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Book Review: The Return of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Ever since I purchased and reread my autographed replacement copy of Nicholas Meyer’s Sherlock Holmes novel, The Seven-Per-Cent Solution, and then went on to read Murder at Sorrow’s Crown by Steven Savile and Bob Greenberger, I felt compelled to go back and indulge once again in some of the original tales by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

It had been so long since l last read this collection that I’d forgotten most of them, although I remembered that at least two—”The Adventure of the Six Napoleons” and “The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton”—were used as source material for the BBC series, Sherlock.

So great was the demand for Sherlock Holmes stories that Doyle, The Return of Sherlock Holmestired of penning tales about the master detective by the turn of the 20th century,  was compelled to resurrect Holmes from the dead after what was thought to be his demise in “The Final Problem” wherein Holmes and his arch-rival, the nefarious Professor Moriarty, had together plummeted from Reichenbach Falls in Germany.

Of the 13 marvelous stories detailing some of Holmes and Watson’s continuing investigations, my favorites include…

“The Adventure of the Empty House,” in which Holmes describes to an astounded Watson how he managed to escape death and travel about Europe and Asia for a few years before returning to London, compelled by an intriguing and high-profile murder of the son of an Earl.

In “The Adventure of the Dancing Men,” Holmes and Watson are called into decipher a series of encrypted messages consisting of dancing stick figures. The messages are being left in chalk on the walls of a nobleman’s manor as well as on notes around the property. Could they be a warning… or a threat?

In “The Adventure of the Priory School,” a frantic headmaster calls upon Holmes to investigate the missing son of a local Duke. Did the boy flee the school of his own accord, or was he led away for a fiendish purpose?

In “The Adventure of Black Peter,” Inspector Stanley Hopkins requests Holmes’s assistance on the peculiar murder of Peter Carey, a former ship’s captain and a miserable drunkard, who built a small cabin on his property where he often stole away for days—until one morning when his body is discovered impaled by one of his own harpoons!

Holmes is once again called in by Scotland Yard when a series of cheap plaster Napoleon busts are senselessly and randomly smashed all over England. However, when one of these incidents leads to murder, Holmes suspects that there is something more to the matter than a mere dislike of the legendary emperor in “The Adventure of the Six Napoleons.”

When an elderly professor’s intern is brutally murdered in the professor’s own study, Holmes and Watson are called into investigate. The only clue to the killer’s identity are spectacles clutched in the victim’s hand and one-way footprints in the grass outside a set of french doors. In “The Adventure of the Pince-Nez,” could the killer still be close at hand?

A college athlete from Cambridge implores Holmes to help find his missing teammate, rugby star Godfrey Staunton. Upon receiving a hand delivered note, Staunton simply disappeared on the eve of their match against Oxford. Holmes and Watson track the missing student to a cantankerous and clever physician who manages to elude Holmes for a short time before he and Watson finally discover the tragic truth in “The Adventure of the Missing Three-Quarter.”

When the brutal and abusive Sir Eustace Brackenstall is murdered in his mansion, Holmes and Watson are once more called in by Scotland Yard. However, by the time they arrive, Inspector Hopkins seems to have the case already classified as a burglary gone wrong. As it happens, a trio of master thieves had already been seen in the area and the Lady Brackenstall identified them as the ones who bound and gagged her before murdering her husband. However, a cursory inspection of the crime scene leaves a nagging doubt in Holmes’s mind in “The Adventure of the Abbey Grange.”

In “The Adventure of the Second Stain,” a former British Prime Minister and the Secretary for European Affairs seek Holmes’s help in recovering a stolen letter from a foreign potentate that, if exposed, could lead to war in Europe. However, Holmes comes to learn that the situation is far more personal to the Secretary than the young man realizes.

Book Review: LEONARD by William Shatner with David Fisher

I enjoyed this memoir from beginning to end, even though I’d already heard, seen, or read about 60% of it from other sources such as Leonard Nimoy’s own memoirs (I Am Not Spock, then later, I Am Spock), interviews with Nimoy over the years, and the recent documentary, For the Love of Spock, directed by Adam Nimoy. Much of Nimoy’s television and early film career is covered and often compared to Shatner’s own.

It was that other 40% that piqued my interest such as the depth of Nimoy’s love for the written word through his poetry and how he had come to love photography. These are parts of Nimoy’s creative career with which I was only superficially familiar. It pains me to admit that I’ve never read his poetry and have only seen a small subset of his photographs, but after reading Shatner’s memoir, I’m inspired to action and will make the time to delve more into these aspects of Nimoy’s art.

