If you've been reading this blog over the past week, you may have picked up on my totally measured and mature and not-at-all-fangirlish appreciation for the body of work Barbara Mertz has published under the names Elizabeth Peters and Barbara Michaels.
I first discovered her in seventh grade. My high school was a combination high/middle school, and so in an effort to make the seventh graders a tad less terrified, the administration matched us all up with a senior Big Brother or Big Sister. For the most part—and my experience was no exception—the senior would take her Little Sister under her wing for approximately five minutes and then forget about her for the rest of the year. In other words, it was a great idea, but in practice, didn't really have a huge effect. On our first (and only) outing, My Big Sister took me to see Pretty Woman, and when she asked me what I thought at the end, I said something along the lines of, "It was kind of predictable, wasn't it?"
(It was SUCH an "I carried a watermelon" moment. I'm slightly less socially awkward now—Josh would emphasize the slightly—but I clearly haven't changed all that much.)
ANYWAY, before I went home, she gave me a copy of Crocodile on the Sandbank. So maybe she understood me a little better than I ever gave her credit for, because I took that book home and read it and re-read it until it fell apart.
I've been a fan ever since.
And I'm not alone in that.
Mallorie Colvin (@MJColvin): "I originally fell in love with Elizabeth Peters through her writing as Barbara Michaels. I devoured everything I could find by her all through middle and high school. Then, in college, I discovered the Amelia Peabody series and fell in love all over again. I was an anthropology major and a lover of all thing Egyptian as well as mysteries - it's like the series was made for me. I've since read (and loved) the Vicky Bliss books and really need to get my hands on the Jacqueline Kirby series!"
@sarahokeefe: "The running gag where Ramses, as a child, is referred to as (I paraphrase), "Aaaaah, the afreet!!!" by the locals."
@msmcclure: "Love, no adore, the Amelia Peabody series. I can't think of a new release that I'd be more excited about. In addition, I'm constantly torn between wanting a movie or TV show, but then dreading that it might be untrue to the books."
Beth C.: "I discovered Ms. Peter's Amelia Peabody Emerson series just this past summer. I can't remember where I first heard of her, but the first book in the series had been sitting in my to-read list on Goodreads for a while and I needed a summer read. Anyway, I was in awe of Miss Peabody from the start! What self-confidence, bravery, and intelligence! I confess my own mental processes had a difficulty keeping up with that of Miss Peabody. It was so refreshing to discover a character like her. I've now read most of that series and have loved how the characters have grown and evolved. I won't lie, but when I find myself second guessing a decision I remind myself that Amelia Peabody Emerson would never do that. That always gives me a little boost. Or I drink a whiskey and soda. I get a boost from that too.
Thank you Ms. Peters for creating the ultimate crime-fighting, pyramid-excavating, strong-minded detective!"
Kate VT: "I read my first EP book (The Last Camel Died at Noon) lying in a hammock in my parents' backyard, and was hooked for life. I loved Amelia and Emerson but actually found Ramses kind of annoying - how little I knew! Ramses, of course, became my favorite literary crush - a tall, dark, handsome, brave feminist? I swooned (still do!). It's so rare that the follow up to a cliffhanger lives up to the potential (cough, West Wing 5th season premiere, cough), but He Shall Thunder in the Sky is probably my favorite of the series. I haven't found my Ramses in life yet, but, as Amelia would say, where there's life, there's hope!"
Kathy J.: "discovered years ago ... read many times ...
but all time favorite is The Last Camel Died at Noon. just read it and you'll see why ...
just gotta love Amelia Peabody ...
[Readalikes] Ellis Peters, of Brother Cadfael fame, has a most charming book: City of Gold and Shadows; and then there's Dorothy Gilman's Incident at Badamya - I read it once a year ... about a 16-year-old girl in Burma during wartime and the puppet master she meets under unusual circumstances."
Heather: ""John sprang out of bed. Clad only in a wristwatch and a lordly sneer, he struck a pose like Jove about to hurl a thunderbolt and declaimed, "'Yet she / Will be / False, ere I come, to two, or three.' Aren't you scheduling your appointments rather too tightly? Far be it from me..."" Trojan Gold
Oh John, you have the ability to make me feel vaguely dissatisfied with my otherwise happy marriage."
Gail Gauthier (Author of, among others, my much-beloved A Year with Butch and Spike): "I discovered Elizabeth Peters after picking up some of her Amelia Peabody books from the library sale rack for my son. He read adult fiction, was on the young side, and I thought the historical Egyptology focused books would be both interesting and appropriate for him. Years later, he would be concerned about his grandmother reading those books, fearing they would be too mature for her. He only read the first 4 or 5, quitting after Ramses was no longer funny.
I didn't read them until years later, when I wanted to get myself into the world of Egyptology for a book I was thinking of writing. I've read all of them."
Anonymous: "My favorite EP is the Amelia Peabody series - the earlier ones, at least, up through the one where they rescue Nefret. I also really like the ones about Jacqueline Kirby (being a librarian myself), but they haven't stood the test of time as well. I rather wish she'd do a 21st century version of JK."
Michelle (@GemmaArcadian): "Elizabeth Peters created heroines who were true role models for me. They are curious, smart, independent, and willful. The romantic banter was always witty and again, intelligent. And I always closed the book having learned something new about art, geography, or history. To this day, so many years later, I still haven't read books that manage to teach, inspire, and melt my heart the way hers do.
