Galadriel in Lothlorien

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Did I spend a thousand afternoons at Lorien Court with my magical friend Barbara Mertz (aka Elizabeth Peters and Barbara Michaels)?

If I did meet that number, or at least get close, let us make it “1001.” Please. That is far more appropriate and literary. For we all know 1001 is an important number for stories.

I likely first met Barbara in 1980.

I’d just opened the bookstore instead of returning to school. She was an early customer. In those first slow days I’d chat with the few customers to come through the doors—when I wasn’t building bookcases out of 6- or 8-inch, #2 pine boards. When I was making bookshelves in the backroom, I would only know a customer had entered if I was able to hear the bell tinkling when the front door opened and bumped against it. If the circular saw was whirring and whining, I wouldn’t know anyone was there until out of the corner of my eye I’d sense someone waving—usually waving a book—in order to catch my attention. I’d push the button to turn off the saw and untie the drawstring on my carpenter’s apron whose pockets along the front of my waist held a pound or so of 2 1/2 inch finishing nails, a tape measure, a pencil and maybe some hard candies. I’d set the apron on the boards bridging the two sawhorses, brush the sawdust off my various surfaces and accompany the buyer to the front of the store where my wooden sales counter was. With that pencil (which also drew straight lines on the boards to be cut) I’d write the title and price on the small squat receipt pad—the kind waitresses in diners would scrawl food orders upon in the old days. Each receipt was numbered—1 through 50.

If there was more than one book being purchased, I would list those and add the total by hand. I’d calculate the sales tax in my mind. Easy! Half of 10%. I’d add that on and tell the customer what was due. They usually paid by cash or check back then. My “cash register” was a battered green painted metal fishing tackle box. It was the tackle box my Dad and I would use when he would take me to the reservoir in Amherst, New York where we’d dangle our lines for sunfish. I’d figured the tackle box would do, and I’d save the expense of a real cash box. I also thought it might be lucky. I was very superstitious about such things. I still am. Knock on wood.

At some point I figured out this woman was a writer. I guess she’d come in with a writer friend like Charlotte MacLeod or Sarah Caudwell… They’d giggle like girls if they found one or the other’s books amongst my hardcover or paperback mysteries. Or they’d pick up someone else’s book and gossip and tease about the friend or rival author. “Can you believe…”

Back then her publisher or agent or editor or whoever—would market her books as Gothic mysteries. The cover art almost always featured a young woman in obvious distress about something pursuing her from behind. As a backdrop, in the distance, there loomed a castle or forbidding mansion or some such structure.

I was impressed, but the books appeared to be marketed for women so I never thought of reading one. Still I’d ask her and her guest authors to autograph any copies of their books that I might have on hand. Signed books in my rough little rustic shop would enhance the place. And I confess now, without embarrassment, I would add a couple dollars to the selling price and prop them up around the front end for display. Slips of paper with the handwritten word “signed” protruded from the top of the book.

Years went by. They must have. For here we are decades later. In the early 90s I believe I bumped into her at one of the annual American Booksellers Conventions which took place in those days over Memorial Day weekend every year.

“Chuck!”

Who was saying my name? I looked around and saw her sweet gentle face light up.

“You’re here!”

I shyly nodded I’m sure.

“Come on. Follow me. I’m signing my new book in the publisher’s booth. I’ll put you first in line!”

The conventions in those days were grand affairs. Top publishers would try to outdo one another with extravagant palatial booths…well, “booth” doesn’t describe it. The conventions would be held in the indoor acreage of huge centers like the Javits in NYC or the McCormick in Chicago. The vast convention center floor would be laid out in grids. The rows were like streets. The booth areas were like city blocks. A large publisher might occupy an entire “city block” or maybe even a few. They could be lined with tall images of their authors or latest book covers or characters. The structure might be so enhanced it could almost be called a corporate showroom with offices hidden in the walls or sometimes up steps to a second story. It’s hard to describe the old conventions in a few words. Perhaps that will be a future story all to itself. But suffice it to say the publishers spent lavishly on their booths. Sales reps and management all impeccably dressed stood and greeted everyone—especially those with blue badges pinned to their chests.

