Rev Angus McPherson

(creator: Mark W Stoub)


Mark W Stoub
Rev Angus MacPherson was the General Presbyter for Mission Presbytery, covering all of South Texas. Born in Scotland, he still spoke with a thick Scottish brogue. It had been in Scotland that "he knew God had called him into the impossible work of ministry" but it was in Texas that he earned his first degree at seminary in Austin, followed by a PhD in Psychology at the University of Texas. He still considered himself to be a parish pastor, although his task now was to look after other ministers, some of whom "came because of self-inflicted wounds, many more because of the evil residing unchallenged in most congregations .... Being a pastor is an impossible job, and they need someone who understands what they go through every day."

He was "a tall man with a thick head of black hair and a suggestion of gray at the temples". He was in his early 60s and married to Angelica who had come from Mexico. They had had two grown-up sons who had now left home.

Mark W(illiam) Stoub (c1949 - ) was born in Chicago. He was awarded a BA at Maryville College in Tennessee, a MDiv at Louisville Seminary, and a DMin at McCormick Seminary in Chicago. He has been a Presbyterian minister for over 35 years and, now retired, lives in Bay City, Texas, with his wife Jane. Blood Under the Altar was his his first (self-published) novel.

Blood Under the Altar (2011)
Blood Under the Altar describes how, when General Presbyter Angus McPherson comes to Shoestring, Texas, to look into the violent death of Pete, a fellow pastor, he "could not help sensing beyond the shock, beyond the grief, most of the people he had met were hiding something - he knew it in his bones." He goes on to form an unlikely partnership with the newly elected Chief of Police, Hector Chavez. Together they poke and prod through a lengthy investigation while a killer stalks the sleepy streets of Shoestring, looking for the next victim. Eventually they agree to flush out the murderer by pretending that Beth, Pete's associate pastor, was dead but had been able to name her killer.
"Who is it?" Pete's widow asked Angus. "Can't you see this thing is pulling me apart? I can't stand this constant sadness. I need some relief. I have to know. If I knew then I could finally get some rest." She "moved closer. Her eyes were now flashing, the red circles gone. They pierced his soul like a two edged sword. Angus swore he could see fangs as she stepped at him." It all seems a bit over the top. But he does eventually unmask the villain.

Angus had not entirely enjoyed his work as Presbyter: "It's funny, he thought, but as one gets higher up in the church, the air gets thinner and thinner. The spirit somehow gets lost up there, or so it seemed. That's what he missed about parish ministry." By comparison, he finds the murder trail quite exciting. He is sure that "what happened here was an act of evil. I believe there are no accidents. Everything happens for a reason." When asked what evil is, he replies, "I believe evil is the absence of God, or more precisely, turning one's back on the presence of God, and acting as if God does not matter." His questioner smiles back at him.
"I want you to know this has been wonderful for me. I realise you have other things to do with your day, but you have made me very happy. Perhaps you can come back, and we continue talking about this stuff?" It sounds just a little too bland.

The best parts of the story are the glimpses into a minister's life including his fraught if loving relationship with his wife as when he has to apologise for cancelling a proposed day out and she says, "This keeps happening. It's always something, it always has been. It never stops ....You know I have a life too. I've got papers to grade and parent/teacher conferences to get ready for .... I'm the one who always has to drop whatever I'm doing and help you. Why don't you help me once in a while?"

Angus even has a direct encounter with God. The light from the sanctuary window "focused like a laser beam on Angus. It focused upon his heart. The force of the beam was so strong it knocked him to the floor." And a voice from the light told him to take off his shoes as "the ground you're on is holy ground .... I want you to lead these people from this time."
"Is this my choice or a command?"
"This is America, Angus. I can't command anyone here. They wouldn't listen even if I did."
"Good point." Angus struggled to his feet. "Will you help me find his killer?" There was no answer - but Angus had a "numinous glow".

A much more convincing episode occurs later when we are told that "throughout Angus's years of ministry, he always had a problem knowing who he could trust" and remembers the advice given him by an old minister: "Never trust the first people who offered to take you to dinner. They are the ones with the agenda and will bite you in the ass later on." This sounds much more like the author's first-hand experience.

However, the plot is not all that interesting and plods on without much real excitement or humor, although Angus has a joke of a sort: "There was a bit of graffiti found in the 16th century about the church. It said the church is like Noah's Ark. If it wasn't for the storm outside, you couldn't stand the stink inside. Whenever I tell that joke in church circles, they don't laugh."



There is hardly a mention of the author on the web.



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Blood Under the Altar cover
The enigmatic cover doesn't give anything away.
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