Works of fiction appearing here are © 2011-2018 by Jack H. Tyler, and are not to be assumed to lie in the public domain.
Any reproduction of this material is prohibited without the express written permission of the author.

Behind the Rails

The Stories

        British East Africa in the 1880s.  A place of mystery, intrigue, and danger.  Powerful tribes, many hostile, the descendants of once-great empires, rule the plains and forests.  European colonial powers jostle for advantage as they struggle to push inland from their coastal enclaves.  In Kenya, coffee grows rich and plentifully, drawing homesteaders lured by fantastic tales of wealth and freedom.  Rubies wait in the hills above Lake Victoria for those hardy enough to extract them.  A rail line is being pushed inland from Mombasa toward the lake, drawing laborers and speculators from every civilized continent.  The rails have reached Nairobi, a still-tiny boom town where wealthy entrepreneurs rub shoulders with cutthroats and railroad workers, but to reach out further, one must travel by foot or wagon, or by one of the ramshackle airships that connect the scattered settlements.
        One such ship is Kestrel, once a steam powered river lighter designed to haul cargos up the shallow streams that reach inland from the coast.  A deteriorated hulk far past her prime, she is rescued by another deteriorated hulk, one Clinton Monroe, a disgraced former commodore in Her Majesty's Royal Aero Service, unjustly cashiered through the scheming machinations of a jealous subordinate.  Washing up in the melting pot of Mombasa, he calls in a favor from a wealthy former friend and purchases Kestrel, outfitting her with a modern turbine, airscrews, and a bulbous gasbag of great lifting power, and sets to work in the cargo trade.
        Business is good in the booming colony, but in every pub and hostel, at the end of every pier, in the alley behind each tavern lurk dangerous men (and women!) of questionable motives, each with his own scheme to claim his share of the colony's wealth, by whatever means come readily to hand.  No one completely escapes brushes with these charlatans, and Monroe's crew is no exception.  But he has assembled more than merely a crew.  A close-knit near-family has gathered on the little ship:  David Smith, the obvious alias of a deadly American gunfighter; Patience Hobbs, a flaxen-haired tomboy who has fled the gilded cage of London society; Gunther Brown, their half-Prussian, half-English engineer, as gentle in spirit as he is powerful in frame; and Nicholas Ellsworth, a botanist fresh from Cambridge with a plan to use the plants of Africa to cure the ills of mankind.  Join them aboard the Kestrel as they sail the skies to high adventure.

        These twelve stories have been assembled into two volumes.  They are currently available on in both print and digital formats.  If you came here because of the referral in the book, you may be looking for more information and backstory.  If you stumbled in during a websearch, you should now know what it is you've found.  Obviously, I'm an author hoping to sell books.  Not being a well-known author, I don't expect anyone to pay money for something they know nothing about, so I have provided some free samples.  The Beyond the Rails tab at the top of the page will take you to the complete first stories of both collections.
​        Settle back and read my work, and if you find it to be your cup of tea, it's available, as I said, on Amazon.  To peruse the works of a number of independent writers in the ~punk genres, visit this on-line bookstore.  Also please note that I have reopened my Facebook page, so if you'd care to friend, follow, or just see what I'm up to on an almost-daily basis, you can join me there.  I can also occasionally be found contributing to The Punk Fiction Writers' Guild.
        For several years, this site has been dormant.  On May 2nd, I retired from the Great American Rat Race, and am officially a free man.  I haven't been able to say that for half a century, having been a wage-slave since the ragged edge of childhood, and I have no idea what I might get up to with the pressure off.  Consider this your invitation to visit now and again.  Come on in, pour yourself a cup, kick back and relax, and when you're finished reading my offerings, be sure to visit my friends on the list in the sidebar.  There is a wide assortment of interests and expertise represented there, and one could have a great time getting to know these folks; I know I have.

        Now get out there and live life like you mean it!


