A bulletin on the doings and undoings of
Barbara Mertz/Elizabeth Peters/Barbara Michaels
Issue Number 29
Winter 1998
Kristen Whitbread, Editor

also look for:

Another Shirt Ruined! The Amelia Peabody Page
by Margie Knauff & Lisa Speckhardt
With links to other Peters web sites




Many thanks to everyone for your letters filled with wonderful complimentson the newsletter (and on Margie and Lisa's "ASR" website, and on MPM's books...) Wow, I should have requested your affirmation sooner!  A brief reminder to those who do not see an * next to their name on the mailing label: if you wish to stay on the mail list drop me a note at:
PO Box 180,
Libertytown, MD 21763.


I will include a final reminder in the spring 1999 bulletin.

Last note: if you asked about paying for a subscription -- we can't accept money. Money is not the issue here. I simply want to know that those on the list a)want to receive it, b)are receiving it.

No entertainment is so cheap as reading, nor any pleasure so lasting.

--Lady Mary Wortley Montagu

by Elizabeth Peters

(the Amelia Peabody series)

  • THE APE WHO GUARDS THE BALANCE -- Avon Books now in hardcover
  • SEEING A LARGE CAT -- Warner now in paperback
  • FALCON AT THE PORTAL -- Avon Books June 1999 in hardcover

by Barbara Michaels

  • OTHER WORLDS -- HarperCollins February 1999 in hardcover

Audio Books

  • SEEING A LARGE CAT -- Recorded Books available now
  • THE APE WHO GUARDS THE BALANCE -- Recorded Books available now

Foreign editions recently published

  • CROCODILE ON THE SANDBANK --  Klokan (Poland) now in hardcover
  • STREET OF FIVE MOONS --  Econ & List (Germany) now in pprbk
  • THE MUMMY CASE --  Econ (Germany) now in pprbk
  • MURDERS OF RICHARD III ("Der letze Maskenball") -- Econ (Germany) now in pprbk


Can I help out by paying for a subscription to MPM?

No. Thank you for asking but we'd prefer to keep this a non-monetary endeavor (on your account, in any case).

What has happened to the Charlotte MacLeod Newsletter?

It has been discontinued. Her latest, The Balloon Man, a Max Bittersohn and Sarah Kelling book, is available right now. It received a starred review in Publisher's Weekly.

Gardening is not a rational act.

Margaret Atwood, "Unearthing Suite," Bluebeard's Egg

June Heim: We would hate not to hear the final dramatic chapters as the installation of Discobolus proceeds, the battles won and lost between Lady Barbara and the workmen, and assurances you have accomplished all of this without a chip anywhere.

Future stories, we are sure, will revolve around decisions as to whether or not to buy Disc a wardrobe, perhaps just an Australian sundowner coat for a start when it snows, then proceeding into a full tux to celebrate a new book finished early, or, at least, on time. Or are you anticipating leaving him as he is, just going out and gloating when it freezes or snows? Hearts of stone, so what? (A wool fig leaf might help.)

KDW I know MPM said she would not ramble on about the garden. (And after all you've read about The Discobolus in past issues!) Well, truth be told, she's a bit embarrassed about the situation. As I write, MPM's trial for assaulting the colonnade guy has been scheduled for December 10. Frankly, it's shameful. She still can't believe she only maimed one leg and one arm on the guy before escaped her grasp. Sure, go ahead and laugh. You think I'm joking? Fortunately, they let her out on bail so she should get to see the final product . The colonnade guy seems a little nervous when she stands and stares from the steps at the entrance and I'll admit the going is slower than normal what with his current disabilities.  However, he seems to be managing, using his leg cast to lever the thousand pound columns into place and his arm cast to smooth the cement between the few joints so, all in all, my guess is he just might complete the job before the tria l. As for the Discus Thrower, himself - he is poised upon a pedestal in the pond ready to reflect his image across the water toward all who enter the garden.

She is considering the wool fig leaf.

MPM Lies, all lies! I did threaten the colonnade guy, but he finally came through, and the garden is sensational!

Adele Graham: Dare we hope that the Emersons will return to the Last Oasis, as I think may have been hinted in The Ape Who Guards the Balance? If Ramses goes, surely the others will follow.

MPM Ramses reference to an oasis at the end of The Ape was general not specific. In our opinion it is not out of the question that a visit to the Lost Oasis occurred during the years between The Ape and The Falcon. A final resolution must await discovery of new materials.

 FYI from Cathy Bolton: If anyone would like to read more about Tomb 5, the debris filled tomb the Emerson's were excavating in The Ape Who Guards the Balance, September's National Geographic has made it the cover feature article.

MPM There is also an excellent book by Kent Weeks, the excavator of KV5: The Lost Tomb, published by Morrow.

