In the early 1980s, Guy N. Smith wrote a series of four books about an ex-priest and exorcist who was also a SAS-trained killer. He named this rather versatile if unorthodox individual Mark Sabat and the first book in the series is called The Graveyard Vultures.
The prologue to The Graveyard Vultures finds Sabat hot on the trail of ‘the most evil man creation had ever known’—his own brother, Quentin. Sabat has been chasing Quentin for many years and when their long-awaited reunion takes place he plans to kill his brother.
Killing Quentin is no easy matter and when Mark does eventually put an end to him he finds that there was a hidden sting in his brother’s tail. Quentin, unable to survive in his own mutilated body, finds a way of entering Mark’s. He is unable to possess Mark entirely so he manifests as a voice in his head.
This state of possession stays with Sabat throughout the book. It is a constant problem for him. Although Quentin has never been able to take complete control of Mark he remains ever ready to do so if Mark should ever become weakened or tired enough to let this happen. Even as a voice in Mark’s head, Quentin is a nuisance because whenever Sabat is fighting the good fight against the forces of evil, Quentin is always there to goad him, put him down and generally try to weaken his resolve, making each battle a lot harder than it already is.
The main story involves a coven of witches that has been committing unspeakable acts in a small village graveyard. Remembering Sabat’s powers of exorcism (which are none too shabby) the Archbishop has insisted that Sabat be called in to investigate the problem. Sabat agrees to look into the matter—for his usual fee, of course.
Sabat proves himself to be a courageous and versatile character and these are admirable qualities, but there are other aspects to Sabat’s nature that are less acceptable so he is not the kind of hero that I can identify with. Sabat has, for instance, a very mercenary attitude and he is not afraid to take what he wants—including women.
At just 160 pages, The Graveyard Vultures is not a long book and by the time I had read the final page Sabat had brutally raped a woman twice. Even once would have been too much for my taste and the acts of rape have nothing to do with his brother Quentin. It’s Sabat who decides on this course of behaviour. In most of the books I read, it’s the bad guys who do the raping and pillaging and the hero is the one who delivers a much-deserved ass-kicking. In a book like The Graveyard Vultures, where the hero is a rapist, it presents a situation that I am not entirely comfortable with. I prefer a hero I can respect and, in no respect, could I ever feel like that about a man like Sabat. There are, however, other characters in the book that are more easy to like, the only problem is they all end up dying horrible deaths.
Sabat might be an unconventional hero, but that is not the only thing that annoyed me about the book. At first the Coven seems to be devil worshipers, but later on it appears their allegiance is diluted with Voodoo. I found it hard to accept this because I doubt very much that the Devil would look favourably on his followers pursuing relations with voodoo deities. I’ve read plenty of books that have Satanists in them, and a few that boast practitioners of the Voodoo arts, but this is the first time I’ve encountered an amalgamation of this sort and it makes the story a little too unbelievable. The ex-priest Sabat also seems to have no qualms about deserting the Christian God for Voodoo ones when it suits his purpose. This made it hard for me to believe in him as a character and I felt that perhaps the character of Sabat was being bent around the needs of the story rather than participating in it.
The Graveyard Vultures is not a book that I would want to read again, but I will probably read the rest of the Sabat series because I usually like Guy N. Smith’s work and I am curious to see whether the character of Sabat develops into a more likable and traditional hero.