No memoir about Leonard Nimoy would be complete without mentioning his love for the stage and his brilliant performances in Fiddler on the Roof and his one man show, Vincent, about the life and work of Van Gogh. Shatner also touched on the enormous charitable donations made by Leonard and his wife Susan to theatres in New York as well as the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles.

To his credit, Shatner was honest about his conflicts with Nimoy and Roddenberry in the early months of Star Trek and the reasons behind that. He also expressed great disappointment and sadness that Nimoy had stopped speaking to him in the weeks before his passing. All of that, and Shatner’s brotherly love for Nimoy, shined through as truly genuine and heartfelt.


Leonard by William Shatner

Hold On To the Light Inside of You

This morning, I learned about a brilliant initiative called Hold On To The Light, spearheaded by SFF author Gail Z. Martin. 

Beginning on September 20, hundreds of science fiction and fantasy authors began an online conversation across blogs and socialHold Onto The Light media about mental illness, domestic violence, suicide, depression, PTSD, and related issues that are often extremely upsetting
and difficult to discuss for so many.

Click here to read the first blog post from Hold Onto The Light

Over the past five years, I’ve opened up about my nearly 40-year battle with depression both on social media and at personal appearances. I sometimes discuss how depression has affected my writing and I never cease to be surprised at how willing others are to reveal their own struggles. My, times have changed. Society is finally opening up a dialogue about mental illness and that’s wonderful. The old stigmas are rapidly disintegrating.

My first novel, Testing the Prisoner, is a paranormal mystery that deals with the brutality of child abuse and the trauma that stays with the victims for the rest of their livesTesting the Prisoner by Phil Giunta. This was intimately familiar territory, but that made it no less challenging to write. I had to confront my own pain, my own memories, my own struggles with a darkness that pushed me toward a desire to take my own life at least a half dozen times during my younger days and even a few times in recent years.

Still, I knew the story had to be told for a number of reasons. First, I wanted to let others who have been victims of child abuse to know that they are not alone. Secondly, and perhaps more selfishly, I wanted to turn the tables on a demon that has persistently robbed me of happiness and instead, use it as a storytelling tool to launch my writing career.

As for surviving depression, perhaps it was faith, willpower, or a hope for a brighter future that dissuaded me from any “permanent solutions” to my problem. Much of the credit should also be given to SFF fandom and my growing interest in writing. Watching Star Trek and seeing Star Wars at the tender age of six inspired me. Later, the media tie-in novels became a gateway to speculative fiction and hard SF in my teen years. I began reading Asimov, Clarke, Ellison, Bradbury, and many others. Like many SF films and TV shows, books became my anti-depressant and while they were not an instant panacea, they helped pull me through countless dark and terrible times. They still do today.

Most importantly, the friendship and community that I found in SFF fandom has been the most enriching experience I could ask for. The best and most supportive friends in my life came from my three decades attending SF conventions such as Farpoint, Shore Leave, Balticon, and others.

More, I wouldn’t be published today were it not for the mentorship of august writers like Steven H. Wilson, Howard Weinstein, Michael Jan Friedman, Bob Greenberger, and Aaron Rosenberg, all of whom I met at the aforementioned cons. I am honored to call these chaps my friends, and in the case of Steve, Bob, and Aaron, my publishers!

If you are suffering from depression, I encourage you to reach out and find the help you so richly deserve. You are not alone. You have a right to happiness and health. You have a right to achieve your potential without being hagridden by a demon that wants to convince you of the lie that you’re inadequate, unworthy, or that life is not worth living. I beg you to find the light and hold on to it.

About Hold On To The Light

September/October are the months for Depression Awareness, Suicide Prevention, Bullying Prevention, Traumatic Brain Injury Awareness, World Mental Health Day and Domestic Violence Awareness.

What’s our end game? We want to bring the issues, struggle and treatment out of the shadows and make it clear that no one is alone in the journey. We want to demonstrate fandom taking care of its own. And we want fandom to be a safe space for everyone.

The steering group behind #HoldOnTotheLight is made up of John Hartness, Jaym Gates, Jean Marie Ward, Emily Leverett, Mindy Mymudes and Gail Z. Martin.

How can you help? Share, retweet and engage with the blog posts and social media outreach about the campaign and by the participating authors to spread the word. Encourage the conventions you participate in to add or expand panels on mental wellness. Learn more about the issues, so you can be an educated participant in the discussion.

If you want to get even more hands-on, please consider donating to or volunteering for organizations dedicated to treatment and prevention such as: American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Hope for the Warriors (PTSD), National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), Canadian Mental Health Association, MIND (UK), SANE (UK), BeyondBlue (Australia), To Write Love On Her Arms (TWLOHA) and the National Suicide Prevention Hotline.