         I have one of those life-long friends named Patrick who some years ago put together a joint writing project for us based on Dystopian Wars, a naval miniatures game he was taken with.  This steampunk-flavored game postulates an 1840s alternate world based on technology discovered in a vault in Antarctica.  The first line of backstory in the manual is, "After Ireland was conquered by Britain..."  Well, being a good and proper Irishman, this didn't set too well with him, so his project was to have a crusading journalist, one Mr. Shackleford Banks, working to uncover and publicize the real story behind that bit of history, while all the might of Queen Victoria's Secret Service labored tirelessly to stop him.
          Alas, events conspired to rob us of that collaboration, but, having gotten the bug from him, I found myself unable to leave the world of goggles & gears so easily behind, and rather than commandeer his story, I invented my own.  To ensure no toes were trod upon, I moved mine 40 years in time, and 4,000 miles in space, and ditched the story line of Dystopian Wars for one of my own design.  Now, if in his retirement he should want to pass the time by writing his own stories, they will be waiting there untouched for him to pick up at his leisure.
          What you find here are mine.  I've put a lot into these, and they have been well-received over at Writing.Com, where half a million members aren't shy about reviewing each others' work.  Hopefully, you'll find something here that you can enjoy; hopefully, you'll become a fan, too.
~ J.T.

In Praise of Beyond the Rails

          The following quotes are lifted verbatim from reviews penned by members of Writing.Com, where the first nine stories were read and critiqued by a wide spectrum of writers.     This is the beginning of a grand adventure that I am eager to read! Again, Well done!
               ~ James Hunter
     A well-written little story that I am hoping is only the first chapter of a full novel, I can't wait to see what happens!  Well done!
               ~ Lovina

     I really enjoyed the way you portrayed the characters: they grab my interest and I'm keen on learning more about all of the crew, as well as how they relate and interact as a unit. Bravo!
               ~ Varg the Wanderer

     If I could tell a story like this, I'd get a job just so I could quit it and spend all my time writing.  Excellent work!  I'm hooked--on to the next adventure of the Kestrel.
               ~ Evertrap

     It's a delicate art to give the reader just enough detail to define, without forcing them to push their own imagination into a box, but you do it quite well.
               ~ Brunoise Bonne'Chance

     I love your created world for these stories: the fantastic airship plying its trade across Africa; the heroic, all-action protagonists; the helpless missionaries; the restless natives.  You really have captured an atmosphere reminiscent of 'Boys Own' magazine adventure stories of the 40s and 50s.  Coupled with this is the confident narrative detailing the geography, climate and culture of that part of the African continent across which the Kestrel traverses, not to mention the well informed descriptions of navigation and steering of an airship, plus the smattering of native language, Swahili, used to great effect.  It all speaks of a carefully researched and lovingly constructed backdrop against which your story series unfolds.
               ~ Sandybays

     The attention to detail is astonishing, I would swear you've piloted an airship.
               ~ A. J. Taylor

     I swear, every time I read one of your adventures, I get taken back to the Saturday Morning Serials, the ones that I got into with bottle caps, or popsicle wrappers, or root beer labels.  This saga has Ramar, Tarzan, Jungle Jim, and King Solomon's Mines' fingerprints all over it, and for the better.
               ~ Tom V.

     The plot is strong and there is something for everyone.  There are the characters, there is history, culture, action, and a hint of political interests.  I liked the various glimpses of background information that give the story depth and a sense of place and time.
               ~ Kittiara

     Thanks for sharing this interesting story.  I have had the pleasure of visiting Mombasa and doing safari in Kenya.  Your story is one of the better ones I have seen on this website.
               ~ Brad

     An amazingly wonderful story of a time and place that is no more...  Historical fiction requires so much research so this work is something special, not just a story, but cultural history.  You are an excellent writer.
               ~ Best4writing

     Thanks for letting us into your imagination!  What a fantastic place!!!
               ~ Daddy's Girl

     I really liked this story.  To me steampunk is that careful combination of turn of the century culture meeting alternate reality science-fiction.  It is very hard to find well written and such a delight when you do.  I thoroughly enjoyed this first glance at what I see is a continuing saga.
               ~ Darkest Fey

    Your characters are fully developed and realistic.  They look, speak, and act like real people.  You have used very vivid description that puts the reader into the story and immerses them is what is going on.  Everything about this story has the reader reading until the very end.
                ~ Amy



Panel Discussion

          From Wild Wild West Con 5, a discussion of Multicultural Steampunk Literature.  The whole thing is very much worth a listen, but at about the 11 minute mark, panelist David Lee Summers goes on a two-minute discourse on Beyond the Rails.  Very exciting to be mentioned far from home like that!

Other places to find me

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