Saturday, October 14, 2017

Lutheran Book Review: Fiction to Prepare for Possible Fact?



Keating, Ray. Lionhearts (A Pastor Stephen Grant Novel). Manorville, NY: Keating Reports, 2017. 343 Pages. Paper. $16.97.

The "Warrior Monk," Pastor Stephen Grant, is back in the latest volume of Ray Keating's series, Lionhearts.

In LIONHEARTS: A PASTOR STEPHEN GRANT NOVEL by Ray Keating, war has arrived on American soil, with Islamic terrorists using new tactics. Few are safe, including Christians, politicians, and the media. Pastor Stephen Grant taps into his past with the Navy SEALS and the CIA to help wage a war of flesh and blood, ideas, history, and beliefs. This is about defending both the U.S. and Christianity.  

With action in churches and homes, and on media and political fronts, LIONHEARTS: A PASTOR STEPHEN GRANT NOVEL ranks as a breathtaking, edge-of-your-seat thriller. Tragedy, justice, faith, love, friendship, violence, death and loss, hatred, courage, murder, commitment and patriotism are brought to life for the reader. As with his earlier novels, Keating also presents fascinating characters and relationships, humor, and crisp dialogue. (About the book)

My heart skipped a beat. Twice. Once was early in the book when Christians were the targets of terrorists in attacks that are all-too possible. The second time in was in the middle of the novel, when the target was political. My shock was real. Stories like this from the "not too-distant future" should help us all think about what is possible or even probable and how to defend against it. The characters in Lionhearts are people of action, whether ending a threat or helping people pick up the pieces of their lives and finding a new normal through good, faithful, and compassionate pastoral care. 

I do not wish to share spoilers. I will share the following: Keating's pacing is perfect. His brief chapters are of the length that encourages reading his novels in (almost) one sitting. I could tell myself, "I can read another chapter" and then repeating myself chapter after chapter. His mini-cliffhangers kept this reader interested as a hundred pages flew by to finish the novel last night. After a moment of action (276), I appreciated this dialogue:

"An angel?"
"Praise the Lord!"
"Was he wearing a collar?

The character development over the course of the books is also noticeable. There is not automatically a "reset" back to the status quo by the end of each book in the series. Old friend change. One was even receptive of pastoral care in this adventure. Other friends die. New friends enter from unexpected places thanks to artful flashbacks or unforced backstory. Keating reminds us of were we are in the series with gentle but substantive reminders of past events in the life of Pastor Stephen Grant and the people he cares about. And we're all set to see what happens in future novels in this world's Presidential election.

I could imagine Lionhearts being a good show on Netflix or Amazon. Wouldn't it be fun to hear rites from Lutheran Service Book on the small screen? Start with this volume or go back to the beginning. Lutheran readers won't be disappointed.


Rev. Paul J Cain is Senior Pastor of Immanuel, Sheridan, Wyoming, Headmaster of Martin Luther Grammar School and Immanuel Academy, a member of the Board of Directors of the Consortium for Classical Lutheran Education, Wyoming District Education Chairman/NLSA Commissioner, and Editor of Lutheran Book Review. He has served as an LCMS Circuit Visitor, District Worship Chairman and District Evangelism Chairman. A graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, Rev. Cain is a contributor to Lutheran Service Book, Lutheranism 101, the forthcoming LSB Hymnal Companion volumes, and is the author of 5 Things You Can Do to Make Our Congregation a Caring Church. He is an occasional guest on KFUO radio. He has previously served Emmanuel, Green River, WY and Trinity, Morrill, NE. Rev. Cain is married to Ann and loves reading and listening to, composing, and making music.

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