I have learned that particularly clever ideas do not always stand up under close scrutiny.
Elizabeth Peters, The Hippopotamus Pool
Ah, but the above author’s ideas stood up and have never stood down. Armed in 2 pen names (Elizabeth Peters being my personal favorite), she wrote book after book after book. Go ahead, Wikipedia Barbara Mertz and choke on your coffee as you note how prolific she was. She turned her love of Egyptology (receiving her PhD in the subject at 23 years old) into a GAZZILLION Amelia Peabody novels and numerous other novels. She won awards. She hosted tours of her favorite Egyptian sites. She fearlessly (never recklessly, not her) combined history with fantasy in each novel featuring Peabody and Emerson. Reading her books was/is fun. My sisters and I couldn’t wait for her next installments. Start with Crocodile on the Sandbank. You’ll find it in paperback in a used bookstore or, less romantically, on Amazon. If you like it, you’ll have a long, happy relationship with EP and AP ahead of you. I envy you that.
Little note: The Amelia Peabody series spans my living room bookshelves, so I suppose part of me registers their titles every day—but just yesterday I was thinking about the books quite a bit, mostly about how Peabody and Emerson argue (so engagingly, hysterically) in the novels. And I thought about how superbly Elizabeth Peters created her characters, how easy they are to imagine. And I considered retrieving my battered paperback copy of Crocodile on the Sandbank and tucking it into my suitcase for this weekend’s final mini-break of the summer. And today I saw a Tweet about her death and choked on my coffee. She was 85. You can read about her 85th birthday party here. She donned quite the appropriate get-up.
RIP, Barbara Mertz. And long live Amelia Peabody.
Croc/Sandbank is great fun, but the later novels are even better. For some reason EP novels always makes me want to revisit Mary Stewart novels. However, currently I’m reading ‘The Beautiful Indifference’, stories by Sarah Hall. Or, I’m about to—once I’m brave enough to turn to the first page…
It’s been a very long time since I read one of her books – I think I was a teenager? And I’ve been meaning to pick them up again. The world is too damn noisy. Anyway, noted: Crococile on the Sandbank. I’ll start there.