In July, we will be seeing the release of a movie called “Deliver Us from Evil,” which is based on the book “Beware the Night” by Ralph Sarchie, a veteran of the NYPD.
Sarchie is a retired police sergeant who got involved in what he calls “The Work” while he was still a beat cop. He had an interest in horror, the occult and law enforcement, although he originally wanted to become a baseball player.
Working as a police officer exposed him to a lot of evils of the world in the form of heinous crimes, but it was a book by Ed and Lorraine Warren, the famed paranormal investigators, that piqued his interest and brought him into the world of the demonic. From there, he became involved in possessions and other types of cases in which people were being attacked by otherworldly entities.
Sarchie’s book, co-written by Lisa Collier Cool, recounts several of his cases over the years. Not all are possession cases. Some are about people experiencing weird occurrences in their homes that they attribute to ghosts. Sarchie outlines the difference between ghosts and demons and discusses the levels of progression in a possession case, from infestation to a full takeover by demonic influence. He also covers how evil can enter a person’s life in a variety of ways.
The book concludes with several Catholic prayers that he and his team use during exorcism cases.
Before I get into what worked and what didn’t, you need to understand that Sarchie is a devout Catholic and writes from this perspective. He states in the beginning that the book is not about the devil, but about God and how God works through the various people involved in “The Work,” which include laypeople, people of other faiths, Catholic priests and a Catholic Bishop.
If you get queasy reading anything about God or faith, I wouldn’t tell you to avoid the book, but be aware that its roots are firmly planted in his faith. Also, Sarchie is discussing the cases he worked, not the ones he attributes to mental health issues or pranks. He touches on that aspect briefly, but doesn’t get into any extensive material here.
The cases themselves are fascinating. It’s interesting to read about the variety of people Sarchie has met and conferred with over the years, including the Warrens. He gives enough detail about the folks involved so you can form a mental picture; although, he changed several names to protect his clients’ identities. I understand why. He has a very matter-of-fact way of expressing his thoughts and doesn’t sugar coat anything, very cop-like, and he approaches the cases as a police officer would. This worked in parts of the book, and several frightening incidents were relayed in a spare manner that made them more effective.
Sarchie is careful to warn people away from this type of work, which I think is wise. He conveys to the reader how it has negatively affected his family and friends over the years, not just due to his long hours and mental and spiritual exhaustion after a case, but also due to several incidents that scared him and the people in his life and potentially put them in danger.
WHAT DIDN’T WORK
There is sometimes a very staccato writing style that can be a bit tough on the reader. Chapter 3 deals with Sarchie’s history, filling the reader in on his early years and early involvement in his line of work. The sentences are choppy, which makes it a tougher chapter to get through. This same writing style shows up elsewhere in the book. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. This isn’t the same as the spare style I covered earlier, which can be highly effective when conveying a scene, but more of a cut up series of thoughts that need to be strung together in a different way.
There’s a repetitiveness to some of the material — story details or personal details we already read about, ideas and ideology that have already been covered — and this can cause a reader like me to sigh a little with impatience. Also, there’s a lot of “flashbacking” during chapters. He will start to write about a case, then go off in several different directions about other cases for various reasons. This can be very distracting to the reader who may have to refer back to the beginning of the chapter to remember the original case notes.
Overall, I enjoyed the book; although, parts of it were repetitive or awkward. It’s also a fast read. Again, the writing comes from a man who has a solid belief in God, and he’s been sure to include his faith and how it works for him in every chapter. If you simply don’t believe in this kind of thing, then move on. It’s not for everyone, but if you’re interested in the subject matter, dig in.
GIVING CREDIT WHERE IT’S DUE
“Beware the Night” was written by Ralph Sarchie and Lisa Collier Cool. It was published by St. Martin’s Press in 2001. The film based on the book, “Deliver Us from Evil,” is directed by Scott Derrickson and stars Eric Bana, Olivia Munn, Joel McHale, Sean Harris and Édgar Ramírez. It opens in theaters July 2.