Another beloved author has left us this week, Elmore “Dutch” Leonard. Known for his westerns and nouveau-noir crime novels, Leonard was popularly said to have “transcended genre” – which is lit-crit speak for “dang, these books are so good that we’ve got to give some explanation of why we like them.”
But Leonard, who famously said, “if it sounds like writing, I rewrite it” would have had none of that. And neither will I. So settle back with a stiff drink for a classic caper (Swag is probably my favorite) or saddle up for a dusty ride (here’s a nice sampling), or relax with one of the many films based on his books (how can you resist Get Shorty?), and enjoy a great American author for what he was: a good old-fashioned story-teller — one of the best.
The publishers William Morrow announced today on their Facebook page:
It is with great sadness we relay the news that our beloved author, Barbara Mertz, (a.k.a. Elizabeth Peters) passed away this morning at the age of 85. Under her pseudonym as Barbara Michaels she has written twenty-nine novels of suspense. As Elizabeth Peters, she had produced more than 35 mystery-suspense novels, many of them set in Egypt and the Middle East, featuring the intrepid Amelia Peabody. Under her own name, she authored several nonfiction books about ancient Egypt, still in print today.
I remember stumbling across Barbara Michaels’ Sons of the Wolf back when I had read all of Phyllis Whitney and Victoria Holt and desperately wanted “More Like This, Please”. Although it arguably wasn’t the best of her many romantic suspense novels, I was hooked, and through my local library and inter-library loan, I was able to read all the way through her extensive backlist.
At the same time, I was enjoying the delightful, funny, thrilling, romantic mystery series by Elizabeth Peters starring the intrepid Vicky Bliss (no-nonsense art historian), the sassy Jacquiline Kirby (librarian with an attitude), and of course the magnificent Amelia Peabody (Victorian Egyptologist and nobody’s fool). It was only when I started actually working in libraries that I discovered that both of these beloved authors were the same person, and an actual academic expert of Egyptology, no less!
So today, in her honor, I will wield a parasol (well, an umbrella) with fierce resolve. I will, gaze with respect upon the replica Rosetta Stone I use as a paperweight. I will listen to jazz, sip a gin and tonic, and venture into dark and spooky corners when I might have hid instead. And above all, I will laugh freely, love extravagently, and live abundantly, just like every marvellous heroine Barbara Mertz ever created … and generously shared with me.