Barbara Mertz was born on September 29, 1927, in Canton, Illinois. She was graduated from the University of Chicago with a bachelor’s degree in 1947, a master’s degree in 1950, and a PhD in Egyptology in 1952, having studied with John A. Wilson. She authored two books on ancient Egypt (both of which have been continuously in print since first publication), but primarily wrote mystery and suspense novels. She had two children, Peter and Elizabeth Mertz. She became a published writer in 1964. Under the name Barbara Michaels, she wrote primarily gothic and supernatural thrillers. Her publisher chose that pseudonym since Mertz had already published one nonfiction book on ancient Egypt, and the publisher did not want Mertz’s novels to be confused with her academic work. Under the pseudonym Elizabeth Peters, Mertz published her Amelia Peabody historical mystery series, using a nom de plume drawn from the names of her two children. She was member of the Editorial Advisory Board of KMT, (“A Modern Journal of Ancient Egypt”), Egypt Exploration Society, and the James Henry Breasted Circle of the University of Chicago Oriental Institute. Barbara Mertz died at her home in Maryland on August 8, 2013.
Barbara Mertz received a number of award wins and nominations from the mystery community. Her first recognition came when Trojan Gold was nominated for the 1988 Anthony Award in the “Best Novel” category; the following year, Naked Once More won the 1989 Agatha Award in the same category. Following this Mertz earned a series of Agatha Award “Best Novel” nominations, including The Last Camel Died at Noon in 1991; The Snake, the Crocodile, and the Dog in 1992; Night Train to Memphis in 1994; Seeing a Large Cat in 1997; The Ape Who Guards the Balance in 1998; and He Shall Thunder in the Sky in 2000 which also received an Anthony Award “Best Novel” nomination in 2001. Barbara Mertz received a final Agatha Award nomination for “Best Novel” in 2002 for The Golden One and won the “Best Non-fiction Work” the following year for Amelia Peabody’s Egypt: A Compendium, which also received an Edgar Award nomination in 2004 in the “Best Critical / Biographical Work” category. She was the recipient of a number of grandmaster and lifetime achievement awards, including being named Grandmaster at the Anthony Awards in 1986 and Grandmaster by the Mystery Writers of America in 1998; in 2003, she received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Malice Domestic Convention. In 2012 she was honored with the first Amelia Peabody Award at the Malice Domestic Convention; the award was named after the leading character in her long-running series.
- September, 29, 1927
- Canton, Illinois
- August, 08, 2013
- Frederick, Maryland