“How are you? May I give you a copy of …. we think it will be a big hit.” They would place an advance copy of a book—an upcoming publication—in your hands and invite you into the booth to wander around and pick up more free books.

Heavens! I would get so many free books in a weekend I’d have to ship them home to the store. Yes, they had a shipping area at the back of the convention floor just for that purpose as well. You paid for the box. Stuffed it with all your freebies. Took it to be weighed and taped shut and then you paid them for that service. Some conventions I’d send 9 or 10 big boxes home.

The blue badges? Blue meant you were a “buyer.” As a buyer you would be showered with free books and pins and pens and toys and whistles and bells and tchotkes of all kinds.

For in those days there were thousands of independent bookstores all over the country. Therefore, the event drew thousands of individual buyers roaming through the “streets” for the 3 or 4 days the convention would take place. They were there to do business. Order books for their stores. Meet and bond with sales reps. Set up new accounts. Learn and discover “what is next” this year.

All over this country? Rather, all over the world! For this was an international book show as well. Publishers from other countries would have their own “city blocks” of booths representing their French or German or Portuguese or … publishing industries.

Those shows were so grand. I’d wander through starry eyed to be a little part of such a huge bookish event. It was a circus and academy awards and feeding and buying frenzy…all in one. And besides scores of authors of every type of genre wandering around or sitting at tables signing their books, you would pass celebrities. Actors, politicians, athletes … anyone who had a new autobiography or cookbook coming out would show up at their publishers booths to pitch and promote their book and attract the blue badges to their publisher, their brand.

“This is my friend, Chuck,” Barbara introduced me to somebody important as we entered the autographing area in her sprawling publisher’s booth. Her editor? Agent? Publisher? She took me by the arm to the table upon which a stack of her upcoming book stood. She sat down behind it and pulled down the top book on her stack. She looked down at the book and then up at me. She wrote in a perfect hand:

“To Chuck, the best bookseller I know. Yours, Barbara AKA Elizabeth Peters and Barbara Michaels.”

All the years I knew her, her signature was precise and formal.

“I owe that much to the people who like my books.”

I thanked her and turned to leave. It was then I saw a line of her fans along the wall of the booth and extending out, into and along the “street” outside the booth.

She touched my arm and said, “This signing only lasts forty-five minutes. Come back then and we can get a coffee. I’ll be so tired of smiling and being friendly with complete strangers by then. It’ll be a nice break to see someone from home to talk books with.”

I exited the booth and walked along the long line of her fans anxious to see and maybe even to talk to the famous author—a person they’d only known from her printed words before.

My customer, the woman I’d occasionally see in my little 1500 square foot store in Frederick, Maryland and chat with was famous?!

Yep. She was a star.

I found the courage to return and indeed we went and had a coffee in a little shop built onto the convention floor for its four day run. It was the first time I’d engaged her off my own turf. She chose a seat with her back to the convention floor and kept her head down a bit. I suppose to avoid being recognized and having to turn on her authorial charm.

“What are you doing here?” she asked.

My little shop then was primarily used books, but I did stock some remainders* as well as select new books—mostly those of local historical or social interest.

[box type=”shadow”]* Remainders: Printed books liquidated by the publisher at greatly reduced prices because they are no longer selling well.[/box]

“I’m here to try find good closeouts and markdowns for the shop mostly. Plus I really enjoy the freebies and all the excitement. It’s just so cool! I saw and met Mary Ann from Gilligan’s Island signing her book this morning.”

(Juvenile fantasy alert—I was madly in love with Mary Ann as a young teen.)

“I also got a copy of Tom Clancy’s new book signed. I bet I can sell that for $50.”—a princely sum for my estate in those days.

“My daughter is a Star Trek nut. If you see any freebies, try to grab an extra for me. I understand that blue badge gives you license to take anything.”

I blushed.

