. Salem’s Lot, which seems to have grown from the original idea of “Jerusalem’s Lot,” comes across as something interesting, fresh, and new, thanks to King’s use of his own voice and ideas.