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I live on Mercer Island, Washington, near Seattle, with my wife Jill, my filmmaker son Ben, who is now a weekend visitor, and three dogs; Sunshine, Piccolo, and Chloe.

My daughter April, who is currently making a documentary film, lives nearby in Seattle, and my first son, Colby, a filmmaker, lives in New Orleans. (I have to wonder if a gene for filmmaking runs in my family!) At the age of seventy-eight, I now pursue my two passions: writing and jazz guitar. I was born and raised outside of Birmingham, Alabama. You can take a Southerner out of the South, but you can’t take the South out of a Southerner!

As a boy I had the good fortune of growing up with the space and freedom to be outside, have adventures, explore, and get into trouble. A boy’s purpose in life is to have fun, and the tantalizing possibility of getting into trouble added spice to that purpose. I was also blessed with a rich heritage of storytelling from the members of my wonderful, extended Southern family. I share some of my family stories in the Blackwater Novels.

My boyhood in the South and my college years at the University of Alabama also gave me first-hand experience of the good people coming together with love to help each other and to confront racial hatred. I am grateful to my Southern past for giving me the rich experiences to draw on in writing the Blackwater Novels. I consider these books to be parables on how to live. This may explain why some things work out better in the novels than they do in real life.

— Allen Johnson Jr.

Interview by John Seigenthaler, host of NPT’s A Word on Words, Publisher of The Tennessean, and Editor of USA Today


Kelley McMorris is an illustrator living near Chico, California. A native of California, she received her BA in Japanese from San Jose State University after studying abroad in Nagoya, Japan. After graduation she decided to pursue her lifelong love of drawing, and received her MFA in Illustration from the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. Kelley's award-winning work has been featured in Applied Arts, ImagineFX, Chaos Magazine, Leading Edge magazine and the SCBWI bulletin. She also collaborates with her husband on their independent game studio, Siege Games. In her spare time she enjoys cooking, knitting, playing video games and sleeping. Kelley is represented by Shannon Associates.
Kelley's work can be viewed at

A Message From The Author

Set on the Blackwater River and in the Blackwater Swamp in Georgia and in the countryside outside of Birmingham, Alabama, the Blackwater Novels show the joys and perils of growing up in the great outdoors in the 1930s South. They also emphasize the warmth of belonging and the love that existed then between the good people of both races. I dipped into my own Southern heritage to write the black dialect of the time.

A middle-aged woman whom I admire once told me something wonderful. She told me that the Blackwater Novels give her a sense of home. I believe I achieved that by writing them in the first person voice of a boy (sometimes the voices of two boys).

Don’t look for subtly nuanced adult sophistication or moral ambiguity in these books. The novels show the world with clarity and simplicity as seen through the eyes of a child. Therein lie their charm and their connection to home. No one understands home better than a well-loved child coming home after a day of fun and adventure.

The Blackwater Novels also confront head-on the problem of racial bigotry that existed at that time and show low-quality white racists using the hated “n-word.” To do otherwise would not be authentic and would gloss-over the cruelty of Klan members and racists and portray them as better than they were.

The central character of all three novels is Abraham Lincoln Fraiser, a black man known as “Linc.” He is one of the finest people I know and a fitting role model for anyone of any age or any race. He is certainly my hero!

— Allen Johnson Jr.