What happened to conventioning? They’re on every year. Not Memorial Day anymore. I still go. They are not so lavish as they once were. But still it is quite a “show.”

Well, this Barbara story could turn into a novel or biography or memoir if I go too deep into any one aspect. But over the years we met at a number of ABA’s* which then turned into BEA’s* after the independent stores got decimated first by the Big Box Chains and then by the internet. When so many of the independents got put out of business, there were far fewer buyers to schmooze. The publishers’ staffs focused more on the chain buyers, like Crown, Borders, Barnes & Noble… Instead of buying 5 or 10 copies of a book, the chains would order 100s or 1000s. It is a big symptom of how the book industry has changed in recent decades. So I better skip ahead or it will never be done by this Friday’s deadline.

[box type=”shadow”]* ABA = America Bookseller’s Association Convention / BEA = BookExpo America[/box]

Barbara had published The Crocodile on the Sandbank—the first Amelia Peabody book—in 1975. The second Amelia book, The Curse of the Pharaohs, came out in 1981. But it was about the time the 3rd volume came out in 1985 that she was transformed from a well beloved genre author to a perennial New York Times bestseller. Her book covers became more sophisticated and mainstream. Cover art is designed to draw you to an author’s books in the new release sections in stores or as images on the internet. Her cover art from then on was sophisticated and not in any way “Gothic.” She would still come into my store (which had moved and grown substantially by then.) She’d look for old sci-fi and horror titles. She’d buy histories and obscure old juvenile and kids books. She would still bring her friends and fellow authors in with her. The store was much busier. I’d begun renting Beta and VHS videos in the mid 80s. Why? I was a movie buff and to be able to take home a Marx Brothers movie to put on and start and stop and rewind and watch all over again… It was amazing… I can’t describe to you the miracle of actually being able to watch what you wanted when you wanted. Before home video tapes you’d go to the theater or spend hours searching the weekly listings for the 6 or 7 broadcast stations your TV set at home could receive. Wild Strawberries is on at 1 am next Thursday? So you’d be planning on planting yourself in front of the TV at that certain hour and day because that would be your only chance to see that Janus Collection Ingmar Bergman movie that year. The video experiment in the store was wildly successful. Why? I pretty much ordered every movie as it was released. So, I became a video rental “mogul” for a purely selfish reason. I could order the movies and watch them whenever I wanted. And I never had to pay myself late fees. Of course, keeping a movie home also meant it wasn’t earning any “rent.”

Oh yeah, video rentals were a big deal in those heady years. We’d have lines going out the door to get copies of Top Gun or Dirty Dancing on the days they were released.

Ok. Ok. Back to Barbara.

Somehow we began talking more. Believe it or not a lot of the conversation then became via the new fangled fax machine. I was told we had to have one of those machines to stay au courant. I’ve saved all those faxes somewhere. Many were just jokes or her requests for certain books…

Then, something magical happened. A fax came in one day that invited me to her estate for a tea.

I agreed and went to Lorien Court for the first time. Likely in the mid to late 90s.

One remembers certain events in one’s life. Like where you were during the 9-11 attacks. Or the Kennedy assassination or the Nixon Resignation or Three Mile Island. The moon landing. The discovery of the Titanic.

I can recall the first time I turned up the driveway from her long private road and entered Lothlorian. Her assistant, Kristen, met me at the Wonder van (a crass commercial vehicle), and she led me out to the pond below the waterfall where the table was set for tea. I sat across from Barbara and felt I was no longer in rural Frederick County. I had crossed into a magical land. Brigadoon? Tir Nan Nog? Middle Earth? …

How that afternoon transformed from an awkward (for me) visit to a friendly acquaintance who happened to be a famous author to the many, many visits with a great friend, I dunno.

Luck, geography, so many similar interests and…

Magic.

The afternoon turned to books and gardening and fine food and chocolate. Pets and kids.

Then, maybe the next visit or the visit after, the tea turned to gin. We both had an affinity for the stuff.

