Ode to Tom Johnson

Author of the man in the black fedora
Author of The Man in the Black Fedora

I met up with Tom and Ginger in the early 2000s via letters, telephone calls, and email. At the time, I was adding to my Mylar balloon collection and short story writing. Tom and Ginger published Weird Tales, Detective Mystery Stories, Alien Worlds, and other magazines through their enterprise Fading Shadows. They published many of my stories, and in time became mentors.

I started out writing horror; but after discussing with Ginger and Tom, I gravitated toward science fiction. Tom and Ginger recommended me to publishers, and later, after I assumed ownership of Night to Dawn, recommended Night to Dawn magazine to aspiring authors and readers.

Tom and Ginger talked me through the printing and layout process during the first few issues. They mentored other authors, as well. They’ve been married 58 years and have the patience of ten saints and a sense of humor. You need patience and good humor in the army, and Tom spent 20 years as a law enforcement officer. He had an infectious laugh, and when I first talked to him on the phone, he impressed me as carefree. It wasn’t until later that I learned about Agent Orange and the scorched earth policy it used on Tom.

When the book publisher folded, several folks came to me, asking if I would print their books under the Night to Dawn imprint. Tom came on board, and we co-authored three books, with Ginger doing the edits. We stopped after that because Tom loved his pulps the way I do my balloons, and I was getting deeper into the cross-genre science fiction and horror. Tom was the Stephen King of pulp fiction. He loved his reading and has wrote 80 books.

Around the beginning of August, Tom approached me with The Man in the Black Fedora, and he was hoping to bring it to a book signing. I found the story a page-turner, so I decided to publish the book. I then learned just how sick he’d been—Tom had contracted several serious illnesses, all complications of Agent Orange. I got the sense that he didn’t expect to survive much longer. So I hurried through the editing and printing processes so that he could be here to see his last book in print. It was the least I could do for someone who mentored me. On September 26, 2019, The Man in the Black Fedora went into print.   

Thankfully, Tom got to see his book in print and the five-star reviews that followed. He never made it to the book signing because, by that date, he was too weak to go out. On November 5, Tom Johnson passed away peacefully.

The book will continue to be available for the length of the contract. I am sure that right now, he’s watching over Ginger from Heaven and enjoying his books.

About Barbara Custer

Author of: Twilight Healer Steel Rose Life Raft: Earth City of Brotherly Death Close Liaisons Infinite Sight When Blood Reigns Infinite Sight Publisher / Editor of Night to Dawn Books & Magazine
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  1. Late to comment but, though I struggle to recall how my path crossed with Tom’s, we exchanged emails and a story each several years ago. The one I sent him, he immediately told me to send it to you. Said it was perfect for your magazine and you would love it and simply ‘had to have it’. I sent it along like any submitter, not having worked with you or heard of your magazine but liking what I saw. Seems he was right because you accepted it. I’m glad to have had contact with Tom and feel he must have had a sense of connecting people and work to the right places. I was so sorry to hear of his passing and am so glad you published his book in time.

    • Thank you. Tom had a great way of looking out for people. A lot of the NTD authors started with Tom’s magazines, and they came over to me after he and Ginger retired them. The writing community lost a great man. Barbara of the Balloons

  2. Wonderful story. I met him a couple of times and corresponded with him quite a lot back in the 80s and early 90s

  3. I didn’t get to meet Tom or Ginger. The only time I visited the USA was in the 1970s when I was a kid. I would like to go back there some day but, if I do, I won’t be seeing Tom. I only knew what he was like from correspondence. He was happy to publish some of my stories which was a real boost to my ego. I didn’t know about Agent Orange and the health issues. I suppose writing and his fans kept him going for quite some time. In his words on paper there is still plenty of Tom around. I hope that is a comfort for Ginger.

    • I never went to Texas, but we spoke plenty of times on the phone, and we co-authored books. And they did publish a lot of my short stories. So glad I was able to get that book out in time. I’m hoping the reviews, etc will be a comfort. Barbara of the Balloons

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