Helen Carroll (along with numerous others) pleaded: Please get Ramses and Nefret together. They are so much like Amelia and Emerson, only younger. I would hate to read in one of your future books that they married or got engaged to someone else.

MPM Er...

Ellen Heinemann: What was the actual subject of your Ph.D. dissertation?

MPM The title basically describes its subject: Certain Titles of the Egyptian Queens and Their Bearing on the Hereditary Right to the Throne.  

Jan Mitchell: Poor Emerson! First I believe he dumped rubble from a dig on top of Tutankhamen's tomb and now he's mapping KV5, but obviously missing the extensive corriders and chambers recently discovered.

MPM You do my dear Emerson an injustice. He didn't miss anything - he was prevented from continuing his excavation of KV5 by Davis and Maspero, who kicked him out of the Valley of the Kings. My friend Kent Weeks - the current excavator of KV5 - mentioned to me in a private communication that he had found the word "Emerson" written in candlesmoke on the ceiling of the pillared hall. Since Emerson would never have done such a thing one can only assume it was Nefret (or possibly Ramses) who left this memento.

Flo Rutherford wrote about the Discovery Channel's program on Akhenaten:   Have you, or the Emersons, any insights on [the suggestion he may have suffered from Marfan's Syndrome]? The really exciting part came when they began to discuss...tomb 55. Those gold covered panels. I couldn't help wondering just who had taken those photographs. There were also modern shots of the mummy case. Since the mummy itself disintegrated, leaving only bones, what happened to them? Are they still in existence, and is their whereabouts known? I'd think that they would be prime candidates for some of the modern scientific analysis that's being done on members of the Eyptian royal families. Has gender been positively established?

MPM Oh, Flo, I'm so glad you asked. The photos were presumably taken by the mysterious Mr. Paul, who was a real person (though probably not the M.C.). The bones are in the Cairo Museum, and they have been examined by several people. In my opinion there is no doubt of the gender or the identity of the coffin's occupant. In TT&H (written in 1966) I said it was A's son-in-law, Smenhkhare, and accumulating evidence substantiates that opinion. As for Marfan's Syndrome - all the modern diagnoses of Ahkenaten's physical condition are based on statues and paintings. I find them unconvincing.

Sherry Chambers: What happened to Berthe's child? She was pregnant in The Hippopotamus Pool, but no reference was made to the child in The Ape Who Guards the Balance. Did I miss something? Or are you plotting some future debut for the child?

MPM Thus far no materials relating to the child have turned up in Mrs Emerson's extant journals (or Manuscript H). The rumors of another cache of Emerson papers lead one to hope that information on this subject may yet turn up. In my opinion, the best thing for the unfortunate child would be that it be completely forgotten, not only by the Emersons, but by its putative father.

Cara Escobedo: What of Ms. Bliss? Is she destined for happiness with her "Sir" John? Does he find himself languishing in prison for a few years in his quest to "go straight" for his darling Vicky? And even if he is resolved or absolved in a legal capacity, will enemies from his illustrious criminal past crawl out of the woodwork to foil his plans of legitimacy?  And on a domestic note, will they marry despite all protestations to the contrary? Is a child (unexpected of course) in the future of this most captivating couple?

MPM Yes. No. Probably. Really, you can't expect me to give away the plots of future books! As for a child, I got Amelia pregnant (well, actually it was Emerson) without considering possible consequences and I'm not about to make the same mistake with Vicky. Do we really want these genes passed on?

Oh, that's right, you guys don't know whose genes they are! Ha ha!

KDW Don't complain. Such goading is a mere trifle when compared with the torment MPM inflicts upon me daily. She strews folders about with "TOP SECRET: The Emerson Saga post-WWI" and "TOP SECRET: Vicky & John, were they really meant to be?" printed in bold red ink across their tabs and then pays the cats to make certain I don't peek. I won't even tell you what the cats are trained to do if I accidently brush open the cover of a file (I was wearing a wool jacket and it caught the edge of the file and I just couldn't undo it and then...); it doesn't bear repeating.


Quite a few years back I thought it would be nice to send my relatives something homemade, and since we already made cookies for ourselves at Christmas why not box a few up for my grandmother and aunts? It was such a gentle, such a quiet thought. Just box a few up. I did not calculate into this mild contemplation Tim's zealous attitude toward the holidays. (Yes, this is the same guy who, as I believe I mentioned in a previous issue, suggested we turn the entire back forty into a maze. I hadn't heard about the maze idea at the time or I might have just swallowed the whole notion and been content to send cards.) We start baking cookies after Thanksgiving and finish somewhere around the week before Christmas. We make over thirty different varieties to send to Tim's immediate (yet very large) family, my dwindling family, the teachers at Mariah and Oak's school, and our friends. In all, we make well over two thousand cookies. It might be over three thousand but, like the Republicans and the Census, I refuse to take an accurate count. By the time we're done baking I don't even want to think about cookies much less sample them. And now that I have completely eradicated your desire to bake, I include the following tried and true recipe -- an EXTREMELY easy bar cookie with a brown sugar shortbread base which, once made, has a shelf-life of approximately one hour in Barbara's kitchen. (What those dogs will do when they smell a cookie!)

