A bulletin on the doings and undoings of
Barbara Mertz/Elizabeth Peters/Barbara Michaels
Issue Number 31
Summer/Fall 1999
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

The Amelia Peabody Books


By Elizabeth Peters

In chronological order:

  • Crocodile on the Sandbank
  • Curse of the Pharaohs
  • The Mummy Case
  • Lion in the Valley
  • Deeds of the Disturber
  • The Last Camel Died at Noon
  • The Snake, the Crocodile, and the Dog
  • The Hippopotamus Pool
  • Seeing a Large Cat
  • The Ape Who Guards the Balance
  • The Falcon at the Portal
  • He Shall Thunder in the Sky

Here's a pretty state of things! / Here's a pretty how-de-do.

--The Mikado, act I

Peter C. Lemire: Do you know the meaning of the name "Nefret"?

MPM: Nefret means "beautiful". It can also be translated as "good". It was a popular feminine name in Ancient Egypt, as well as part of the name of a number of Egyptian queens (ex. Nefertari, Nefertiti, etc.)

Marcine Purinton: I was puzzled regarding the direction you took the character, Nefret. I felt that her decision to flee and impulsively marry a man she didn't love, was out of character. However, upon reflection I have developed a theory: I think that Nefret figured out that Percy was indeed the father of Sennia. Nefret also believed that because of her, Percy was the one behind the accidents and attempted murder of those she loved. I believe she married Geoffrey to protect them from Percy. If Percy thought that she loved Geoffrey, he could no longer use her to hurt Ramses. She may have even confided in Geoffrey.

MPM: Okay, guys, hear this. I'm only the author so what do I know? - but I deny that anybody acted out of character. Nefret didn't behave as you wanted her to, or as you may like to believe you would have behaved, but as Amelia once remarked, "Love has a corrosive effect on the brain and the organs of moral responsibility." Hold your fire, please, until you've read Thunder.

Kristin Nitz: The Kirkus review of The Falcon at the Portal struck fear into the hearts of some of your readers who have called themselves "The Cult of Ramses". Nefret married? To someone named Geoffrey. Good Gad!

MPM: Speaking of that Kirkus review - and I did, at length and profanely - it violated the primary principle of all critical reviews: do not give away basic plot elements. Believe me, I was even angrier than my readers. The galleys of He Shall Thunder in the Sky will not be so widely disseminated! KDW: Cult of Ramses???

Bobo Lee: So pleased Sethos is still seething around in the picture [in The Ape Who Guards the Balance].

MPM: As you can probably tell, I'm rather fond of Sethos myself. John C. Bunnell: (re semi-official E-mail discussion of Falcon) Much has been made of the possible uncredited appearance of Sethos in Falcon, with various contributors proposing him masquerading as Renfrew, T.E. Lawrence, Dr Willoughby, Wardani, and "whoever performed the marriage ceremony for Geoffrey and Nefret". So far Wardani seems to be the favorite guess, although I am inclined to suspect Willoughby myself, with Sethos making another subtle bit to isolate Amelia from the rest of the family by exacerbating Nefret's situation.

KDW: Even when he's not there he's there!

MPM: He wasn't. Wait until Thunder, all you imaginative guessers.

George Rumney: [We] are eagerly awaiting Ramses' encounter with Thomas Edward Lawrence (the real one or the one that David Lean cooked up?)

MPM: The Emersons do encounter the "real" Lawrence briefly in The Falcon at the Portal and again, briefly, in He Shall Thunder in the Sky. ...You can probably anticipate how Ramses would feel about him.

Amber Myers: Assuming He Shall Thunder in the Sky will be the last Amelia Peabody novel, will you miss writing about Amelia and company?

MPM: I suppose I would if it were but it isn't. Inshallah.

Chris Roach: I've been pondering this for a while: Is it possible to put subliminal messages in printed matter? All I have to do is see an Elizabeth Peters book and I start wanting CHOCOLATE!! I can be happily stuffed after dinner and I pick up an Amelia (or Vicky, etc.) and my mouth starts watering! I've discussed this phenomena with friends and they also have noticed this. Is the editor the Master Criminal (and/or his descendants) or (gasp) has the binding been permeated with cocoa?

MPM: You caught us. Each book is sprayed with essence of chocolate. I get commissions from several candy companies.

Charlotte Mitchell: I'm curious about your animals. Could you please share details in the newsletter?