The book of hers that always stays with me is The Copenhagen Connection. It's left me with a strong desire to see Copenhagen for myself. And it's funny, too. I always read Peters shaking my head, thinking, I don't know how she does it. But I'm sure glad she does!"
L.G. Evans: "When I first set eyes on Elizabeth Peters words I was walking the streets of Kansas City.
Actually, I was wandering through the library, but I had to play off of the brilliant opening line of Crocodile on the Sandbank.
That was my first experience with Elizabeth Peters. I laughed, fell in love with Emerson, wanted to protect - and throttle - Evelyn.
Her books became my friends that were read and reread until worn.
My husband, after years of me laughing him awake in bed, got them on audio. If you have not heard them on audio with Barbara Rosenblat you are missing out. She is exactly what Amelia had always been in my mind!
I would love to thank Barbara for the hours of pleasure her work has brought me and for adding (I hope) a touch of Amelia to my own characters.
If just one person feels as attached to my characters as I feel to Amelia, I will count myself successful.
L.M. Ironside: "I mostly experience the wonderful world of Elizabeth Peters through her "nonfiction" pen name, Barbara Mertz. Her writing on Egyptology is thorough, accessible, and engaging...often very funny! No one brings research into ancient Egypt to life quite the same way. I have relied on her two nonfiction books about Egypt to research my own novels, the next one of which comes out on March 11th. Thank you, Barbara Mertz!"
Rebecca Moore, middle school librarian: "I was introduced to the Amelia Peabody books by a good friend, who herself had fallen in love with them for the wittiness and the heroine's unabashed appreciation of Emerson's "attentions," as it were. While I loved all that as well, and the wonderful details about Egypt, what I really loved was that in Emerson I found a hero who was perfectly happy to be a leader, and not even vaguely conflicted about it (or all that perturbed when his wife seized the lead and ran with it). After reading and watching so many mystery series/superhero stories/supernatural series/etc. with tortured protagonists, Emerson was a self-confident breath of fresh air, and more, he backed up that self-confidence with actual ability (and a few endearing foibles). Amelia has many of those same qualities, and I find her just as refreshing."
Maureen E.: "I'm definitely a Vicky fan! I've tried a couple of the Amelia Peabody books and haven't been so enthralled by them. But something about the combination of mysteries + Vicky + the whole cast of crazy characters just does it for me. I love the kooky plots and the way Schmidt is obviously awesome and then Elizabeth Peters confirms that he is awesome (in Night Train to Memphis). There are in-jokes and allusions. And John, who falls squarely into my Lord Peter Wimsey/Howl/Eugenides loving heart. Mostly, though, there's Vicky herself, who can always be counted on to be where the action is."
Malinda Lo: "As an author, I'm always asked which authors inspired me, and I rarely say Elizabeth Peters/Barbara Michaels, but I don't know why. I should probably start mentioning her! Maybe I'm a little worried that nobody knows about her anymore? Because she clearly taught me almost everything I know about romantic suspense. And she did it while being witty, feminist, and extremely smart. I love her books!"
Kate Flaim: "I devoured all the books that had been published this far, fell in love w/Ramses, and let the witty silliness (especially the early installments) distract me from the very dark times around me. I ended up buying them all on the cheap, and they still eat up a whole shelf--every time I weed my books I think about passing them on, but I think I'll plow through once more first."
Colleen Mondor: "It's Amelia that caught my attention first and what got me was not only her independence (which I adored and totally appreciated for the time period) but also that she and Emerson fall in love and get married and have a child and she never changes her independent attitude. She is still the same Amelia he falls in love with and doesn't have to become anyone else's idea of who a woman should be. This was....huge for me."
Book Addict Katie: "When I was a sixth grader at a small, private school, I was depressed and miserable. I was having a difficult time socially and emotionally and all I ever wanted to do was read. I was obsessed with Ancient Egypt from a very young age, so when my mom saw a paragraph in The Washington Post about a book called The Mummy Case, she took me straight to Borders to pick it up hoping that this outing might brighten my day. Boy, she didn’t know what she was starting!"
Debra Touchette: "Jacqueline! The purse! The stare! The sharp tongue! The knitting! The hair! If I could be anyone in the world, it would be a combination of Jessica Fletcher, Evy Carnahan, Flynn Carsen, and Jacqueline Kirby. And I would rule the world."
CC: "So I think I will just leave it at this: I love the work that Elizabeth Peters has done for the last forty years so much that it destroys my critical judgment and undermines my moral faculties. You see, when Leila moved back to Maine . . . I deliberately hid all her double copies of EP/BM books that I didn’t own yet myself. Which (I recognize in a hazy kind of way) is actually theft."
C.P. Lesley: "What hooked me—more than Amelia herself, more than her relationship with Emerson, precious as those are, more even than the intelligence and humor that are Peters’ trademark—was Ramses. Precocious, verbose, independent, impossible Ramses. Also Amelia’s rather atypically maternal response to her firstborn son, and Bastet."
Finally, here are the links to my round-ups of the Vicky Bliss books and the Jacqueline Kirby books: clearly a re-read of the Amelia Peabody series is in order! Next year, maybe... if I can wait that long! Thanks again to everyone who participated, and I hope that you will all continue to Spread The Word of the Wonder That Is Mertz/Peters/Michaels!