Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Controversial novel arrives in Moscow and Yerevan; Author Terry Phillips breaks 75-year taboo

Murder at the Altar is the first book to scrutinize the violent schism of the Armenian Apostolic Church, which remains split to this very day. Author Terry Phillips will be in Russia and Armenia from March 26 until April 4 to talk about this still-controversial theme.

The historical novel centers on the death of Archbishop Ghevont Tourian. The Prelate was killed at Holy Cross Church in New York City on December 24, 1933 as he began Christmas Eve Sunday morning services. His gruesome homicide shattered the Armenian community and shocked the conscience.

The Tourian assassination was front-page news when it happened. It remained a taboo subject for 75 years. For the first time since then, author Phillips has examined all the available evidence and presents a vivid, fact-based account in novel form. has examined all the available evidence and presents a vivid, fact-based account in novel form.

Murder at the Altar might more accurately be called “dramatized history.” The book interweaves past and present versions of these complex events. Much of the text is drawn from interviews with survivors, court transcripts and newly declassified FBI files. There are actual news clips as well as some previously unpublished photos available to further illustrate the story.

“This act of violence became a touchstone for intra-ethnic conflict among Armenians in America,” says Phillips. “But the story is also a poignant example of the tensions and contradictions created by the Cold War, some of which lingered long after the USSR dissolved.”

Phillips sees the case as a metaphor for other such conflicts, calling them “universal human tragedies.”

About the Author

Terry Phillips is a veteran war correspondent. He was one of the first American reporters to live and work in Armenia following the 1988 earthquake, and to cover the armed conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh.

During the 1990s, Phillips reported major stories for CBS, NPR, and NBC News. He traveled throughout the Soviet Union, as well as Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Among his other international datelines are Baghdad, Kabul, Mogadishu, Sarajevo and Port-au-Prince. He is now the moderator for “Quality of Life” – a popular interview/call-in program based in California and heard on National Public Radio stations.

The author will be available for in-person interviews in Moscow and Yerevan from March 26 until April 4.

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