Barbara G. Mertz studied at the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, receiving an M.A. in 1950 and a Ph.D. in Egyptology in 1952. In 1950 she married Richard Mertz and had two children, Elizabeth and Peter. She was divorced in 1969. A past president of American Crime Writers League, she served on the Editorial Advisory Board of KMT, A Modern Journal of Ancient Egypt. She was also a member of the Egypt Exploration Society and the James Henry Breasted Circle of the Oriental Institute. Under her own name she is the author of Temples, Tombs and Hieroglyphs, A Popular history of Ancient Egypt and Red Land, Black Land, Daily Life in Ancient Egypt.
Under her pseudonym Barbara Michaels, she wrote twenty nine novels of suspense. As Elizabeth Peters, she produced thirty seven mystery-suspense novels, many of them set in Egypt and the Middle East. Dr. Mertz was awarded a D.H.L. from Hood College in 1989. The Mystery Writers of America awarded her the MWA Grandmaster in 1998. She also received the Lifetime Achievement Award from Malice Domestic and the Grandmaster Award from Bouchercon.
She died in early August 2013 aged 85
This biography was last updated on 08/09/2013.
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An Interview with Barbara Mertz, also known as Barbara Michaels and Elizabeth Peters
What made you want to be a writer?
I didn't want to be a writer. I wanted to be an archaeologist. My parents wanted me to be a teacher; it was a nice practical career for a woman. When they discovered, somewhat belatedly, that I had changed my major (I had been at the Oriental Institute for six months), they were bewildered, but bless them, they didn't try to make me change my mind. I still believe, with all my heart, that young people should be allowed to follow their own aspirations and inclinations, however impractical these may seem. If they don't try, they will never know whether or not they might have succeeded; and who's to say what is practical? Egyptology was an impractical career, especially for a young married woman forty years ago. Writing was, and still is, an impractical career, because so few people succeed in earning a living that way. I was one of the lucky ones; and if I hadn't been so obsessed with ancient Egypt (as I still am) I might have noticed that I did enjoy writing, and that some people thought I was pretty good at it. But I've never regretted studying Egyptology even though I ...
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