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In August issue... Author Jim Yonker  - Southern Passage


Author Jim Yonker

Author - Southern Passage


Jim Yonker - Author of Southern Passage For as long as I can recall, writing has been an enjoyable, need-fulfilling adventure. In elementary school the teachers would have us write out brief stories about ourselves and personal events. In junior high school English classes the assignments would involve lengthier writing, usually about world events and politics, and the reports we’d put together would be called “themes.” High school saw essays and “term papers” and college did as well, with some of the professors leaning more heavily on this method of instruction than others. In the end, the largest, most comprehensive writing product was the “thesis,” something that turned out to resemble a small book. My interest in “real” creative writing saw its first expression in poetry and song lyrics that I composed during high school — two avenues to once again tell “brief stories” about myself — and during my college years the same avenues would be followed. Some of my poetry, along with a one act play, appeared in the college literary publication and I was even able to get my freshman English professor to accept a small portfolio of original poetry for the final exam in lieu of the actual written test. This was, after all, the ’60s!

When I joined the world of work following graduation I discovered that writing would still/again play a central role in my life, and for the next thirty-three plus years that would be the case. Talk about a world apart from the good old college days: this was a world of structured professional reports and papers and about the only thing creative in them was, to a limited extent, the choice of words or phrases to describe whatever it was that needed to be reported. Well, I survived that confining world and kind of always had it in the back of my mind that once I retired I’d park my butt and let my mind wander to whatever world I wanted to visit or be a part of. The first destination in that journey was a place called the American South of 1966, captured in my debut novel SOUTHERN PASSAGE, a Readers’ Favorite 5-Star book.

Southern Passage In his rite of passage in the summer of 1966, naïve, white eighteen-year-old Buster Gaines from St. Louis discovers the thrills found in being free to make his own decisions when he leaves home with the railroad to earn money for college, but he soon innocently discovers the dark side of 1960s southern reality and his life takes a surreal turn when he gets caught up in the unforgiving, punishing code of the Jim Crow South. Although Buster's primary goal is to earn money for college, he embraces the chance to trade some of the innocence of his upbringing for the new experiences and challenges of being on his own in a strange city. He finds companionship with two women, each so different and yet similar to him, and with railroaders that accept him as one of their own.

Ironically, it's Buster's basic decency and innocence that lead to trouble. He doesn't seem to understand the intractable code for social behavior operating in the South. In a spirit of good will, naivete, and a desire to learn, Buster tries to befriend an older black railroad employee, but when warnings against fraternization are ignored, an authoritarian stationmaster decides to punish him and arranges a transfer to the much rougher rail yards of Shreveport, Louisiana. Preceded by his reputation as an unwanted northern outsider, Buster finds he has been sent to a world alien to him. He is confronted immediately by the contempt of the district railroad superintendent and quickly learns he has no acceptance among the man’s underlings, the members of his new crews. Along with it, there is no mutual trust so necessary in a dangerous job. His life takes a surreal turn when their disdain for him begins to manifest itself in acts of ostracism and defamation — and then ultimately in physical confrontation. Cherishing his job as a railroader while fearing for his safety and even his life, Buster struggles with the reality of being alone in that hostile world.

After spending hours upon hours at the keyboard crafting stories in the realm of science fiction, I arrived at my second major stop on the journey — unnamed cosmic places of the near future. Thanks in part to the educational mentoring by senior and doctoral level physics and astrophysics students from my alma mater who cheerfully donated their valuable time, my second novel, THE KELLSTRUMM PARADOX, has been completed. I found myself on a fascinating and challenging journey, trying to imagine the unimaginable and trying to artfully and realistically fuse facts with fiction in the multiverse story-line. Who knows, maybe the handful of alternate, overlapping, competing and conflicting universes in my scheme of things will actually one day reveal themselves more as fact than fiction!

The ink wasn’t even dry on the manuscript when the urge to move on down the road of my writing journey picked up again. Stories of places and characters and dramas of one kind or another float around in my imagination, needing to be brought to life in tales to be spun….

You may read more about Jim by visiting his webpages –



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Publishing New Writers,

May, 2021 (vol. 22, no. 6)


Dr. Bruce L. Cook
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