Is Your Pastor or Priest a Man of Action? Check Out Pastor Stephen Grant in, for example, WINE INTO WATER: A PASTOR STEPHEN GRANT NOVEL, MURDERER'S ROW: A PASTOR STEPHEN GRANT NOVEL and THE RIVER: A PASTOR STEPHEN GRANT NOVEL by Ray Keating

Pastor Stephen Grant?

Stephen Grant is the pastor at St. Mary’s Lutheran Church on eastern Long Island. Grant is one of the more unique second-career clergy around, as he once worked for the CIA. Besides theology, his interests include archery, golf, writing, classic films, the beach, poker, baseball, and history. Grant also knows his wines, champagnes and brews. Oh yes, he generally dislikes politicians, and happens to be an expert marksman with a handgun and a rifle, while being pretty handy with a combat knife as well.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Praise for HEROES AND VILLAINS and the entire PASTOR STEPHEN GRANT Series

The following review essay of HEROES AND VILLAINS: A PASTOR STEPHEN GRANT SHORT STORY and the entire Pastor Stephen Grant series was penned by Susan O. Bachman, Professor Emerita, Concordia University Irvine. Professor Bachman’s 5-star review on Amazon was titled “Refreshing (Lutheran) Framework and Dang Good Stories”:

Much to praise here. Comments on “Heroes and Villains” short story first, and then my opinions about the series of books. 
Stephen Grant, a senior Lutheran pastor, accepts a last-minute invitation to join his younger associate pastor Zachary at a comic convention. The setting lets readers see a younger colleague, a comic aficionado, know the scene more than the series hero. Beneath the celebrative gathering of comic writers, producers and costumed attendees we learn of differences of opinion re concepts and marketing of future projects. Disagreements grow ugly, and things—as they can do—turn dangerous. 
The story’s graphic novel and comic orbit can inform and gratify a range of readers, starting with high school teens. Yet the author does not lose “seasoned” readers (like me) and even teaches along the way. Keating, in a novella-size frame, deftly assembles a small cast of recognizable action heroes to support Stephen and Zachary in thwarting the industry villains. The story’s action climax makes the reader almost see, as on a comic page, the “Pow” “Biff” “Oof” via vigorous fights and clever, believable physicality: great fun to read and see unfold. 
Young and mature readers alike recognize comic characters Batman or Wonder Woman. I, for one, had never heard of the classic comic character Hawk Man, but Keating worked him in helpfully—sent me to Wikipedia (!) Without too much artifice, Keating turns the story back to Christianity and church, mostly in ways that don’t make us roll our eyes. A rollicking, fast-moving story you can enjoy in a couple hours. 
Now for the book series: 
Starting with the first novel, Warrior Monk, Ray Keating introduces a savvy Lutheran fighter-for-justice to the small club of clergy detective heroes who keep the faith and also solve crimes or wrestle with people problems. Think of the popular tv Grantchester stories (Anglican), Father Brown mysteries (Roman Catholic), and Rabbi Small’s sleuthing (Jewish). The Stephen Grant stories likewise manage to entertain and give food for thought about and through its Lutheran lens. 
In the books we have a winsome Stephen Grant, a former Navy SEAL and special-ops CIA operative turned second-career Lutheran pastor. He sounds like Ellis Peters’ Cadfael—a former Crusader monk in Norman England who has taken the cloth—being drawn back again into combatting evil, solving adventures, refurbishing his sword/CIA-glock-wielding skills in times of need. 
I hope we Lutherans can joyfully lay aside for a few hours our serious inter-church quarrels and admittedly-urgent social and political polarities to embrace these books. They embed easy-to-grasp bits of Lutheran distinctives. Without being heavy-handed, the author drops hints of what works in worship for Lutherans or what makes, for example, Christian belief different from other faiths or from secular humanism. Avoiding saccharine piety, the stories shine a light on how faith matters and how naturally faith can work for ordinary—or extraordinary— folks. The books are accessible to faith seekers as well as seasoned church-goers.
Yes—there’s bloody violence along with fast-paced action, scary evil, a little semi-graphic sex, and sad loss in Keating’s stories. Yet the moral trajectories of the core characters enlighten and encourage readers overall. OK—so Pastor Grant is married to an always well-dressed, wealthy, brilliant professional wife, and they drive (and crash sometimes) nicer cars than most of us own. But never mind: it’s “willing suspension of disbelief” in literature, after all. 
Skillful in plot and description, Keating paints three-dimensional and interestingly different locations and crimes in each book. He has a writerly gift for making the action crisp. Keating researches his settings too. Example: In Water into Wine you enter with believable detail into the arcane world of wine counterfeiting, while the title subtly invokes the faith connection. In all the books you enjoy well-paced scenes, clear reminders who is who, vivid word choices, and helpful chapter divisions. 
I recommend the books for the story lines as well as their Christian themes and distinctions. I hope Keating sets some future stories in Lutheran missions overseas or other homelands (Ethiopia? a school in Madagascar? the Seminary at Westfield House in Cambridge?) Or maybe he will take his heroes into smaller parishes in the U.S. Midwest or South with rich pasts and dark problems to solve.
Get the books at Amazon.com:

