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Barbara Mertz Biography

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Pseudonyms: Barbara Michaels; Elizabeth Peters. Nationality: American. Born: Barbara Louise Gross Mertz in Canton, Illinois, 1927. Education: University of Chicago Oriental Institute, Ph.B. 1947, M.S. 1950, Ph.D. 1952. Career: Egyptologist. Awards: Grandmaster award, Bouchercon, 1986; Agatha award for best mystery novel, 1989, and Malice Domestic Convention, 1989, both for Naked Once More; Grand Master, Mystery Writers of America Edgar Awards, 1998. D.H.L.: Hood College, 1989. Member: American Crime Writers League, Egypt Exploration Society, American Research Council in Egypt, Society for the Study of Egyptian Antiquities, National Organization for Women. Agent: Dominick Abel Literary Agency, 146 West 82nd St., Suite 1B, New York, New York 10024, U.S.A.

PUBLICATIONS

Novels as Elizabeth Peters (series: Vicky Bliss; Amelia Peabody Emerson; Jacqueline Kirby)

The Jackal's Head. New York, Meredith, 1968; London, Jenkins 1969.

The Camelot Caper. New York, Meredith, 1969; London, 1976.

The Dead Sea Cipher. New York, Dodd Mead, 1970; London, Cassell, 1975.

The Night of Four Hundred Rabbits. New York, Dodd Mead, 1971; as Shadows in the Moonlight, London, Coronet, 1975.

The Seventh Sinner (Kirby). New York, Dodd Mead, 1972; London, Coronet, 1975.

Borrower of the Night (Bliss). New York, Dodd Mead, 1973; London, Cassell, 1974.

The Murders of Richard III (Kirby). New York, Dodd Mead, 1974; London, Piatkus, 1989.

Crocodile on the Sandbank (Emerson). New York, Dodd Mead, 1975; London, Cassell, 1976.

Legend in Green Velvet. New York, Dodd Mead, 1976; as Ghost in Green Velvet, London, Cassell, 1977.

Devil-May-Care. New York, Dodd Mead, 1977; London, Cassell, 1978.

Street of the Five Moons (Bliss). New York, Dodd Mead, 1978; London, Piatkus, 1988.

Summer of the Dragon. New York, Dodd Mead, 1979; London, Souvenir Press, 1980.

The Love Talker. New York, Dodd Mead, 1980; London, Souvenir Press, 1981.

The Curse of the Pharaohs (Emerson). New York, Dodd Mead, 1981; London, Souvenir Press, 1982.

The Copenhagen Connection. New York, Congdon and Lattes, 1982; London, Souvenir Press, 1983.

Silhouette in Scarlet (Bliss). New York, Congdon and Weed, 1983; London, Souvenir Press, 1984.

Die for Love (Kirby). New York, Congdon and Weed, 1984; London, Souvenir Press, 1985.

The Mummy Case (Emerson). New York, Congdon and Weed, 1985; London, Souvenir Press, 1986.

Lion in the Valley (Emerson) . New York, Atheneum, 1986; London, Piatkus, 1987.

Trojan Gold (Bliss). New York, Atheneum, and London, Piatkus, 1987.

The Deeds of the Disturber (Emerson). New York, Atheneum, and London, Piatkus, 1988.

Naked Once More (Kirby). New York, Warner, 1989; London, Piatkus, 1990.

Novels as Barbara Michaels

The Master of Blacktower. New York, Appleton Century Crofts, 1966; London, Jenkins, 1967.

Sons of the Wolf. New York, Meredith, 1967; London, Jenkins, 1968.

Ammie, Come Home. New York, Meredith, 1968; London, Jenkins, 1969.

Prince of Darkness. New York, Meredith, 1969; London, Hodder and Stoughton, 1971.

The Dark on the Other Side. New York, Dodd Mead, 1970; London, Souvenir Press, 1973.

Greygallows. New York, Dodd Mead, 1972; London, Souvenir Press, 1973.

The Crying Child. New York, Dodd Mead, and London, Souvenir Press, 1973.

Witch. New York, Dodd Mead, 1973; London, Souvenir Press, 1975.