Sadly each afternoon ended, and it was time to leave. When I crossed the line at the end of her drive I passed through a fog and then in to the real world of roads and fields and other stone farmhouses and Maryland…

But I’d been changed. I’d been to Lothlorien. The genius, the immortal queen of that forest had welcomed and accepted me. I’d been raised to a new plateau. The aura I took away with me the day I visited lasted for many. How was I interesting enough to be invited back again and again?

I guess I was. And so began the “1001” Afternoons I spent in Lothlorien. We moved on to discuss the secrets of life, the universe, everything. We talked about our kids and her grandkids. We both went through scary health scares and supported one another in conversations about that. We laughed about our youth. Old friends. Boys and girls. New friends, old friends, people we’d like to know. We talked long of our parents influence back then and ongoing to that day although all were long dead by then.

And we’d laugh. Laugh! Laugh at the human comedy. Laugh at ourselves. Laugh at the dark. Laugh with the light.

And each visit, every time I was there I felt I’d come to some place magic and special; that I was allowed an audience with someone brilliant and magical and special. When I was with her I felt better, smarter, wiser, more creative. When I departed and crossed into the real world a lot of that “brilliance” left me. But some of it would stay, and I’d go home in a glow. I’d drunk from Lorien’s magic waters. I’d learned so much. I’d been so filled with superhuman energies. I was able to take some of the special magic with me for as many days as it would last. The glow would wear off but the memory, the spark was planted forever.

In the winter or rain we would sit in the sunroom attached to her ancient stone farmhouse. Its roof was glass. I could lean back and gaze at the tree branches spreading above, the 180-year stone walls of the main house rising along one side. And the sky—blue, white or gray beyond all. In rain I’d watch the drops splash and the little rivulets make their way down on the other side of the sloping window ceiling. Snow would float from the sky and melt upon the surface from the heat rising to warm the glass. Or snow would gather and a white blanket cover the window to the sky.

(I hope the roads won’t be dreadful!)

In fair weather we’d walk the gardens, the many gardens. In spring she’d revel and gush at each new wave of blooms in this bed or that. As June and summer came her prize heirloom roses budded and burst in all manner of shapes and colors. When the gardens began to fade under July’s baking summer heat, we would just go to the pond below the waterfall and sit under the canopy of the River Birches. The brown bark of their trunks peeled off like curls of paper. Gertrude Jekyll said a garden should have water and especially the sound of water. The little stream bouncing down over the ten-foot high wall of irregular stacked natural limestone “bricks” played a never-ending and ever-changing water song for just we two. Well, we two, and the birds above and frogs and little fish dancing and darting below and beside under the water next to us.

And books. We would talk of favorite books and favorite authors. Sherlock Holmes. Loren Eiseley, AA Milne, Joan Aiken… And Tolkien, always Tolkien.

“In my family books were not gifts or treats but necessities. Books come in like food and drink.”

When the time came, usually not very long after my arrival, she would say with a twinkle in her eye: “How ’bout a little something?”

That was my cue to rise and go to the rustic stone walled, rough stone floor kitchen and pull down the stainless steel cocktail shaker. I’d push the ice dispenser on the fridge and a few cubes would clunk into the shaker’s base. I’d pour in some gin. Tanqueray is what she always kept in stock. But I’d often bring a bottle I’d discovered on a trip. Scottish gin. Icelandic gin. French gin. Michigan gin. Catoctin gin. Once I went on a family trip and stayed at the Ahwahnee Lodge in Yosemite. In the bar with the view of El Capitan through the tall huge window behind I ordered an “Old Raj Martini.” It was liquid lightning—not fiery or burning but electric flowing through me down to my fingertips. I searched out the then hard-to-find Old Raj and brought her a bottle. It was expensive stuff! On my next visit she had a case of it stowed in the ancient stone basement. That became our default tipple for many years.