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Kirkus Review Calls Heroes and Villains "An Entertaining, Immersive Jaunt"

Nice review of HEROES AND VILLAINS from Kirkus Reviews. It reads in part: 
"In this short story, Keating’s (Reagan Country, 2018, etc.) recurring cleric Stephen Grant steps up to help a popular comic-book creator targeted by armed assailants… When kidnappers eventually abduct someone, Stephen is quickly on their trail, and he has plenty of help—a convention’s worth of superheroes. The series’ protagonist remains a man of action even though the story isn’t novel-length. This relatively short piece is lighter in tone than previous outings, due mainly to its concentration on the cheery setting. Keating respectfully portrays the con as a mostly enjoyable experience… Much of the comedy is appropriate to the setting, as when people assume that the pastors’ clerical garments are costumes honoring the real-life comic-book series Preacher. An entertaining, immersive jaunt with a formidable protagonist.” 
 Read the full review at https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/ray-keating/heroes-and-villainse/


Monday, July 2, 2018

Read Pastor Grant's Daily Journal

Did you know that you can read Pastor Stephen Grant’s daily journal by becoming a member/supporter of the Pastor Stephen Grant Fellowship?

There are many other rewards for becoming a member depending on the level at which one joins, including getting every Pastor Stephen Grant adventure free and before the rest of the planet, being acknowledged with a “thank you” in each book, gift boxes, and getting a character named after you or someone else. Just visit www.patreon.com/pastorstephengrantfellowship.



In the meantime, here’s a recent week’s entries by Pastor Stephen Grant in his journal. Enjoy…

Pastor Stephen Grant Journal, June 24

Tonight, Jen and I settled in for a Sunday night movie, and we chose “Murder on the Orient Express” – the new one directed by Kenneth Branagh, who also played Poirot. One word: Brilliant.

Pastor Stephen Grant Journal, June 25

June 25th is quite the date in history for Lutherans. On this day in 1530, Emperor Charles V heard the Augsburg Confession from German princes. And fifty years later on the same date, the first edition of the “Book of Concord” was published.

Pastor Stephen Grant Journal, June 26

Matins is a wonderful service, especially on weekday mornings. I know plenty of my brother pastors who give up on doing Matins because few people show up. I get it. It can be frustrating. But I try to focus on both parishioners who show up every week on Tuesday and/or Thursday morning, and those who find their way to St. Mary’s on a weekday morning on only rare occasions. In those two cases, as well as in the cases of others, Matins matters.

Pastor Stephen Grant Journal, June 27

Can a Christian truly be a pessimist? That was the discussion that Tom, Ron, Zack and I engaged in over breakfast, after devotions, at the diner. Zack was still affected by his journey to Walt Disney World, so he was as far from pessimism as one could get. But seriously, given that Jesus never promised a rose garden in this earthly life, the act of being a pessimist – that is, subscribing to a lack of hope or confidence in the future – is impossible, in the end, for a faithful Christian. After all, we know the Good News and what that means ultimately.

Pastor Stephen Grant Journal, June 28

Tonight is our monthly “God and Guinness” gathering at Buckley’s Pub. Zack and I decided to take the conversation we had over breakfast yesterday, and present it to the group. Should be an interesting discussion on whether or not a Christian can be a true pessimist.

Pastor Stephen Grant Journal, June 29

The “God and Guinness” chat last night over whether or not a Christian could truly be a pessimist turned out to be quite interesting and, at least for some, illuminating. There was a fair amount of “light bulb” moments in that several people admitted not to having thought much about the topic, and found some solace and perspective. A night well spent.

Pastor Stephen Grant Journal, June 30

With July 4 arriving on Wednesday, Scott, Pam and Zack have decided that the St. Mary’s Saturday night outdoor movies this week and next will be patriotic. Tonight it will be “Apollo 13” and next week “Miracle.” I love both movies.


5 Stars for LIONHEARTS

The latest Amazon reviewer gives Lionhearts 5 stars...



Summer reading with Ray Keating and Pastor Stephen Grant.
https://www.amazon.com/Lionhearts-Pastor-Stephen-Grant-Novel/dp/1548964182/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1529087675&sr=1-1&keywords=lionhearts&dpID=519aDobBSxL&preST=_SY291_BO1,204,203,200_QL40_&dpSrc=srch