I'm surprised this series hasn't found more of an enduring fame: I mean who WASN'T looking for stories about an exorcist and former SAS man who resigned from the clergy following a homosexual encounter, who battles necrophiles, devil worshippers, and zombies, is partially possessed by his evil brother, and, as if all that weren't enough, has a bit of a problem with chronic masturbation?
I suspect this one was a bit "WTF!!" even by the standards of the late seventies and the men's adventure and exploitation novels in general.
Satanism was hot in the late 70's and early 80's -- ROSEMARY'S BABY and THE EXORCIST being two prominent examples. There was even the "autobiography" MICHELLE REMEMBERS, in which a woman recounted childhood victimization at the hands of a Satanic cult in Victoria, British Colombia. The final episode has her suffering 81 straight days of abuse at the hands of a gang of 500 or so Satanists, and even Satan himself is on the way up, but fortunately Jesus, the Virgin Mary, and the Archangel Gabriel appear to save the day.
(Let's just say that James Frey isn't the first guy to exaggerate a few details of his memoir.)
Even popular TV "news" programs of the day were full of stories of Satan worship --
So it was perhaps just a matter of time until somebody attempted to merge this with the equally popular men's adventure genre, typified by MACK BOLAN and THE DEATH MERCHANT and others.
And who better to do than Guy N Smith, probably best known for his series of books about giant mutated crabs, as well as titles such as THE SLIME BEAST and THE FESTERING?
The back story of Mark Sabat is dealt with in a few paragraphs in the prologue of the first book, THE GRAVEYARD VULTURES; as was often the case with these men's adventure novels. Had it been explained in detail, however, it sounds like Sabat has more than enough back-story to make up three or four novels:
"An upper-class upbringing, his future ensured by a legacy from wealthy parents, boyhood rebellion against this planned life and in a moment of weakness, a pleasurable teenage homosexual experience which had driven him into priesthood in the hope of cleansing his tortured mind. Then the discovery of his own powers, the realisation that night when he had exorcised the poltergeist, followed by the doubting of his own faith brought about by the hypocrisy of church leaders. Precipitated into yet another phase; army life that had found him in the SAS . . . and the sheer pleasure derived from killing an enemy -- legitimate murder, not once but many times. A new Sabat, so ruthless and yet still in possession of those
inexplicable powers; powers that had saved his life on many occasions until a dishonourable discharge had tumbled him back into civilian life."
After those musings, Sabat enters into mortal combat with his evil brother Quentin, and while he emerges victorious, a portion of Quentin's soul remains in Sabat's mind, waiting for an opportunity to take over.
And that's all before the first chapter!
The actual story of the novel has Sabat visiting a small-town church in England where a gang of devil-worshipping grave robbers have been committing some very unseemly acts. Sabat is quick to the offense, with his powers of excorcism and astral projection, and soon finds himself battling cult members, dark magicians and Voodoo zombies as well as his evil brother's dark soul.
Not that Sabat seems to need much pressure towards bizarre sociopathic and deviant behavior. As mentioned, he seems to get erections constantly and masturbates several times over the course of the book. He rapes the local prostitute, Miranda, not once but twice - although the first time is on the astral plane, or something, as sort of a hallucinatory battle with the forces of evil, so I'm not sure that counts.
And the second time, in her home, might not count either - she was in thrall of the local dark magician, and had attempted to stab Sabat after enticing him to masturbate in front of her. I think we can blame the victim, in this case if no other.
But at one point he runs over a guy during a vehicle pursuit and brushes it off as "fate." Clearly all this possession and astral projection and zombie reanimation stuff has given him a rather blurred notion of the importance of life and death.
Still, if I needed my local cemetery cleansed of a coven of Voodoo Satanist necrophiliac virgin-sacrificing left-hand path dark Magick practicioners, I'd probably want to call a guy like SABAT. You have to fight fire with fire, they say. I don't know but it certainly makes for some entertaining early 80's transgressive pulp exploitation stories.
Buy THE GRAVEYARD VULTURES here at Amazon
Buy the collection of four SABAT books, compellingly titled DEAD MEAT, on Amazon