Monday, September 06, 2004

KING COVERS: Salem's Lot (1975)

King followed Carrie a year later with his take on the Vampire myth -- Salem's Lot -- by dropping his Dracula replacement into the midst of a sleepy, New England town.

What's interesting about early promotion for this novel -- early book covers included -- is that the vampire angle was downplayed significantly, designed to be a surprise to the reader. Oh, for the days when vital parts of a story's plot could be kept quiet in order to actually affect the reader in some way. That's right, 21st century marketing, I'm talking to you.

Anyway, on to the covers.

As I said, early promotions were all about keeping the whole "vampire" thing as top secret as possible, so the Doubleday hardcover has pretty much nothing to illustrate the book except...a picture of a sleepy, New England town. Yay for not giving too much away!

Here we see the basic evolution of the early Signet paperback editions, which were clearly also going for a more subtle, understated approach, though with at least a slight hint as to the book's subject matter. If the black-on-black image is hard to make out, it's a picture of a little girl, with just a tiny drop of blood at the corner of her mouth -- an image that's just creepy enough to make someone pick up the book and reader the back cover, which is exactly what any book cover should do.

The edition on the left, missing both title and author name like the first paperback of Carrie (see yesterday's entry) may or may not be a misprint -- to be honest, I can't remember for sure anymore. I'd personally vote against a misprint being the cause of this mistake -- it'd be embarassing to have printing problems on two books in a row (which would, in fact, become three books in a row -- tune in tomorrow to find out more!)

The cover in the centre adds the now required title and author name, while the edition on the right plays up on the popularity of King's name a few years down the road with a massive author name, and shrinks the creepy image to make room it. Points lost for diminishing the impact of a creepy image. Bad, bad publisher.

Misprint or not, I'm picking the first Signet paperback edition -- the one on the left, there -- as my personal top pic for Salem's Lot covers. The first paperback of Carrie, which left the publisher's without the author's name or title, didn't work for me because the image on the cover didn't work for me. In the case of Salem's Lot, it's the picture -- and just the picture -- that sells the book to me, at least to the point I pick it up off the shelf. And that's half the battle.

I've got one or two copies of the early versions of this one, though I can't recall right now if it's the one on the left or the one in the centre. May even be both. Can't be bothered to check right now.

This later signet release sticks with the suble, mildly vampire-related imagery, but with a slightly different image. And a bit more blood, just in case anyone was wondering, "Hey, is there going to be any blood in this?" Yes, in fact. Quite a lot.

And then there's this Pocketbook edition, looking like it hails from around the same era as yesterday's red-cover version of Carrie. By this time, of course, no on really cares about keeping the whole "vampire" thing under wraps, so, hey, let's just a couple of big neck gashes on the cover just to make sure there's no doubt. For some reason, this cover works better for me than yesterday's red-cover Carrie -- the title seems easier to read. I doubt it's any larger. It must just stand out against the background better. Either way, nice cover.

I had a copy of this cover too, once upon a time. May still have. May not. If memory serves me correctly, this was actually the version that I finally read. Knowing, of course, that you all care about these sorts of little details...

And then there's this edition from Pocketbooks, which snags my honourable mention award. There's something wonderfully, bizarrely, wrongly campy about this cover. The flat, solid colours. The white vampiric chick, sexy in a two-colour way. The thought balloon, which contains a bat, which isn't coming from her head, but rather her mouth, as if imply that she's got some nasty vampire breath. There are so many things wrong with this cover that, somehow, the combination of all that wrongness makes something that's wonderfully right. I love this cover. Unfortunately, it was just a little make my number one pick. But it comes in a close second.

All covers are stolen without permission from the Stephen King Cover Gallery. Here's hoping that if I'm nice and give him a link, he won't ask me to take these down.

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