It became a game for me to find a gin we’d never had before. Every trip I took I’d search for a local version. If I went to Manhattan, I’d search the top stores—like Park Avenue Liquors (on Madison, of course!) or Beekmans (on Lex in Midtown) or Sherry Lehmann or… I would often find 3 or 4 new brands to bring back with me. With each new variety I’d bring to present her we would perform a taste test. It was a pure test of the distilled spirit. For our “Martinis” were never tainted with vermouth or vegetable matter. Just pure clear crystal fire made icy cold.

I’d press the top of the shaker over the bottom and vigorously bounce the cubes inside. It never seemed to “bruise” the gin. I’d pour the liquid clear as water but somehow with another dimension into stemmed Martini glasses—served neat but very chilled. A little froth of ice crystals floated on the top. It is a beautiful creation. Like liquid glass floating within a solid glass.


(The image above is the Martini I ordered at the Great Court Restaurant in the British Museum. It was the day of the dedication of the laboratory in her name. The menu listed it a “1986 Martini.” It was the only Martini featured on the cocktail menu that day. “What is it?” I inquired. “It’s a standard gin martini but with a spring of rosemary in it.” That’s odd, I thought. But then it struck me: “Rosemary. That’s for remembrance.” Shakespeare—Hamlet. I broke our rule…I hope she was watching. I’m pretty sure she was!)

We would take a sip and the frigid warmth would flow into us; float through us.

We would comment on the flavor if it was a new one we were experimenting.

“Smooth.”

“Eww, perfumey.”

“There’s a new flavor! What are the botanicals listed on this one?”

Then the conversation would grow and flow and the laughter and the philosophy spill out from inside us. So often we would discover epiphanies—secrets of life. We would know and share the unknowable. What is life? How does the world work?

Our words bounced off one another until the “truth” was revealed.

When the time came, I would leave and slowly roll down her drive and through the tall wooden gates. As I passed across her boundary, the secrets would slowly disappear. Kind of like dreams you really feel are important but disappear when consciousness comes. I was back among the mortal knowledge we all have. But I did remember I’d known those secrets if only while I remained in that magic land.

August would come. She detested the dry suffocating heat. The tired browned gardens disappointed her. She stayed inside and turned the air conditioning on in her office and set to write her next book with as few interruptions as possible. I’d seldom be invited and I wouldn’t trouble her with calls to request an audience. So August was sad for me as well. But I would do my own work and patiently wait for September and the first call that she was ready for company again.

I’d visit and the trees would color—red, yellow, orange.

“How ’bout a little something?”

Winter was a waiting game. She’d have seed and plant catalogs stacked next to her on the couch. I always sat catty corner to her in the blue cloth armchair. Its match unoccupied directly across from me. That “glass ceiling” above.

The television was never on. Nothing would distract us from conversation.

And laughter. Always laughter.

Then the Lord of the Rings movies began coming out. The anticipation was painful. “Will Peter Jackson be true to the books?’ We would go to the theater on opening day. It was a lifelong dream come true. When they’d finished their theatrical runs, I must confess I sought out bootleg DVD copies from foreign lands for us both to watch again and again. This was not to avoid buying the official copies. It was simply an irresistible bridge we had to have until we could buy the studio version not released until later dates. And then we’d buy extended versions the day that was released. And then the multi-disc version with commentary and behind-the-scenes footage. And then the gift set with more added footage and the little statue of Gollum cradling a living fishy dinner or the pair of giant statues of the Kings of Gondor reduced to bookends. In the books and movies they were as high as mountains and guarded that land of freedom’s border at the Gates of the Argonath on the river Anduin.

And then during the painful period of waiting for the next version or the next movie to come out, we would rewatch them separately over and over. When we met again, we would discuss what new facet, what new depth we’d discover with each new viewing.

How fortunate we felt to be alive when such an epic was taken from printed word to cinema. They transcended “movies.” Epics.

Harry Potter happened about that time as well and a new mythology was created for us to read and then watch and share and discuss.

“I’m writing JK Rowling a fan letter. She has millions of children reading again!’

