The Genesis of Tom Johnson’s Three Go Back

Most of my life I’ve had a deep interest in paleontology and entomology. In school, while we were reading Shakespeare, I was thinking about bugs. During History class, I wondered what new discovery was being uncovered in fossil beds around the world. The only reason I passed History in the ninth grade was due to my artistic talent at the time. The teacher asked me to draw Hannibal crossing the Alps with his elephants.

I wanted to write as far back as age ten, when I wrote a comic book story. Of course, it was terrible, but the fire was there. Then about age 25 I started creating plots and characters, and putting them on paper. The stories involved animals. One plot eventually became the Jur series several years later. I was living my dream and creating stories to be read.

One of my favorite comic strips is Luann. While reading the strip one day, I began wondering why that evil little Elvis guy doesn’t hire a scientist to build a time machine, and accidentally send Luann and her girlfriends, Delta and Bernice, back in time. Then someone could go after them. Well, I figured that would never happen, but I liked the idea. I started thinking about writing it myself, only not with Luann and her friends, but with girls in their mold.

Thus, Three Go Back was conceived. I set my tale in the future, where teleport machines became the common transportation system. My problem was coming up with the time machine angle for the story. Okay, so what if my characters were teleporting at the same time a magnetic solar flare struck the planet, burning out the teleport circuits, and turning it into a time machine? Bang. That became my gimmick.

With the use of those concepts, my story almost wrote itself. My big problem was finding a publisher. You see, I used scientific names for the animals they encounter in their journey back through time. Publishers told me they would never find an editor who knew if the names were real, misspelled, or in the correct time period. They kindly but firmly rejected the story. I sent a proposal to Barbara Custer at Night to Dawn, who knew my background in prehistoric animal life and my extensive study on the subject. She took a chance. Actually, anyone with a computer can type the names I use and do a Google search, and it will show the data on any creature. But I understood the publishers’ decision to reject the book because of the editing difficulties. It can add a lot of work to an editor’s already hectic job. You do come upon variation of names, which can confuse you.

I live in the Permian Basin of Texas, which is an area rich in Permian fossils. The Permian Period in our prehistory was over 250 million years ago, or roughly 60 million years before the dinosaurs, so this area is famous for reptiles and amphibians. The Craddock Redbeds is an important dig in our area, and Dr. Bakkar, a famous paleontologist, brings a team up from the Houston Museum of Natural Sciences every year. Our town Seymour has a reptile/amphibian named after it – the Seymouria. So my childhood was drawn towards the study, and that’s why I write so much about prehistoric life. They do say to write what you know and love.

Besides Three Go Back and other novels set in prehistoric times, I write action and adventure novels in the tradition of the pulp magazines of the 1930s and ‘40s, a period I also love. My interest varies from western to detective and spaceships. Whether in the far-flung galactic worlds of the future or the eons in our past, to the modern-day mystery, I love the written word and enjoy telling a story. I hope you will read my stories and I’m sure you will see that love I project into my characters.


When their teleport vehicle malfunctions, becoming a time machine, it sends three young girls back in time on a journey of discovery they never expected. From the Ice Age through the Cretaceous, Permian, Carboniferous, and finally to the beginning of the Earth’s evolution of life, they experience their world’s prehistoric past in all its splendor and terror, coming away with the joy of knowledge and adventure!

Biography and Links:

I was born in 1940, going through elementary schools in Seymour and Wichita Falls, Texas. My dad was a cowboy and cook, and often worked at each profession, which required a lot of moves. He wanted me to follow in his footsteps, but I had more of a studious nature and didn’t want to spend my life on farms and ranches. I was different from most kids my age; I didn’t want to be a cowboy and never liked riding horses. My family lived something of an itinerant’s lifestyle, and we never stayed in one place long enough for me to develop friendships. In high school I worked on the ranch my dad was foreman of while other students my age were dating.

When I turned 18, I joined the Army as an MP and was off to see the world, never regretting my decision to leave the life my family had. I had some pretty good assignments, such as a three-year tour in France. Then I spent one year patrolling the DMZ between North and South Korea under fire and 13 months in Vietnam. But I did enjoy my twenty years as a military cop and took some college courses in the process.

After retirement, my wife, Ginger and I started Fading Shadows, a small press imprint. We published a hobby magazine, Echoes, for the next twenty years, as well as half a dozen genre fiction titles, which refired my interest in writing.

Today I leave the publishing for others and continue my love of writing. It has been a good life, and I in no way degrade those men and women on ranches and farms. It just wasn’t a life for me.



Tom’s Amazon Page


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