Journalist Terry Phillips breaks a 75-year taboo with his first historical novel, “Murder at the Altar” (www.HyeBooks.com). On Christmas Eve morning in 1933, the head of the Armenian Church in America, Archbishop Ghevont Tourian, is stabbed to death as he begins Sunday services. His infamous murder in a little New York City church is witnessed by hundreds of parishioners. The next day, this story is splashed on the front page of every major daily in Manhattan. And no wonder. Not since the assassination of Thomas à Becket has such a high religious leader been slain in a house of worship. This gruesome homicide shatters the Armenian community and confounds the cops. Was it a terrorist attack to silence a political adversary, a KGB plot to discredit anti-communists in America, or simply a tragic turn in an ancient, bitter dispute?
Terry gives an overview of the book:
Terry Phillips has written a mystery thriller that impels the reader to rush to the end. It is hard to stop until the final revelations. At the same time it is history, vital history for an Armenian community in America in the 1930s hardly two decades after the first genocide of the 20th century deprived this ancient people of its historical homeland and nearly annihilated its adult population. America was a refuge, but the most stable institution these new immigrants knew, the Armenian Church, was subject to internal dissensions resulting in a dramatic murder of its highest representative in the United States, an act committed in New York City in church during Christmas services and one that changed permanently the history of the Armenian Diaspora. Phillips brings it all to life after more than 75 years with details never before reported. By using the form of the novel, he has made what is a complicated affair very approachable, but perhaps controversial too. Great reading!
Dr. Dickran Koumjian, Director
Center for Armenian Studies
California State University, Fresno