Indeed, my sons and her kids and grandkids would all get the special midnight “day of release” copies of the latest book and read them simultaneously in different cities and states night and day until they had finished the book and could discuss it among themselves without revealing any plot secrets as yet undiscovered by one or the other…

This story is just far too big for one of these weekly stories. I could go on and on and it would still just scratch the surface.

I’m writing this story as an introduction for you to Barbara. I am aboard an airplane to London. I’ve been invited to the dedication and opening of the Barbara Mertz Archaeology Laboratory at the British Museum. I’m not sure what that event will be like, but I’m crossing the ocean to find out.

I wouldn’t miss it for anything. I wouldn’t miss it for her.

This woman who shattered the glass ceiling placed above her by ancient prejudice that no woman could possibly be a successful Egyptologist. The established men who controlled her fate as a student and then fledgling doctor of Egyptology held her back, tried to keep her down.

It isn’t that they “failed.” They just didn’t know. They were blinded by the times they lived and grew up in. Brilliant scholars, they studied and understood the ancient but failed to perceive the future incarnate when she stood right in front of them.

Take that! You long dead stodgy old men who thought the idea of a woman Egyptologist was ridiculous. I don’t see any of your names and images in still living books. Still lining the shelves in bookstores all over the world. I don’t see your names engraved on the wall of the British Museum.

Barbara, you didn’t set forth to prove them wrong. You transcended their short sightedness. You were simply on a higher plane than any of them. It was their loss. She left them in the dust. The dust of Temples, Tombs, and Hieroglyphs. That’s the title of one of her non-fiction books on ancient Egypt. Perennially in print since it was written decades ago it is still used as a textbook in college Egyptology classes. As is another non-fiction book, Red Land Black Land—it too is a perennial classic in the field of Egyptology. Both titles she published under her own name: Doctor Barbara Mertz, PhD University of Chicago 1952.
They are dust. She lives on. Immortal as an Egyptian god or Tolkien elfin queen.

For my friend has been gone nearly five years now. Not a day goes by I don’t think of her.

Fate has smiled deservedly on her legacy. Her final book—The Painted Queen was published in July of 2017. It was finished by her writing pal Joan Hess aided by another Egyptologist doctor friend of Barbara’s—Salima Ikram. Although Joan had never written Egyptian historical fiction before and was worried she couldn’t pull it off the book is a success. Perhaps her hand was guided. Joan passed away in November 2017. She stayed long enough to finish and savor the success of their collaboration.

In 2007 I accompanied Joan and Barbara on a trip to Egypt. Oh, the amazing stories I could tell you about those adventures. But those will have to wait. This story is getting too big already.

Well, ok, I’ll relate one story. Egypt is a Muslim country and therefore there are no liquor stores. Barbara and Joan had already been to Luxor, and I was to join them later in Cairo. I was instructed to bring as much gin and vodka as I could legally from the duty free store in the airport. When I arrived at the Cairo Hilton they had just checked in. We met in Joan’s room and Joan’s first words were:

“Did you get it?!”

“My bags were put in the wrong taxi. They’re on their way. I’ll buy you both drinks at the bar if you like.”

The Cairo Hilton, a grand tall modern building, had a rooftop bar overlooking the Nile and the Corniche—the iconic broad highway paralleling the river directly below. The city sprawls all around. Beyond far to the East is the desert and the pyramids. I ordered two gin martinis and one vodka for Joan.

“Very dry please.”

The bartender seemed to understand. He smiled and nodded.

“Martini!”

A few minutes later he came in his black and white livery; a silver tray propped upon his upraised hand. He bent and proudly set a filled glass before each of us.

“Cheers!” as we raised the glasses to ourselves, the Nile and Corniche below us and the desert and Pyramids far beyond on the horizon.

We put the glasses to our lips and nearly spluttered at the sips! This was not gin or vodka. This was straight vermouth—a bitter distilled wine. The poor fellow thought a Martini was “Martini and Rossi”:

We couldn’t complain. The juxtaposition of the urbane and naive was so absurd. A fancy “Western” hotel. A city of millions—many in abject poverty—cooking in ditches by the side of dusty streets. Mercedes and donkey carts racing along next to one another riverside highway below. The 21st century racing alongside ancient millennia.