Together, we can #HoldOnToTheLight because #FandomTakesCareOfItsOwn.

You can find updates with links to author blog posts and updates about related news here, and on the HoldOnToTheLight Facebook group and on our Facebook page (note the ‘we’)

Media: Contact Gail Z. Martin via


Book Review: The Machineries of Joy by Ray Bradbury

As usual, Ray Bradbury writes in splendid imagery, his prose poetic. No one else wrote, or will ever write, like Bradbury.

Yet, I fear most of today’s editors would likely slash and gut much of his beautiful detail, carving the very heart from his work. Such are the changes in readers’ tastes, which I partly blame on the dumbing down of society.

The Machineries of Joy was, not surprisingly, a joy to read. Of the 21 brilliant stories included, my favorites were:

“Tyrannosaurus Rex” — A stop-motion animator, tasked with creating a miniature T-Rex, just cannot seem to satisfy a film producer—until he completely recreates the beast’s face to resemble someone very familiar.

“The Vacation”— Traveling atop a small four-wheeled workman’s railcar, a family of three takes a serene cross-country excursion, able to avoid the rest of humanity—because they are the last people on Earth.

“Boys! Raise Giant Mushrooms in your Cellar!”— Inspired by an ad in Popular Mechanics, a boy sends away for a kit to grow mushrooms in his parents’ cellar, something that seems to be catching on across the country. However, it isn’t long before alarming behavior begins to manifest in those who eat the mushrooms.

“Almost The End Of The World” — Two miners return home to regale the locals with yet more tall tales of adventure only to find their town completely changed. Everything is freshly painted from homes to shops to flower pots—and the locals suddenly prohibit the miners from uttering a word.

“And The Sailor, Home From The Sea” — A dying sea captain and widower, now living on a wheat farm far from the ocean, asks his caretaker to bury him at sea where he lost his wife so many years ago. When the time comes, the caretaker follows through—without ever leaving the farm.

“A Miracle of Rare Device” — Two schemers always looking for a fast buck discover a mirage in the New Mexico desert that appears to be New York City! They begin selling tickets to passersby, only to learn that each person sees something completely different—and life altering—in the trick of light and heat.

“And So Died Riabouchinska” — A detective investigating a murder questions a ventriloquist, but only learns the truth through the man’s exquisite Russian female puppet.

“Death and the Maiden” — Old Mam, or so the townsfolk call her, locked herself in her house decades ago, fearing the day when Death would come for her. She receives no visitors save for a grocery clerk who merely delivers food to her porch once every few weeks. When Death finally arrives, he tempts Old Mam with an unexpected offer.

“To The Chicago Abyss” — A homeless man who remembers what life on Earth was like before Annihilation Day is saved from a beating on the street by the member of a secret movement that wishes to return to the days of old. The homeless man’s reputation has fallen under the scrutiny of the authorities so the movement’s followers send the homeless man to a place of safety, but not before he imparts his knowledge to them.

“The Anthem Sprinters” — In Dublin, a group of Irishman place bets on who can run out of the cinema the fastest after a movie, in order to avoid listening to Ireland’s national anthem, which is played after the end of every film. When an American tourist is convinced to ante up and join the fun, he finds that even this callous group has a heart of gold.


Machineries of Joy by Ray Bradbury

The View From On High: The WWII Towers of Delaware


Beach NightsIn case you missed my other five or six posts about the Rehoboth Beach Reads short story contest, my paranormal tale, “Tower 16” took second place and will be published in the anthology, Beach Nights, coming in November from Cat and Mouse Press.

In fact, the book launch is scheduled for November 13, 2-4PM, at Browseabout Books on Rehoboth Avenue.

My story focuses on lonely WWII veteran and Rehoboth Beach resident Reggie Prell and his doting granddaughter, Hannah, who is visiting him during summer vacation with her parents. In between regaling Hannah with stories of his army career, Reggie is confronted by the ghosts of his brothers-in-arms, all of whom have passed away over the years leaving Reggie the lone surviving member of his battery. Realizing that his end is near, Reggie reveals to Hannah the legend of Tower 16—which only materializes to claim the souls of those who served in the fire control towers along Delaware’s coast. Will Tower 16 come for Reggie next?

I was told by the editor of the anthology that my story actually made one of the judges cry. I know it certainly moved me as I wrote it.

So What Is This Tower You Keep Referring To?

