Cummings Foundation Grant Recipient
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by Terry Phillips

On Christmas Eve morning in 1933, the spiritual leader of Armenians in America, Archbishop Ghevont Tourian, is stabbed to death as he begins Sunday services in a New York City church. His infamous murder is witnessed by hundreds of parishioners, among them, a newspaper reporter named Tom Peterson. 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 a Becket has such a high religious figure 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?

Murder at the Altar is a work of historical fiction, although it might more accurately be called dramatized history. The book interweaves past and present accounts of these complex events, alternating between Now and Then chapters which are written in first- and third-person voices respectively. Much of the text is based on interviews with survivors, court transcripts and newly declassified FBI files. There are also actual news clips as well as some previously unpublished photos available to further illustrate the story.