One of the most interesting things about some of the reading I've been doing lately is noticing the changes in writers over time. It doesn't have to be over as much time as passed for Stephen King between <i>'Salem's Lot</i> and <i>Black House</i> or even <i>The Green Mile</i>, but I did enjoy the very subtle differences and was grateful for the big ones.
Most clearly, the King who wrote the latter books is a lot different than the King who wrote the first. He still talks beer, he still draws good characters. In the case of <i>Lot</i>, though, I never had the feeling that there were characters like the super-literate biker gang or the tough grandmother in him. The closest he comes is Mabel Werts, but the characters in <i>Lot</i> are more coarsely drawn for all their believability. He's still going with schoolteachers and writers, and that's fine! Later on, he'll reach a lot farther.
That said, this is a fantastic vampire story. He takes a lot of the vulnerabilities and abilities from popular culture, but before vampires were tired this was perfectly acceptable. King was never afraid to kill off characters and the bloodbath here is more than figurative. Character after character falls to the evil infesting the town. I think one of the most chilling parts is the one where he describes how the town is dead - it just doesn't know it yet. The breakdown of the police is appalling. It's fantastic.
It's not my favorite King book. But it acquits itself well, especially if you're willing to put yourself back into the 1970s and remember how it was then - and the terror it would have brought at the time. 4 of 5 stars.