I’ve been fascinated by the WWII fire control towers along Delaware’s coast for years and always wanted to write a story about them, but it was not until the Beach Nights contest was announced that an idea finally came to me.

After all, tell a paranormal fiction writer that you’re looking for stories that take place at night and whaddaya expect to get?

My connection to Rehoboth Beach seems to sDelaware Beaches Plaquestrengthen each year. I was married there, and as I write this, I am back in town with my wife as we celebrate our anniversary.

For the past four summers, she and I have rented a house for a week every July with friends, and we take the occasional day trip here as our schedules permit.

When at all possible, I also try to include a visit to Tower 7 in Cape Henlopen. It is the only tower open to the public at present, but there is a growing movement to restore and open some of the others.

This past July, I had the pleasure of visiting Tower 3 near Dewey Beach, which I’d spotted earlier in the day during a parasailing excursion.


Of course, trips to the beach wouldn’t be complete wiTower T-Shirt and Plaquesthout stimulating the local economy. This time, I finally bought a few tower-themed goodies from the local shops, including a t-shirt and two wooden plaques as pictured here.

Below are several pictures taken not only of the tower in Cape Henlopen, but images of the ocean, the bay, and surrounding park taken by me  from the very top of the tower.


The Purpose of the TowersFire Control Tower2_Long

The Fire Control Towers were constructed by the US Army in the early days of WWII to protect the Delaware Bay from potential incursion by German vessels.

There were 11 total concrete towers built between Cape Henlopen and Bethany Beach. Across the bay in New Jersey, two were built in Cape May and still exist, while the pair in Wildwood have been demolished.

Further north in Delaware, five metal towers were raised in Fort Saulsbury, but only one remains at Big Stone Beach as shown below. Photo credit:

Fort Saulsbury Tower

The towers were mostly constructed in pairs in order to triangulate the position of enemy ships. The information would then be transmitted back to the gun crews.

Cape Henlopen was also the location of Fort Miles army base. Today, the base remains as a tourist attraction with many of the large caliber guns on display alongside the buildings as shown below.

Fort Miles Mobile Gun2 Fort Miles Rail Gun Fort Miles Massive Gun Fort Miles from Tower

Below: From the top of Tower 7, views of Delaware Bay, Atlantic Ocean, and Tower 12 in Cape Henlopen State Park.

Ocean from Henlopen Tower3 Ocean from Henlopen Tower2
Fire Control TowerCape May Ferry

Below: Tower 7 in Cape Henlopen State Park on a perfect summer day.

Fire Control Tower 7


Fort Saulsbury, DE website

Fort Miles, DE website


Shore Leave 38 Convention Recap!

My trek to Shore Leave last weekend was much different from any previous year in that I arrived at the con directly from a marvelous week’s vacation in Rehoboth Beach, DE. Clear skies and sparse traffic made driving through the bucolic town of Denton, MD simply serene.

For a fisherman like me, traversing the Chesapeake Bay Bridge was indeed a religious experience. Looking right and left, the view was blue straight to the horizons. Gorgeous.

Then I reached the 695 Beltway right at the beginning of rush hour. Let the road rage begin! Ugh.  Nevertheless, I finally reached the Hunt Valley Wyndham Grand, checked-in, registered for the con, unloaded my car in the blistering heat, took a shower, and missed my 5PM discussion panel.

After dinner at Noodles & Company with friends Sharon and Cyndi Van Blarcom, Lance Woods, and Renfield, we met up with fellow scribe and Firebringer Press publisher, Steven H. Wilson, with whom I had spent the aforementioned week in Rehoboth Beach along with his family and several friends (click here to see vacation pics!).

Friday night at 10PM brought the traditional Meet the Pros book fair where all of the con’s writer guests gathered to sell and sign books. It also celebrated the release of two new books for Firebringer Press–Steven H. Wilson’s fourth novel, Sacrifice Play: A Tale from the Arbiter Chronicles, and Elsewhere in the Middle of Eternity, the second installment in our speculative fiction anthology series. Seven of nine (pardon the obvious pun) anthology writers were on hand to sign copies including Daniel Patrick “Renfield” Corcoran, Michael Critzer, Susanna Reilly, Stuart Roth, Steven H. Wilson, Lance Woods, and myself. The night was so busy that it’s all a blur to me now and I did not have the time to take too many pics…

Special thanks to Ethan Wilson, Christian Wilson, Jessica Headlee, Jill Mardesich, Tim Marron, and Cheyenne-Autumn Christine Reilly for volunteering to shlep boxes of books from Steve’s car to Meet the Pros and then from there to my hotel room afterward!