KDW: Cats
Ramses: an elegant, easy-going Balinese
Diesel: an elderly, disdainful Maine coon
Nefret: a snooty apple-face Siamese (my particular favorite -- she's the one who leaps on unsuspecting shoulders, like mine)
Emerson: a spectacular silver Maine coon who still enjoys the element of surprise
Ellery: a silver tabby ("Nice cat. Looks a lot like a meatloaf."Kliban)
Dorothy: a cameo tabby and the "beta" cat with a squeal that would call down the Valkeries
Lucky: an energetic (frenetic?), large white dog
Cricky: a wheezy, small "beagle" dog

Robin Goetz: As I was reading [The Camelot Caper], I thought that the elegant and elusive Cousin John seemed to be a possible prototype for the elegant and elusive Sir John. Then I realized that Cousin John Tregarth of Cornwall whose mother is Guinevere is "Sir" John Tregarth of Cornwall whose mother is Guinevere. ...Who really came first - John or Vicky? And, since Borrower of the Night does not include John, how did you decide to put these two together?

MPM: I let John get away with his scam in Camelot Caper because I found him rather engaging - so when I looked for a more effective foil for Vicky than poor Tony, there he was. How could I resist?

Lynne Fraser: Re Falcon: Are the Greek earrings the same ones that John later gives Vicky? And are the forgeries that Budge bought, or at least one of them, the same one that John stole and returned to the British Museum?

MPM: No to both. I love the way you dedicated students try to find connections, but there are plenty of others.

Melissa Engler: I am longing for another volume of Vicky to find out if Sir John ends up in prison or married, and of course, to see what kind of trouble Schmidt gets into this time. Will Schmidt ever get a girlfriend?

MPM: Does it have to be one OR the other? As for Schmidt, I don't give a way basic plot elements.


With effects that are comic or tragic,/There's no cheaper house in the trade.

--The Sorcerer


The official results of the poll (I kid you not):

Peabody Emerson Clan 30
Vicky Bliss 30
Jacqueline Kirby 7
Jacqueline/ Vicky crossover 5
Summer of the Dragon 7
Legend in Green Velvet 2
Other (either Michaels or Peters) - 8

From MPM:

Thanks to all of you who took the time to respond to the questionnaire. The winners are...

Oh, didn't I tell you it was a contest? Well, well, as Emerson might say, you just can't trust some people. The winners are those who told me to write anything I wanted.

I would like to explain something to those who requested sequels to older books. Trust me--you wouldn't like it if I did. Those books were written over twenty years ago. I'm not the writer I was back then. I hope I'm better; I'm certainly different; I'm unquestionably older. I am fond of (almost) all my literary children, but resurrecting them from a twenty-year-old file would not be a good idea. They wouldn't be the same, because I am not the same.

Another difficulty is that Summer and Legend and the others were one-shots. The plots of such books are set up quite differently from those that are intended to leave open the possibility of a sequel. The same thing is true of the characters. It's not just a question of marrying off the hero and heroine; they must have personality traits or occupations or connections that would provide an excuse for continued excursions into crime. My earlier heroines, dear little souls, didn't enjoy playing detective, and the men they hooked up with had other career plans. If you examine the first of the Jacqueline books and the first Vicky, you will see that they are open-ended. I could and did go on with them. Amelia was one of those exceptions that proves the rule; I really did think I'd settled her for life at the end of Crocodile. It was her own aggressive personality and my fondness for Egyptology that demanded she return.

There is a third factor, which I am hesitant to mention because I don't want my readers to think I am venal and greedy. (I am, but I don't want them to think so.) That factor is the publisher. He's got a right to his opinion; it's his money. Obviously he wants a book that will maximize his profits. At the present time, that means more Amelias. The sales figures bear it out, and so do the results of the poll. I don't say I couldn't sell an out-of-series book, but the repercussions of such a suggestion would be horrendous. My agent would shake his head and look severely at me, my publisher would demand I consult a therapist, and my editor would stop sending me boxes of Fannie May.

I hope this makes you fans of Tom and Jamie and whomever feel better. If not, I suggest chocolate.


I thought I'd open with what YOU had to say about The Falcon at the Portal. And boy, did you have a lot to say! Below are a smattering of comments from your letters. Obviously, I couldn't include all of them as this would have run into several editions with no room for anything else. All stylistic/grammatical emphasis is that of the letter-writer and not of KDW or MPM. (MPM wanted to add her own emphases, but I soothed her with a "Fannie May Pixie" - you know it's serious when I must resort to Pixies.)[ Note from Margie:  electronic transmission of newsletter to website caused all emphases to be removed.]

Cassandra Sherrill: What a wonderfully evil book... I daresay you will get more than a few letters complaining about the cliffhanger ending, Nefret's marriage, or the pain inflicted on the characters. I just want you to know that I appreciated them, even as you make me suffer in waiting for the next installment. ...Patience is not my strong suit, and I am dying to find out how Ramses and Nefret will be reconciled (as surely they must, or I will implode!) and if the evil Percy will meet his just rewards.

