Friday, March 8, 2013

Crocodiles, Mummies, Ramses, and More

Or Why I Love Elizabeth Peters

First off, thanks to Leila, who came up with the idea of the Elizabeth Peters love fest at her blog, Bookshelves of Doom (darn, I wish I’d thought of that name first).

So here is my contribution. You will find what other people have to say at Leila’s site.

I truly don’t remember at this point when I discovered Elizabeth Peters, who also goes by the pen name Barbara Michaels (where she writes Gothic romances that I never quite cottoned to). But it must have been in the early 1990s, at the local Borders, which in those days was new and exciting and filled with gorgeous books—before e-books happened and K-Mart bought it and drove it into the ground. At the time, she had three or four Amelia Peabody mysteries out, and I devoured them, in order, in about a week. Crocodile in the Sandbank, the first in that series, appealed to me because of its premise: Victorian gentlewoman of a “certain age”—not to mention disposition—inherits a fortune unexpectedly and decides to fulfill her lifelong dream of traveling to Egypt. I had fun with the book, but I found it predictable and in some ways forgettable. Then I read Deeds of the Disturber and The Mummy Case, and I was hooked. 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. (I will not tell you who Bastet is. Either you have read the books and know, or you should read the books to find out.)

Since then, I have read everything Elizabeth Peters has written. I have bought everything she has written. I have shelves of hardcover books by her—which, being a cheapskate, I can say of hardly anyone else. And what I do not own in hardcover, I own in paperback or e-book—more often, both. I have recommended her books to more friends than I can count. I have sent them to my mother. If Amelia has another adventure tomorrow, it will be on my wish list before I have finished reading the entry.

I also love the Vicky Bliss mysteries, especially the four that run from Street of the Five Moons to Night Train to Memphis. Jacqueline Kirby has never been as much of a favorite, but The Murders of Richard III and Die for Love are wonderful. I swear I own three copies of each, some of them lent to friends and never recovered. It is also (I confess this here) my dearest hope to interview Elizabeth Peters one day on New Books in Historical Fiction. I just have to screw up my courage and ask.

So thank you, Ms. Mertz/Peters/Michaels, for many, many joyous hours of reading. Please keep writing, because your fans are eagerly awaiting the next adventure. And thank you, Leila, for hosting this tribute.

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