Barbara Mertz (1927-2013)

Egyptologist and author Barbara Mertz, 85, who also wrote as Elizabeth Peters and Barbara Michaels, died August 8, 2013 at home near Federick MD.

Mertz is best known for her popular historical mysteries, especially the Amelia Peabody series about a Victorian-era Egyptologist, beginning with debut The Master of Blacktower (1966, as by Elizabeth Peters). Her work often had strong romantic elements, but she resisted being called a “romance” or “gothic” author, believing such terms were used to diminish the importance of work by women.

Peabody novel The Last Camel Died at Noon (1992) is about a lost underground city, and gothic romance Devil May Care (1997) has supernatural elements. Her Barbara Michaels novels were less humurous and more suspenseful, and often had speculative elements, with works of interest including Sons of the Wolf (1967), Witch (1973), Wait for What Will Come (1978), The Walker in Shadows (1979), The Wizard’s Daughter (1980), The Sea King’s Daughter (1989), and Stitches in Time (1995), among others.

Barbara Louise Gross was born September 29, 1927 in Canton IL and grew up in Oak Park. She studied at the University of Chicago Oriental Institute, earning a master’s in 1950 and a doctorate in Egyptology in 1952. She married Richard R. Mertz in 1950 (divorced 1968), and they had a son and a daughter, who survive her, along with six grandchildren.