Crazy 8 Press at Meet the Pros Firebringer Press at Meet the Pros Renfield at Meet the Pros Lance and Steve at Meet the Pros Susanna at Meet the Pros Michael Critzer and Phil Giunta Peter, Bob, Michael, at Meet the Pros

Elsewhere in the Middle of Eternity

Saturday and Sunday brought about a myriad of discussion panels on writing and publishing. My panel schedule was lighter than usual this year. On Saturday morning, I was a panelist on “The Whole Package” with Richard White, Glenn Hauman, Aaron Rosenberg, Mike McPhail, and Jim Johnson. We discussed all that goes into quality editing, layout, and cover art.

Afterwards, I made my way down to the lower lobby to meet actors Michael Forest and Barbara Bouchet who each guest-starred on episodes of classic Star Trek.  They were both very friendly and I picked up an autographed photo from each of them.

While there, I was stopped by an attendee and asked to sign a Shore Leave trading card with my picture! I was honored, because after all, as Lucy Van Pelt said in the 1965 Charlie Brown Christmas Special, “How can you say someone is great who’s never had his picture on bubblegum cards?”

Phil on Trading Card

I then sat in on the Crazy 8 Press panel as several of the authors, including Peter David, Russ Colchamiro, and Michael Jan Friedman read excerpts from their latest books.

Crazy 8 Press-1 Crazy 8 Press-2

At 4PM, I had the pleasure of sitting in on John Noble’s talk in the ballroom. Mr. Noble is known for such shows and films as Fringe, Elementary, Lord of the Rings, and much more. He is an eloquent and engaging speaker.

John NobleJohn NobleJohn Noble

The “Firebringer Press Presents” panel occurred at what has become its traditional timeslot, 5PM. Of course, this is opposite the con’s official autograph lines for the celebrities and the dinner hour which often results in the panelists outnumbering the audience.  Nevertheless, it was a fun and lively discussion about current and future projects as well as our brand new aforementioned anthology, Elsewhere in the Middle of Eternity.

Phil at Firebringer Panel Stu and Sue at Firebringer Panel

Steve at Firebringer Panel

After the panel, a few of the anthology writers gathered in my room for a book signing party, including Steven H. Wilson, Stuart Roth, and Lance Woods.  Once all of the Kickstarter books were signed, it was time to gather with friends for a delightful dinner at Joe’s Crab Shack.

Back at the hotel, it was another round of book signing with Susanna Reilly. We chatted for a few hours with Stuart and his wife, Maria, before turning in for the night.

Sunday morning saw me finally participating in Shore Leave’s Writers Breakfast in the Cinnamon Tree restaurant. Every year since becoming a writer guest, I committed to attending and every year I failed to do so. I sat with Stuart Roth and Shore Leave Co-Con Chair, Dr. Inge Heyer. Inge is a longtime friend who has been involved with Shore Leave as a magnificent writer liaison for many years.

By 11AM, I was in the autograph line for John Noble and Michael Trucco (Battlestar Galactica, Castle, Big Bang Theory). The lines moved quickly and both gentlemen were wonderful to meet and chat with.  Afterward, I had about an hour to relax in the comfy chairs that line the hallway near the elevators. I was joined there by veteran writer Aaron Rosenberg. We chatted for about 30 minutes about writing, vacations, and life in general before it was time for my final panel of the con.

Shore Leave 38 Autographs

At 1PM, I joined Joshua Palmatier, Mike McPhail, and Michael Jan Friedman for “Building an Anthology”.  We had no official moderator, but questions from our audience members guided the discussion, much of which was spent on the topic of how to use Kickstarter to fund anthologies.

Near the end of my day, I once again crossed paths with artist Todd Brugmans who created the artwork for several Farpoint program books as well as Heroic Park, the debut novel of Lance Woods. For Star Trek‘s 50th anniversary, Todd was commissioned to create cover art not only for Farpoint’s program book, but for Balticon and Shore Leave’s as well. Combined, the images create a triptych and I happened to have all three with me for Todd to autograph!

Farpoint, Balticon, and Shore Leave program books

Alas, it was then time for me to say my goodbyes to every friend I could find in my final patrol of the hotel before beginning my voyage home.  All told, it was yet another enjoyable, albeit frenetic, Shore Leave filled the typical cast of colorful characters.

Phil with Crazy 8 PressTrek and Roll!Orion Slave Girl Science Officer Saavik Rock on and Prosper  Klaatu Judge Q

Mon CalamariJoker with Bomb

Jill Mardesich             Jessica Headlee Cobra CommanderBorg

R2 Unit-2R2 Unit-1