Amelia Hunt: You, Ms. Mertz, have betrayed and mishandled your characters. You should have realized that they are strong enough to stand on their own without you (you should be a proud mama). ...You have uncharacteristically left us all, characters and reader, in a great deal of unnecessary pain and anguish. We deserve an apology from you and an ethical cleansing for your characters. In short, I suggest that you recall as defective The Falcon at the Portal and rewrite this book. ...this is the last of the series that I shall read.

R.T. Brown: Arghhhhh!!! How COULD you?!? Have just finished Falcon and am in such a state of distress, agitation and misery! Don't get me wrong: it's a marvelous book and excellent read (thank you), but HOW am I supposed to wait a year or more for the conclusion? Arggghhh! You are CRUEL...cruel, indeed! Step on it, if you would, please.

Susan Faust: I enjoyed Falcon very, very much and am now biting my nails and waiting impatiently for Thunder. Do we ever get to find out what Nefret was thinking and doing after she ran away? Did she know or suspect she was pregnant before she got married? Did she and her husband sleep together? Enquiring minds (many of us) want to know! Kathryn Geoffrion: Congratulations on another triumph! "Cruel and vicious" doesn't begin to describe it!!!... I'm thrilled with the introduction of Sennia--another twig for the probability tree (or tangled underbrush) of how the Emersons/Tregarths/Sethosians may intersect! ...I'm glad [Amelia] has finally begun to appreciate Ramses (although how a woman of her perspicacity can have missed the tragic romance smoldering under her nose...who should know better than she that "Denial is more than a river in Egypt"?)

Lynne Fraser: I loved the book, would like to kick Ramses and Nefret, and could cheerfully lambaste you for letting them behave so appallingly! I can hardly wait for the next book!

K. W. Whitney: was a joy to read. Both Laura and I feel that you are solidly "on track" with this one! And the clear indications with which you ended it that there is already another in the works, is something that brings us both joy and hope....hope that the next one will also soon grace our shelves...and thereby grace our lives.

April Bryan-Sexton: ...boy am I blown away! I just can't believe it! Of course you've heard it a million times but those poor kids! I have to tell you that I enjoyed every minute....

Ruth Greiner: The Falcon at the Portal was: "oh, good - oh, dear - oh, no - oh, my." The thunder clouds did gather, didn't they? And war is coming - more clouds, I fear. It is a wonderful series - how important these characters have turned out to be!

Jean Crosby: BEG Ms. Peters (on my behalf) to GET RAMSES AND NEFRET TOGETHER permanently in her next book. Please, please, please. This is cruel and unusual punishment to keep us readers in suspense for another year!!!!

Then give three cheers, and one cheer more/ For--- --H.M.S. Pinafore, act I

Soooo, from the sounds of it you may be pleased to note: HE SHALL THUNDER IN THE SKY hardcover AVON BOOKS available MAY 2000


LION IN THE VALLEY paperback AVON BOOKS available SEPT 1999

DEEDS OF THE DISTURBER paperback AVON BOOKS available JAN 2000

STREET OF FIVE MOONS paperback AVON BOOKS available MARCH 2000

!!!NEW ENGLISH PUBLISHER ROBINSON PUBLISHING!!! 7 Kensington Church Ct., London, W8 4SP email:

CROCODILE ON THE SANDBANK paperback available OCTOBER 1999

THE FALCON AT THE PORTAL paperback available OCTOBER 1999

CURSE OF THE PHARAOHS paperback available FEBRUARY 2000

THUNDER IN THE SKY (British title) paperback available JUNE 2000

Strange adventure! Maiden wedded/To a groom she'd never seen!...Groom about to be beheaded,/ In an hour on Tower Green!

--The Yeoman of the Guard, Act II

I append the comments of John C. Bunnell who tracked down the fragment which follows:

[The following appears to be a fragment of a heretofore lost operetta by Gilbert and Sullivan entitled "Amelia: or, Lady of the Nile". The work is puzzling and difficult to authenticate - the characters and situations described in Gilbert's text necessarily date it some years after the duo ceased collaborating in 1896, and the fragments discovered to date employ music originally composed for other Savoy Operas. The most plausible theory has Gilbert attempting to assemble a fresh libretto by combining a new story with various of Sullivan's prior works, but the effort apparently failed - most likely the Emerson family prevailed on the lyricist to abandon the project.]


The scene is Amarna House, in Kent. AMELIA, EMERSON, RAMSES, and NEFRET are gathered in the parlor, where a (so far) unidentified female VISITOR has been shown in.

