Friday, August 09, 2013

Alas, Gentle Reader — Elizabeth Peters

Barbara Mertz, my favourite author — aka Barbara Michaels, aka Elizabeth Peters — passed away Thursday, August 8, 2013, age 85. Not that a lady tells, you understand.

As a reader, I love her series about Amelia Peabody, headstrong, intelligent, "Take that!" woman of the late 19th and early 20th century. Amelia takes all the history, language and puzzle-solving of Indiana Jones and adds compassion, motherhood, and lots of humour as her whole family gets involved in each adventure.

As an aspiring historical novelist, I view Ms. Mertz as my role model. She began with a technical career (as did I) and published nonfiction books on Egyptology before diving into the world of fiction. Once in, she wrote so many books her publisher advised her to use different names for different genres.

Rare cover art of Amelia Peabody and Radcliffe Emerson
Divorced and determined to write, her desire for happy endings inspires me as well. She took her second nom de plume from her two children, Elizabeth and Peter. She had six grandchildren and five cats. Here's her latest newsletter, containing escapades from her 85th birthday celebration.

This Florida article, one of many remembering her today, summarizes a little of her life. The Twitterverse is thrumming with hashtags of derogatory Indiana Jones comparisons and #anothershirtruined, the latter a quote about Amelia's amnesiac husband in The Snake, the Crocodile and the Dog.

My regret is that I intended to write her, to tell her how much I've enjoyed her books and to ask for an autograph. The envelopes are still sitting on a shelf. If you have someone you've been meaning to encourage or thank, Gentle Reader, I advise you to hop to it.

One thing I did do. As a used books bookseller and a "starving artist" with a tight budget, I make good use of my local library and buy bargain books. But how can a favourite author continue to crank out enjoyable books without any income? So my most recent Elizabeth Peters purchase was new from the store, small compensation for many enjoyable hours lost in Victorian Egypt.

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