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By Anne L. Watson

A Kindle Store Top 200 Bestseller

Richard Johnson is a black veteran, back from Vietnam and trying to rebuild his life by attending college in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He’s smart and handsome, yet haunted by memories that plague his sleep and send him flying for cover at sudden noises.

Kathy Woodbridge is a white student in one of Richard’s classes. She’s pretty, idealistic, and drawn irresistibly to Richard’s combination of charm and aliveness. It leads her into a relationship different from any she had expected—and to a tragedy greater than any she can face.

Lacey Greer is a secretary in San Pedro, California. When Kathy shows up at her office and is hired with no record of her past, Lacey wonders what Kathy could be running from. She’s determined to find out, and to help if she can.

Set in the early seventies, Pacific Avenue explores themes of love, belonging, helpfulness, hope, forgiveness, reconciliation, interracial marriage, and healing from the trauma of war.

Anne L. Watson, a retired historic preservation architecture consultant, is the author of several novels, plus books on such diverse subjects as soapmaking and baking with cookie molds. Anne has lived at various times in New Orleans, Baton Rouge, and San Pedro, California, the settings of Pacific Avenue. She currently lives in Friday Harbor, Washington, in the San Juan Islands, with her husband and fellow author, Aaron Shepard, and their cat, Skeeter.

Shepard & Piper

Paperback ~ 2008

Ebook ~ 2009

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Book cover: Pacific Avenue

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“A magnificent story. The writing is superb, the main characters are three-dimensional and very human. . . . Combines elements of hope and happiness with tragedy and triumph, and ends up with that compromise known as reality. . . . Ms Watson has packed a world into less than 320 pages.”—J. Cameron-Smith, Amazon Top 500 Reviewer

“Quickly lights up into a dynamic and vivid story that will capture most readers’ interest and hold it to the very end. . . . Told in a suspense-filled manner. There is no way any reader can predict or anticipate the powerful blow that alters Kathy’s world forever but with which she eventually makes peace. . . . Most highly recommended.”—Erika Borsos, Amazon Top 500 Reviewer

“Captivating. . . . So raw in its emotions, I had to keep reminding myself this was fiction. . . . Not predictable in any way.”—Sandy Heptinstall, Whispering Winds Book Reviews

“Absolutely wonderful. . . . I was extremely surprised by the quality of the writing of Anne L. Watson. She delivered the complete package: a well-crafted plot, proficiently developed characters, and a writing style that has nothing to be jealous of the greats in the genre. The fact that I read this novel in one sitting speaks to the kind of grip the story gets on the reader. . . . I do not exaggerate when I say this is one of the best books I have read in the last few years.”—Sebastian Fernandez, Amazon Top 1000 Reviewer

Sample Text

I liked being alone in the building at Eighth and Pacific after the shop closed. When I lived with Richard, there were always people around us, and unless they were friends of ours, I had to worry about what they might do.

When we first moved to New Orleans, we lived in a rooming house, a sagging wood building at the far end of Bourbon Street. It was a dump, but we were lucky to have it. The first two places we’d tried, the landlords said they’d just accepted someone else. We were sure they were lying, but what could we do? I’d gone alone to apply for this room, and the manager had rented it to me. But now he’d seen Richard, and we were afraid he’d kick us out on the smallest pretext.

One night we got home so late, we started tiptoeing when we were two houses away. Shushing each other, bumping through the unlit hallway like clumsy burglars, we crept upstairs to our room. Even after the door was shut behind us, we tried to be quiet. We didn’t dare turn on the lamp—the manager might see light coming through the transom and get mad about it.

Richard was silent, invisible in the dark. I guessed where he must be and reached out for him, but my guess was wrong—my hands plunged into empty air. For a moment, I felt a familiar stab of aloneness. Then his hands grasped mine, and spread them open, and he kissed my palms, brushing them with his lips. My fingers read his face like a love letter in braille—the downturned eyelids, the short eyelashes with their tight sudden curl, the softness of his mouth. We made love stealthily, the way you do in your parents’ house. Because somehow, everyone was our parents.

Everyone and no one. I’d lost my parents because of Richard. When I told them I was moving to New Orleans with him, I knew how Mom would act. But Dad surprised me.

“You’re making a mistake, honey,” he said. “Please don’t do this. It can’t possibly work out.”

“Baton Rouge is nothing but rednecks,” I said. “Teenage kids who sound like George Wallace, almost like Adolf Hitler, if you really want to know. It’ll never change. New Orleans is different. We can live there—no one will mind.”

“Maybe someday,” he’d said, “but not now. Not even in New Orleans. No one should give a damn what color Richard is. But they will.”

“‘A person’s skin is an eighth‑inch thick, and we’re all the same underneath it,’” I reminded him. That’s what he’d always told us when we were kids, when everyone was fighting about where people could go, or sit, or which drinking fountain they were allowed to use.

“That eighth inch is going to be your whole life.” He didn’t sound as sure of himself as he had when he’d said everyone was the same.

“Someone has to change it.”

“You want to be first?”

“You mean, ‘Not my daughter.’”

“I’m not even sure the two of you can love each other in the middle of all this.”

“You know all about not being able to love.” I slammed the door as I left.

That was the end of one conversation. But it wasn’t when I lost him, and it wasn’t why.

Once I got to San Pedro, the past closed behind me like water behind a swimmer. I wasn’t sure there was a future, but if there was, it had a name: five years. Richard’s sentence.

It was my sentence, too. A different kind of “someday, but not now.” This time, I didn’t have a choice.

A Note from Anne

I began Pacific Avenue with a greater sense of place than of characters. I put my main character, Kathy, into the gritty world of Pacific Avenue in San Pedro, California, a place I knew well. To my surprise, she began to walk around, think for herself, and talk back to me.

She brought up long-forgotten pictures of my years in New Orleans as well. Of men who came back from Vietnam, with their unimaginable memories. Of families struggling with the war, and with racial justice. Kathy is a young woman who “lives in interesting times,” as the saying goes.

So, Pacific Avenue grew out of my love of these two places—San Pedro and New Orleans—and out of memories of the turbulent late ‘60s and early ‘70s. But it is not simply a political novel. It is a story of personal lives, loves, and coming of age.

It’s also a story of an artist’s development: Kathy becomes a puppeteer, and the puppets’ stories are added to her own. Years before I wrote the book, I was a puppeteer myself. When my husband suggested I include this experience in the book, I knew it was exactly what the story needed.

Though it deals with serious issues, this is not a novel of despair. Instead, it weaves together love, loss, altruism, and forgiveness. I see it as a story of hope.

Anne L. Watson

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