by Stephen King
Ben Mears, a writer who spent part of his childhood in Jerusalem's Lot, Maine, has returned after 25 years. He quickly becomes friends with high-school teacher Matt Burke and strikes up a passionate romantic relationship with Susan Norton, a young college graduate. Ben has returned to the town to write a book about the long-abandoned Marsten House, where he had a bad experience as a child. Mears learns that the house—the former home of Depression-era hitman Hubert "Hubie" Marsten—has been purchased by Kurt Barlow, ostensibly an Austrian immigrant who has arrived in the Lot to open an antique store. Barlow is supposedly on an extended buying trip; only his business partner, Richard Straker, is seen in public. The truth, however, is that Barlow is an ancient vampire, and Straker is his human familiar.
The duo's arrival coincides with the disappearance of a young boy, Ralphie Glick, and the death of his brother Danny, who becomes the town's first vampire, turned by Barlow. Danny turns locals into vampires, including Mike Ryerson, Randy McDougall, Jack Griffen, and his own mother, Marjorie Glick. Danny fails, however, to turn his classmate Mark Petrie, who resists him successfully by holding a plastic cross in Danny's face. Within several days, many of the townspeople are turned. To fight the spread of the new vampires, Ben and Susan are joined by Matt and his doctor, Jimmy Cody, along with Mark and the local priest, Father Callahan. Susan is captured by Barlow, who turns her. She is eventually staked through the heart by Ben.
When Father Callahan and Mark head over to Mark's parents' house to explain the danger that the family is in, the power is suddenly cut off, and Barlow appears. After killing Mark's parents by smashing their heads together, Barlow briefly takes the boy hostage. Callahan pulls out his cross in an attempt to drive him off, and for a time, it works until Barlow challenges him to throw the cross away. Callahan, not having faith enough to do so, is soon overwhelmed by Barlow, who takes the now-useless cross and snaps it in two. Barlow then forces Callahan to drink his vampire blood, making him "unclean". When Callahan tries to re-enter his church, he receives an electric shock, preventing him from going inside. Callahan then leaves Jerusalem's Lot.
Jimmy is killed when he falls from a rigged staircase and is impaled by knives set up by the vampires. Ben and Mark succeed in destroying the master vampire Barlow, but are lucky to escape with their lives and are forced to leave the town to the now-leaderless vampires. The novel's prologue, which is set shortly after the end of the story proper, describes Ben and Mark's flight across the country to a seaside town in Mexico, where they attempt to recover from their ordeal. Mark is received into the Catholic Church by a friendly local priest and confesses for the first time what they have experienced. The epilogue has the two returning to the town a year later, intending to renew the battle. Ben, knowing that there are too many hiding places for the vampires, deliberately starts a brush fire in the woods near the town with the intent of destroying both it and the Marsten House once and for all.