AMELIA [to VISITOR]: Oh! Please call me Amelia, I pray,
For I see you have something to say,
The Father of Curses
And I, at your service,
[to RAMSES and NEFRET]: And Ramses and Nefret, please stay.

EMERSONS: If in durance a damsel is chained,
Or a mystery need be explained,
You need but to ask
And we'll leap to the task
For our int'rest cannot be restrained!

PROFESSOR: We've found scores of ushebti and scarabs;
AMELIA: We've lost hundreds of Emerson's hats; NEFRET: We're polite to Egyptians and Arabs,
And their horses and camels and cats;
RAMSES: Papyri we'll translate with pleasure
While we're dodging assasins and snakes
Who wreak havoc or make off with treasure - mere treasure,
Strewn stelae and worse in their wakes!

AMELIA: For they're full of disdain for the scholarly plane;
Born to iniquity
E'er since antiquity,
No mere philanthropy
Cures their misanthropy;
Nothing has relevance
Save their malevolence - save their malevolence!
With profit predominant,
Lechery prominent,
Pyramids beckoning
Schemers whose reckoning
Runs to tomb-robbery,
Ego-born snobbery
Causes their capturing
When their own brilliance they find too enrapturing!

EMERSONS: Oh! If a mummy or temple relief
You'd keep from the hands of a thief,
You need only to ask
And we'll leap to the task,
Bringing miscreants promptly to grief!

PROFESSOR: We will search through rooms
And tombs
For coffers filled with jewels;
Through dark and cold
For gold
We will chip with proper tools.
We'll read hieroglyphs
On cliffs,
For clues to hidden dangers;
RAMSES: We will haunt bazaars
And bars,
For reports of unknown strangers!

AMELIA: With perspicuity
And ingenuity,
Ramses' acuity
Skipped superfluity,
And once he knew it, he
Leapt to intuit; he
Traced continuity
All without tapping poor Nefret's annuity!

Then categorical
Questions rhetorical
Spun allegorical
Webs metaphorical
As, like an oracle
Waxing euphorical
(Also historical)
Emerson trapped them with arts oratorical!

EMERSONS: Oh! If a crime or injustice you'd fight
(Or the proper cartouche you would cite)
You need only to ask
And we'll leap to the task;
Nothing else would we rather set right!

words: John C. Bunnell music: Sir Arthur Sullivan (from The Sorcerer, "My name is John Wellington Wells....")

KDW: Perfect! While I was typing I suddenly realized I was also singing. Absolutely perfect!

MPM: If this goes on, we'll have enough for an entire operetta - but it will be hard to equal Bunnell's brilliance!

I polished up that handle so carefullee/That now I am the ruler of the Queen's Navee! H.M.S. Pinafore, Act I

tu_m.gif (1136 bytes)        tu_p.gif (1057 bytes)           tu_m.gif (1136 bytes)


I was ever so faintly amused at the number of you who wrote to say you yearned for MPM to record more of those "catastrophically precocious" Ramses' years. Aside from not being particularly kind to Amelia (who, in any case, would have preferred greater discretion -- or an easier offspring -- within those five volumes MPM penned), I find those early years too immediate to my current liking; for while my son is by no means precocious, catastrophic is an inadequate adjective to describe his activities.

MPM swears my son is normal. Even for a human being. She is, of course, simply humoring me. She shares stories of her son's "catastrophic" years in the hopes that it will make me feel better. For instance, there were the years he and a friend enjoyed aerial views of their experiments in "mailbox" fireworks atop the roof of her home. Then there were those years spent starving and then eating his way through several pounds of fudge in search of the perfect weight category for wrestling. And who could forget (certainly not MPM) the time he transferred a large amount of toilet paper to a dorm room in college -- a considerable amount. (This is supposed to comfort me?) My grandmother also tries to tell me that my son isn't any different from my father. "All boys are this way" she says, and then adds with a giggle, "He's just a little rascal, isn't he?" MPM tries to assure me that the reason they all laugh at his antics is due to the relief that they need never go through this age with their sons again. And I've been further reassured of his potential by his teachers, "He has a good mind on him". (If this is truly the case I wish he'd take it out of his grubby pockets once in awhile from amongst the candy wrappers and give it a breath of fresh air.)

However, I am acquainted with MPM's son and my father; the transformation needed for my son to become a normal human being is so phenomenal, so substantial that you can't begin to convince me any normal man originally behaved in this manner as a child. The only conclusion I can come to is that MPM and my grandmother are lying. And as for those of you who find such humor in Ramses' early years, you must have had nice sons who gave you no trouble and grew up to be normal human beings. Okay, had daughters.