A bulletin on the doings and undoings of
Barbara Mertz/Elizabeth Peters/Barbara Michaels
Issue Number 28
Summer 1998
Kristen Whitbread, Editor

also look for:

Another Shirt Ruined! The Amelia Peabody Page
by Margie Knauff & Lisa Speckhardt



I am about to do it again. However, it has been years since the last time I asked for this so I donít want any complaints. Here goes.... The newsletter list has grown rather unwieldy of late so I need to know for certain that either a)you want to receive it, or b)you, and not some postal trashcan, are receiving it. (It travels by bulk mail so if someone moves, the newsletter simply gets tossed into the nearest wastebin.) I will continue this request over the next year so it will give you plenty of time to respond. You will notice a star next to your name on the mail label if I have received your reply. If I donít hear from you by next July 1999, I will assume that you want your subscription deleted.

A note from Margie & Lisa now...
PLEASE do not send us requests to be added to (or stay on) the MPM Newsletter mailing list. All these requests should be sent via Snail mail to the address listed on our contacts page.

We appreciate your cooperation and understanding in this matter.

Those of you who read our last issue have no doubt been waiting impatiently for the latest news about the Statue. I refer, of course, to the marble copy of the antique Greek masterpiece known as the Discobolus, or Discus Thrower, which I ordered last fall in Florence. Had I but known what complications would ensue...I probably would have done it anyhow. It is here and it is unbelievably gorgeous. I donít even want to think about the innumerable forms we had to fill out and the hordes of people we had to hire in order to get it here. The day it arrived, still encased in its elaborate wooden crate, it was accompanied by an insurance person, a special air-ride truck, and four weedy little guys who proposed to lift it off the truck and into my garage. (Weight, including crate, almost 2000 pounds.) I couldnít watch. I ought to have had faith; weedy little Egyptians built the pyramids without even a wheelbarrow. Once the statue was safely on the ground we all gathered round while the insurance person removed enough planks to enable him to count fingers, toes, heads and other bits. (The Discus. What did you think I meant?) It was all there, not a scratch on it.

Itís still there. Work on the garden it will embellish begins in a couple of weeks. The delay has been very hard on me and even harder on the people who have had to put up with my tantrums (I mention no names) but the first firm I hired to design the garden was a total loss; they wasted two months of time and a considerable amount of money. The people now in charge are doing fine, but they insist it is necessary to make a few preliminary plans, sketches, and surveys--find the right people to dig the pond, plant the yews, carve the columns and arches.... You get the idea. With luck and the help of mother nature it will be done by the end of October. Look for a photograph in the next issue. If it is not of the completed garden it will be of me behind bars for assaulting a landscaper.

Fortunately I have had another activity to distract me. Weíre always a year ahead of ourselves in the publishing business, so I am working on the next Amelia, which is to be entitled The Falcon at the Portal. I refuse to commit myself as to precisely what page I am on. I will only say that the ms. is due in early September and that since my editor will read this I have every reason to believe it will be in her hands at the designated time. Avon wants to move pub date on this one up from September l999 to July of that year. I hope someone is happy about this. Sure, I think itís a great idea, but it gives me very little leeway and leeway is what writers like almost as much as they like money.

Never mind. More to the point is The Ape Who Guards the Balance, which you may have in your hands by the time this newsletter reaches you. I adore this book. The dustcover is the most gorgeous Iíve ever had and Avon has done a great job with it.* I will be touring. You will find a schedule herein. Itís as complete as we can make it at this time, but you might want to check my wonderful website ** for updates. I hope to see you there or there or possibly there.

                             M    P     M


----Mrs Patrick Campbell in a letter to George Bernard Shaw 1912



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


Another Shirt Ruined! The Amelia Peabody Page

by Margie Knauff & Lisa Speckhardt

I include just one more reason to access the website if you can. Margie Knauff and Lisa Speckhardt, the creators, recently ran a contest for an Advance Readerís Copy of The Ape Who Guards the Balance -- the latest Peabody. The contest is over so you can just pick that newsletter up off the floor, where you threw it in your rush to get to a computer, and finish reading...and quit groaning. In any case, people submitted letters explaining why they should receive "The Ape". The winning entries are available on ASR.


I try always personally to thank people for writing to me. HOWEVER, over 200 of you wrote to us in July with kind words and requests for subscriptions just as I was in the midst of Falcon at the Portal -- so I will have to issue a blanket thank you to all the new subscribers to MPM who wrote such nice things about my books.
Rose Ann McGregor of Scotland reminded us to mention Recorded Books:

"I love Barbara Rosenblatís readings of Amelia Peabodyís and Vicky Blissís exploits and am gradually acquiring the books on tape. I hope you will include some words about Barbara Rosenblatís superlative readings... I lent one of the books to a friend who enjoyed it so much that she bought some of Ameliaís adventures in paperback, but said to me rather wistfully, 'Iím enjoying the books but I miss having Barbara read to me!'"

KDW-- Claudia Howard, the recording editor at Recorded Books, knows exactly what we think of Barbara Rosenblatís "superlative reading". Some time ago she made the mistake of offering MPM the roughs of an "Amelia" before it was actually available to the general public. Now we cajole, bribe (with fudge, what else?) blackmail and generally make her miserable till the next rough is available.

