I grew up in North Hollywood, California. As an amateur astronomer, I built telescopes and spent many a cold night in Fraser Park taking pictures of nebulae, galaxies and comets. Since the age of eleven, an avid interest in astronomy led me to read lots of science fiction. Favorite authors included Robert Heinlein and Poul Anderson.
During summers while attending UCLA, I worked at NASA’s Manned Spacecraft Center with the original seven astronauts, Lowell Observatory and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Upon graduation, I began employment at Eastman Kodak (Lunar Orbiter) before returning to JPL in Pasadena. There, I spent 38 years participating in the defining moments of Mars exploration. Much like the captain of an ancient seafaring expedition, over the years, I helped guide reconnaissance of the Mars frontier on missions such as Mars Observer, Viking, Mariner 9. Ultimately, I became the Project Manager of NASA’s highly successful Mars Global Surveyor Mission – a spacecraft that orbited Mars for nine years, returning two hundred thousand images of the planet and relaying pictures from the Mars Rovers. I have published numerous science articles on Mars photometry and also taught astronomy in Glendale College’s extended day program for nearly forty years. Now retired, I live in Santa Clarita, Calfornia twenty miles north of Los Angeles.
I have published six historical mystery thrillers of the Darmon Mystery series about a couple from Kent that solves international crimes during the 1830’s. These novels include: Message of the Pendant, The Forth Conspiracy, Patriote Peril, Fair Wind to Bahia, Desperate Crossing and Without Redemption.
With a career in space exploration, people often ask why I choose to write books of historical fiction rather than science fiction. Historical and science fiction share a common thread: confronting the unknown. It is a circumstance that both frightens and fascinates. Our vision of exploration comes from experiences of our ancestors who tamed wildernesses and created colonial outposts. Imagine being plopped onto a foreign shore during the early 1800′s. The physical environment is tough and tasks we take for granted today were overwhelming obstacles. Beyond these trials came threats from indigenous cultures, disease such as cholera, lawless frontiersmen and regimes on the verge of collapse.
When I worked on Mars Missions, I was often asked, “do you believe in the face on Mars?” A fellow by the name of Hoglan made lots of money speculating on the possibility that the face was constructed by aliens. Such imaginings are not all crazy and have spurred the investigation of canals on the planet for hundreds of years. People strive to understand their environment and nothing excites the mind like solving a good mystery. Mankind seeks enlightenment, answers to the unknown, it is in his nature. No matter if you’re a scientist trying to understand the universe, a police detective solving a life or death case or just someone looking for missing car keys, we learn from the process and recover from our mistakes. So my answer to “do I believe there’s face on Mars” is, no, better camera resolution shows it to be a mesa covered with rocks, but then again, what about those microbe fossils in the Allen Hill meteorite and traces of methane in the atmosphere?
Events of the past are often glossed over when presented in textbooks. We sometimes think our ancestors were primitive and uneducated because they lacked today’s technology. Unless one experiences the reality of past circumstances thru historical fiction, their true relevance may be missed. I hope the Darmon series enlightens readers to challenges of the time and gives a better appreciation of the choices made by our forbearers.
William Darmon and his wife Elizabeth, owners of Mayfair Hall, fall victim to rival Forth family who introduce a bill into Parliament called the Writ of Confiscation. It will repossess the Darmon’s ancestral home unless they can find their missing deed. A late family friend hid the document on a trip to Egypt decades earlier, leaving a clue to its location only visible in the night sky of 1825.
As the Darmons begin to unravel the mystery, a Forth body turns up on their doorstep. William and brother-in-law, Charles set off for the Mediterranean only to be waylaid by Greek independence fighters on the eve of a massive Egyptian invasion. William’s escape finds him stranded in the Sahara far behind Forth members attempting to destroy his property title. Historically accurate events provide non-stop suspense.