House of Many Shadows. New York, Dodd Mead, 1974; London, Souvenir Press, 1975.

The Sea King's Daughter. New York, Dodd Mead, 1975; London, Souvenir Press, 1977.

Patriot's Dream. New York, Dodd Mead, 1976; London, Souvenir Press, 1978.

Wings of the Falcon. New York, Dodd Mead, 1977; London, Souvenir Press, 1979.

Wait for What Will Come. New York, Dodd Mead, 1978; London, Souvenir Press, 1980.

The Walker in Shadows. New York, Dodd Mead, 1979; London, Souvenir Press, 1981.

The Wizard's Daughter. New York, Dodd Mead, 1980; London, Souvenir Press, 1982.

Someone in the House. New York, Dodd Mead, 1981; London, Souvenir Press, 1983.

Black Rainbow. New York, Congdon and Weed, 1982; London, Souvenir Press, 1983.

Here I Stay. New York, Congdon and Weed, 1983; London, Souvenir Press, 1985.

Dark Duet. New York, Congdon and Weed, 1983.

The Grey Beginning. New York, Congdon and Weed, 1984; London, Souvenir Press, 1986.

Be Buried in the Rain. New York, Atheneum, 1985; London, Piatkus, 1986.

Shattered Silk. New York, Atheneum, 1986; London, Piatkus, 1987.

Search the Shadows. New York, Atheneum, 1987; London, Piatkus, 1988.

Smoke and Mirrors. New York, Simon and Schuster, and London, Piatkus, 1989.

Into the Darkness. New York, Simon and Schuster, 1990.

Vanish with the Rose. New York, Simon and Schuster, 1992.

Houses of Stone. New York, Simon and Schuster, 1993.

Uncollected Short Stories

"The Locked Tomb Mystery" (as Elizabeth Peters) in Sisters in Crime, edited by Marilyn Wallace. New York, Berkley, 1989; London, Robinson, 1990.

"The Runaway" (as Barbara Michaels) in Sisters in Crime, edited by Marilyn Wallace. New York, Berkley, 1989; London, Robinson, 1990.

Other

Temples, Tombs, and Hieroglyphs: The Story of Egyptology. New York, Coward McCann, and London, Gollancz, 1964; revised edition, New York, Dodd Mead, 1978; revised edition, New York, Bedrick, 1990.

Red Land, Black Land: The World of the Ancient Egyptians. New York, Coward McCann, 1966; London, Hodder and Stoughton, 1967; revised edition, New York, Dodd Mead, 1978; revised edition, New York, Bedrick, 1990.

Two Thousand Years in Rome, with Richard Mertz. New York, Coward McCann, 1968; London, Dent, 1969.

*

Manuscript Collections:

Mugar Memorial Library, Boston University; University of Wyoming, Laramie.

* * *

Barbara Mertz is a prolific writer using several pseudonyms for her forays into different types of novels. As Barbara Michaels, Mertz writes gothic romances about human and supernatural terrors. An Elizabeth Peters mystery relies on history, mythology, and archaeology to provide an erudite foundation for modern romantic suspense: a Yuma turquoise mine (Summer of the Dragon), the sacred Scottish Stone of Scone (Legend in Green Velvet), Nefertiti's lost tomb (The Jackal's Head), King Arthur's crown (The Camelot Caper), Mexico City's Walk of the Dead (The Night of Four Hundred Rabbits), the Schliemann treasure (Trojan Gold), Richard the Third (The Murders of Richard III), the subterranean Temple of Mithra (The Seventh Sinner), and so on. Typical of the genre is The Dead Sea Cipher wherein the American heroine searches exotic cities (Beirut, Sidon, Tyre, Damascus) to explain odd marks on torn paper from a doomed stranger; her search leads to treasure and two compelling men, an enemy and a future lover. Mertz's academic heroines (anthropologists, librarians, antiquarians, and students) become enmeshed in criminal pursuits related to historical concerns, but eventually find themselves forcibly assisted by a strong, practical, intellectually challenging male, like the irritatingly handsome, gruff, down-to-earth, unromantic young Scottish laird Jamey Erskine in Legend in Green Velvet.