Instead of taking up space rambling on and on about the tour, the new book, the garden, etc. I'm going to answer a few of the questions I've been asked (some of them accompanied by callous - if good tasting - bribes). 

When is Barbara Michaels going to write another book?

Michaels has another book - Other Worlds - due out in February 1999 from HarperCollins. After that - who knows? At the present time the Peters persona has the edge; a contract with Avon commits me to three Amelia books, the last of which I haven't even started.

When is Elizabeth Peters going to write another Vicky Bliss?

Some day. I have the urge and the skeleton of a plot. What I lack is time.

When is Elizabeth Peters going to write another Jaqueline Kirby?

Not in the immediate future. Time...

When is Elizabeth Peters going to write more about DJ Abbot and Tom DeKarsky (the main characters in Summer of the Dragon)?

DJ and Tom are blissfully married. They have seven children. They ALL love to eat. It seems most unlikely they will be involved in another criminal case. Tom still slouches.

When is MPM going to come to....(fill in appropriate name of state/region/locality)...?

Heaven only knows. Let me put it this way: there are only so many hours in a day and so many years in a life. As one ages, as one does, one realizes that time and energy are limited. I just finished a tour that took weeks off my writing schedule and allowed me to visit only a few of the many cities to which I might have travelled. I'd like to press the flesh with every single one of my readers, but - despite rumors to the contrary  - there's only only one of me, and "she's no spring chicken!"

We produce the newsletter so I can keep in touch, which I want to do - I love hearing from readers and I try to respond to letters. Most important to me, and I think to my readers, is the writing itself. More Amelias, another Vicky - and -

Will MPM be writing any more books on non-fictional Egypt?

I hope to revise my two non-fiction books, bringing them up to date. Inshallah....

What about a pictorial edition of Egypt by MPM?

Great idea! I am thinking about it.

What about a companion to the Peabody volumes as in "The Baker Street Irregulars"?

It's in the works. And I do mean work - for both KDW and myself. Any suggestions?

What about MPM "conducting" a tour of Egypt?

That's in the works too. Watch these pages. Time....

What about foreign editions of books in print?

From now on, when we list books published we will include the new foreign titles as well. However, at the present time I have no contract with an English publisher which obviously affects the availability of new titles in the UK, as well as in Australia. Apparently, Crime in Store and Murder One (two mystery bookstores in London) carry U.S. editions and usually have the books almost as soon as they are available in the U.S.

Where can I get the earlier volumes of MPM's work in hardcover?

Bookstores and dealers that trade in used and rare books have the earlier volumes. The internet lists quite a few. Our local dealer, Chuck  Roberts,Wonder Book and Video has a good many earlier  volumes. As you probably realize, the early hardcovers can be expensive.


Who is Kristen? Friend? Relative? Flunky?

You know, I've always wondered that myself. Just who is KDW? What's she all about? What motivates her? But this is probably not the forum for such existential discussions so we'll just stick to the concrete - I'm MPM's hired assistant. I won't go into a job description either since that would entail an existential discussion as well.

MPM - also companion, advisor and accomplice. I do not have flunkies.

KDW - Notice how she slipped accomplice in there so neatly one barely took a second look? I want to go on record, here and now, as having had nothing whatsoever to do with the latest aquisition of...on second thought, perhaps this isn't the venue for such a discussion.

Why don't you email the newsletter to those of us on-line?

You will be pleased to read that Margie and Lisa have included the newsletter on the ASR website. Even if you prefer to read a hard copy of the bulletin, Margie and Lisa are constantly updating the ASR site with interesting links, essays and so on, so you should check it out! Margaret Dunham of VA writes "it is very satisfying. It contains a wealth of information and it is obvious that a great deal of thought and care have gone into it."

What has happened to the Frogs in MPM's pond?

Given our efforts to remain a "family" newsletter, I believe the most appropriate (yet properly vague) answer here would be "more frogs".

What has happened to the grasshoppers?

Scientists would claim that we've had just enough rain for the natural fungus that feeds on the larva in the earth to do its job. But what do they know? I recall the day (August 18, 1997, 7:23am--I was just finishing a piece of cinnamon toast) when I answered a summons at the door and found myself toe to face with thousands of grasshoppers holding little satchels who bade me farewell and thanks for my hospitality. Apparently, having completely devoured my garden and leaving only a few brown sticks scattered about like stale pretzels at a party table, they decided to move on to greener pastures. However, they promised to stop in from time to time to check on my efforts to reestablish a garden.