MPM-- Ditto, ditto. I canít say enough about Barbaraís talent.

Pat Manahan asks:

"We were discussing page 22 in Night Train to Memphis - specifically the end of paragraph 7, "on my motherís side..." Then in paragraph 9, "only a distant connection with Egypt, really..."

Could this distant connection to Guinevere Tregarth be Amelia Emerson, Amelia Peabody Emersonís niece?

Is there an episode in the future where Vicky becomes acquainted with one of the Emersonís and Sir John must come to their rescue?"

MPM -- I know what the connection is, but youíll all have to wait.

Debbi Andrews of Alberta, Canada wrote:

"If I were nine years old and not so self-conscious, I would come right out and ask some of those little things Iíd just love to know, like the boy in Dear Mr. Henshaw. If I were seventy-nine, Iíd figure that in the relatedness of the world (itís not such a big place; my husbandís cousin, who was Patrick Bisselís mother, has met Joan Hess and my father-in-law is third cousin or some such to Jean Little) it is not so very unlikely I would write to a famous author. The nine year old version with its ten ingenuous questions in no particular order would go something like this: (continued next column)

1) Can you really play guitar?

MPM -- Three chords but I sing real loud.

2) Did you do the illustrations yourself?

MPM -- In Temples, Tombs, and Hieroglyphs and Red Land, Black Land--yes.

3) Why so many publishers?

MPM -- Money. Well, that and the promises publishers make and the efforts they exert on behalf of my books and so on.

4) Are any of these your kidsí names?

MPM -- Elizabeth is my daughterís name, Peter is my sonís.

5) How many languages do you speak?

MPM -- None, including English! I read several.

6) Is Sethos really dead? (I know you wonít answer that one.)

MPM -- You were right... (See The Ape Who Guards the Balance, the new Amelia, for the answer.)

7) Whatís in your garden?

MPM -- Everything (Kristen and) I can cram in there.

8) What do you like to play on the piano?

MPM -- Hymns because theyíre simple, sentimental ballads of the 19th century, operettas, and folk music.

9) How many times have you read Gaudy Night?

MPM -- At least a dozen times when I was considerably younger, though not for some time since.

10) Do you wish Anthony Fleming had asked you instead of Jill Paton Walsh [to complete Dorothy Sayers unfinished novel]? Have you read it yet? What do you think?

MPM -- NO! I would be completely intimidated by the prospect of imitating another authorís style -- I have yet to read a thoroughly successful attempt by one author imitating another, though I wish Ms. Walsh the best. Your letter reminded me that I wanted to read it so I have ordered it

Dwight Prouty III offered this bit of humor with the following suggestions for book topics/titles:

Ramses: An Autobiography at 8, "From the Womb to the Tomb"

Ramses, a biography by Bastet: "Will Nine Lives Be Enough?"


Just prior to the end of school Tim procured a Chinese meal complete with two fortune cookies which we gave to Mariah and Oak. Mariahís proclaimed "you can do anything you set your mind to and will go different places and meet new people". Oakís fortune decreed "you are very attached to your family and home". I would never have imagined a fortune cookie could be so insightful. Let me put it this way - Mariah was the child who, at three years of age, put her shoulders to our legs and physically pushed us out the door of her auntís house where she was spending a week with her cousins. Apparently we had prolonged our leave-taking to the point where she didnít trust us to actually depart. Oak, on the other hand, is the child who announced, at age nine (and eight and seven and six and...), "I am never leaving you. I will live in this house with you for the rest of my life." (Talk about words to chill a parentís marrow. Tim and I have begun to devise contingency plans which range from purchasing an efficiency apartment for ourselves to signing up with the FBI Witness Protection Program should this attitude remain intact ten years from now.)


It should come as no surprise then that Mariah announced, quite jovially in fact, "I really didnít miss you guys at all," following a weekís stay in Mexico with her classmates. (Ahh, the honesty...and tact... of teenagers.) This took my son completely aback as he had missed her since the day he watched her plane lift off. He declared his distress with her absence almost hourly. He volunteered to clean her room while she was gone. (Trust me. This is an aberration in character.) He convinced us that we should take advantage of a really great deal on a bike because she really needed one. And then he nagged Tim till he agreed to put it together at that instant so it would be ready upon her return. Finally, he made sure we had her favorite tiny jelly beans for her welcome when she stepped off the plane. (I had completely forgotten she had asked for them; he, of course, hadnít.) Needless to say, her announcement was more than a spit in the face, it was a complete negation of his anguished week without her. The fine distinction Mariah endeavored to make that while she didnít miss us she certainly thought about us was wasted on him. So, within fifteen minutes of her arrival, they were in an argument in the back seat of the car. It did my heart such good to know things were back to normal.

Yes. I know I should have played the numbers on the backs of those fortunes.

* and their new mystery line, Twilight Books. I am proud to say that The Ape launches this new publishing venture, which is a tribute to the enduring popularity of the mystery and a sign of Avon's belief in the genre. If you love mysteries, support your local Twilight author.

** I can say this because I had nothing to do with it. I can and must also say that I am forever indebted to those two smart ladies who set the thing up and keep it running. Lord knows how. Magic, in my opinion.