Mertz revels in parody and satire, as in Die for Love, set at a convention for the Historical Romance Writers of the World, or in Naked Once More, in which series character Jacqueline Kirby, a middle-aged, copper-haired librarian who regularly abandons her academic boyfriends for a smart cop, is chosen to write the sequel to a blockbuster novel, a cross between The Clan of the Cave Bear and Gone with the Wind. Wry, cynical, witty, and courageous, Mertz's heroines challenge men with spirited confrontations, antagonistic love-hate responses, and sometimes role-reversals, as when series character Vicky Bliss, a tall, blonde, good-humored art historian at a Munich museum, must regularly rescue her wandering lover, Sir John Smythe, an art thief of distinction.

Mertz's finest creation in her Peters mode is Amelia Peabody-Emerson, a highly unconventional, independently wealthy Victorian bluestocking, deeply interested in Egyptology and in the hot-blooded, hot-tempered, irascible Egyptologist she eventually marries, Radcliffe Emerson. Her keen intellect, sharp tongue, curiosity, and competitiveness repeatedly place her in awkward and threatening situations. An amateur sleuth, she trusts logic, good sense, and reason but then leaps intuitively to sometimes quite erroneous conclusions. However, her resilient inductive method allows her to discard the untenable and to readily formulate new theories. The Peabody-Emerson series incorporates delightful satire of Victorian types, comic romping, tongue-in-cheek high romance, and the excitement of archaeological discovery (with all the attendant rivalries, mummy's curses, haunted pyramids, flooded tombs, dangerous pitfalls, and outrageous hoaxes); at the same time readers learn much about scholarly research and archaeological methods. Always the Emersons find rational explanations to debunk the supernatural.

Ms. Peabody-Emerson records her judiciously edited memoirs (to the "Gentle Reader") in elevated, convoluted, euphemistic Victorian prose, prides herself on her nursing skills (she must frequently deal with dagger wounds, poisons, and murderous attacks) and repeatedly effects rescues with a wickedly deft use of her umbrella. She is a sensible woman, continually frustrated by encumbering clothing decreed by fashion; in later novels she creates her own practical wardrobe, a compromise between Victorian propriety and archaeological necessity. She never meant to marry, but in Emerson she finds her match and defines marriage with him as "a balanced stalemate between equal adversaries."

Peabody-Emerson becomes a highly competent Egyptologist, finding in that field clues to modern mysteries. The romance begun in Crocodile on the Sandbank produces an imperious, precocious son Ramses, who, with his Egyptian cat Bastet, evokes biting, unsentimental commentaries on the tribulations of parenthood and domesticity. In The Curse of the Pharaohs, a mysterious death and inexplicable accidents at a "cursed" tomb point to a modern perpetrator, in Lion in the Valley a master criminal dealing in illegal antiquities pursues Amelia romantically, and in The Last Camel Died at Noon the Emersons face death on sun-scorched Nubian desert sands while pursuing a cryptic map and an enigmatic papyrus message. Mertz as Peters merges the gothic romance and the romance thriller with satiric comedy and detailed Egyptology to create a winning combination that intrigues, teaches, and delights.

Mertz's Barbara Michaels incognita is more overtly "thrilling," dealing as it does with gothic romance and the spiritually questionable. Some of these, like Here I Stay and Shattered Silk, are very convincing ghost stories, lent strength by practical, no-nonsense heroines. They draw on historical events (Wings of the Falcon, Search the Shadows, Patriot's Dream) and legend (Ammie, Come Home), involve psychic powers (Wizard's Daughter) and psychological trauma (The Crying Child), include werewolves (Mystery on the Moors), haunted castles (Greygallows) and demonic possession (The Dark on the Other Side), or provide interesting background on an assortment of oddities (like old roses in Vanish with the Rose).

Mertz's battles of the sexes are equal contests, and the verbal repartee of her main characters is lively, witty, and literate. She is a skillful storyteller, who thrills, chills, and amuses.

Gina Macdonald

[back] Rachel Merriman (1971-) Biography - Personal, Career, Honors Awards, Writings, Sidelights

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