 M    P     M

I have only ever read one book in my life, and that is White Fang. It's so frightfully good I've never bothered to read another.

-- Nancy Mitford, The Pursuit of Love

Not surprisingly, Lee Blakley, the winner of ASR's competition for the galleys of The Ape, wrote the following: Shortly after I heard you speak at the Oriental Institute, I was listening to Gilbert and Sullivan, and then happened on a web site which contains parodies of G&S songs. I'm afraid the juxtaposition of ideas was too much for me, and I wrote the enclosed. 


(Sung to the tune of "For I am a Pirate King"from Pirates of Penzance with deep apologies to Elizabeth Peters, W.S. Gilbert & Sir Arthur Sullivan)
Principal Singer: Sethos

Chorus: Sir Edward Washington and assorted henchpersons
Counterpoint: Emerson (who is being restrained by his family): cursing, not always sotto voce
Sethos:Oh, better far to scheme and lie
Under the bright Egyptian sky,
And play the deceitful part after part
With a villain's mind and a villain's heart,
Than excavate as the scholars do,
For most of them are blundering fools.
I let them dig and groan and sweat;
The treasures they find will be mine yet!
For I am a Master Criminal!
And it is, it is a glorious thing to be a Master Criminal!
For I am a Master Criminal!

Chorus [pops up out of concealment, brandishing weapons]:
You are! Hurrah for our Master Criminal!
And it is, it is a glorious thing to be a Master Criminal!
Hurrah for our Master Criminal!

All [except Emerson]
Hurrah for our Master Criminal!

[At a gesture from Sethos, the chorus hides again]
Sethos:My minions my evil web do weave;
The police all think me just make-believe.
But if you've a mummy, oh, I'll be there
And leave you tied up in your underwear.
I'll plot and conspire to rob your cache
As a beggar blind with false mustache.
I'll steal from you and you and you,
[turns to Amelia]
I'll steal your heart before I'm through!
[Emerson roars & breaks free; the chorus is sung as he chases Sethos around the stage]

For I am a Master Criminal!
And it is, it is a glorious thing to be a Master Criminal!
For I am a Master Criminal!

Chorus [reemerges; Sethos & Emerson dodge around them]
You are! Hurrah for our Master Criminal!
And it is, it is a glorious thing to be a Master Criminal!
Hurrah for our Master Criminal!

All [except Emerson, who pursues Sethos offstage]
Hurrah for our Master Criminal!
[Sounds of crashing offstage as the curtain drops]


 M    P     M

NPR -- MPM was interviewed this past summer on NPR's Weekend All Things Considered. You can still catch it on the web site as Margie and Lisa have created a link to it.

Elfy Suchet reminded me to mention Recorded Books again. Everyone who listens to Barbara Rosenblat read says the same thing: B.R. IS Amelia (and Emerson, and Ramses, and Nefret, and David and...). If your library doesn't have the Recorded Books edition of the Amelias (or any of MPM's books) call (800) 638-1304 for a catalog to rent or buy the books on tapes.




Cream: 1 c. butter and 1 c. firmly packed brown sugar.

Add: 1 egg and mix, then add: 1 tsp vanilla, 2 c. flour (sifting optional), 1/2 tsp salt. Mix together well then spread evenly in ungreased 7x10 pan (or one 10" round pan, or two 9x5 loaf pans. 8x8 makes too thick a shortbread, 9x13 makes a shortbread so thin it crumbles). Bake 25 minutes at 350.

Remove and immediately put one large (1/2 lb) Hershey bar (we prefer milk chocolate) on top. When melted spread around. Sprinkle on chopped nuts if desired. Cut into bars while still a bit warm.

(Try to keep the pets out of them so you get a few cookies for yourself.)


tree_ani.gif (5879 bytes)

We celebrated Christmas in the good old-fashioned way, with a tree and carols and friends gathered round. To be sure, the setting was a trifle unusual - golden sand instead of snow, a balmy breeze wafting through the open windows instead of sleety rain pounding at the closed panes, a spindly tamarisk branch instead of an evergreen - but we had spent so many festal seasons in Egypt that it seemed entirely natural to us. Even the spindly tamarisk made a brave show, thanks to David's ingenious decorations.  Comical camels, garlands of delicate silvery stars, and innumerable other designs cut from tin or shaped of baked clay filled in the empty spaces and twinkled in the lights of the candles.

--Elizabeth Peters The Ape Who Guards the Balance


Animated Christmas tree graphic courtesy of Victorian Animated GIFS