Lords of Salem is a novelisation of Rob Zombie’s 2013 movie, which was adapted from a song on Rob’s 2006 album Educated Horses. The franchise now exists in three mediums, literature, cinema, and music. Impressive, although a true renaissance man would have released Lords of Salem knitting patterns by now. Note that it is a “collaboration”, which means that BK Evenson wrote 99.95% of the book and then Rob went over it once with a red pen. I have not seen the movie, but apparently this is a bit different.
There’s a prologue set 1692, and we learn that there really were witches in Salem. They are arrested while performing a ritual of some kind, and they die threatening to haunt the town forever. I wish this part wasn’t there, to be honest. Crazy, over-the-top prologues make sense in an action movie, where you have to give the audience some of what they paid for, but all this scene accomplishes is to remove any sense of mystery and ambiguity from the story. The plot is now spoiled, you now know what’s going to happen, it’s now just a matter of running out the clock.
Why not be coy, and keep the evil in Salem hidden? Why not make the reader as ignorant as the protagonist? Why stick a big “COMING SOON: WITCH ATTACK!” sign right at the start of the book?
The prose needs a pair of crutches. “She cast her eyes around desperately.” Don’t cast them around too desperately, eyes are delicate things. This book also contains the most awkward adverb ever observed by science: “She flailed ropily.”
Lords of Salem soon shifts to the present day, where radio DJ Heidi Hawthorne (a descendent of the judge who doomed the Salem witches) receives a record from a band calling themselves the Lords of Salem. She plays it, and horrible events start occurring in the town. Unfortunately, the Lords of Salem don’t just aspire to radio stardom, they are also coming to town, and Heidi must sell concert tickets.
This section of the book is much better. It flows, it doesn’t seem to be trying too hard at all, and the characters were great. The dialogue has a snappy, fun quality, and although I doubt Rob was involved much with this book, Lords exhibits all the signs of being adapted from one of his screenplays. Rob writes “character” very well, and his naturalistic dialogue was a big part of why The Devil’s Rejects was as good as it was.
Lords has lots of creepy, violent, supernatural shit, but lots of not so great horror movie ideas, too. The main characters are very good at surviving. Save for the confusing and murky ending, all the deaths are died by bit players and randoms. It devalues the scary scenes to know that the author is standing on cue, ready to rescue Heidi from danger because the plot requires her to live. Churchill once said “Nothing in life is so exhilarating as to be shot at without result.” The corollary is “Nothing in life is so unexhilarating as to see a character get attacked by a monster without result.”
Rob says he released a novel tie-in out of nostalgia for his own childhood, when novelised versions of books were common. They’re not common now, and maybe that fact alone is the edge Lords of Salem needs. It’s a flawed but definitely interesting book. Fans of Rob’s work will probably be very enamoured by it.
How long they’ll be enamoured for is something I don’t know.