We laughed and laughed and toasted all over again. And forced the awful stuff down.

That trip was life changing—as were so many other experiences with Barbara over the years

Who was Barbara? I’ll let you discover for yourself here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barbara_Mertz

And here are just a few of her works as Elizabeth Peters:

And here is Barbara:

I’m finishing this now at the Paddington Hilton in London. It is the morning after her triumph at the British Museum.

Just another jewel in her crown. It was a grand event. I’ll record it sometime in one of these stories. The champagne and praises flowed like Barbara’s waterfall. The sounds were pure and crystalline as Gertrude Jekyll would call for. Dozens of Egyptologists—young and old were in attendance. I was with her daughter Beth and grandchild Bex. We were given a sneak peek inside the Barbara Mertz Laboratory.

After the gala we went to dinner at a Middle Eastern restaurant near the museum. Beth, Bex, Salima Ikram (professor of Egyptology—Google her), Roxie Walker (a great bioarchaeologist who was a driving force behind the museum dedication to Barbara. Roxie has galleries in her name at the British Museum as well. Google her too), myself and a few friends and fans of Barbara. Magically Amelia Peabody joined us as well decked out perfectly in early 20th century field Egyptologist attire. Really. I don’t have permission to share “Amelia’s” image—but it was perfect, and a bit eerily disconcerting, sharing a table with a fictional icon come alive.

And Barbara was there listening and laughing. I know. She shows up from time to time in my life. Another “Muse” to inspire and point out what I may be missing.

Pictures inside the lab were forbidden for security and out of respect for the dead. For Barbara’s lab is home not only to science and research but hundreds of mummies. Hundreds. Mummies stacked in big cardboard—each meticulously labeled. Mummies laid out on examining tables for scientific study. Big x-ray machines and other high-tech scientific equipment that can “see” under the wrappings or inside the bones. Really!

And since she’s left this world, what of Lothlorien? Great news there. The queen is gone, but Egyptian princes and a princess have succeeded her there. The gardens and home thrive in the same spirit she left it with.

And the lab and the people and the party and the champagne that flowed like a waterfall? I can tell the story…someday.

Should I?

Sooner or later?

Sooner means the memory will yet be green.

Later means there may be “news” in the old story.

Let me know if you would like more Barbara stories.

Maybe given enough time and pages, I can do her justice…

Inshsallah!*

[box type=”shadow”]*Inshsallah: Arabic meaning “If Allah wills it.”[/box]
 

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10 Comments on Article

  1. John Hendsey commented on

    Chuck- definitely your best blog to date. Suggest you muse up with Ms Mertz and publish a Chuckmertzian thriller.

  2. Michael Dirda commented on

    Chuck, great memoir of Barbara. I always wondered how you two met and became friends. And those descriptions of martinis–sigh. I wish I had one right now after working in the yard all day in 90 degree Washington heat. Hope you’re having a great time in London. As they say, wish I was there. michael

  3. Jennifer Garrett commented on

    Wonderful. A special memory of a special author. “Temples, Tombs, and Hieroglyphics” and “Red Land, Black Land” were the first books of her’s I read back in the ’70’s. I only ‘discovered’ Amelia Peabody/Elizabeth Peters and Barbara Michaels a few years ago and what a joy it’s been. Not sure how I missed out for so many years. More, please.

    1. April replied on

      What a lovely story.

  4. Jenny Foster commented on

    What fabulous memories! Wish my Mom were still alive to read this–she was a big fan, and would have been thrilled to know Barbara lived in such a delightful manner here in Frederick County. Neither of us knew her name/pseudonyms. Thanks for sharing, Chuck. More, you ask? Yes, please!

    1. books456 replied on

      Thank you for reading and commenting! I was very blessed to know her. Best, Chuck

  5. […] Museum of Art. I’d always wanted to visit the Egyptian galleries there. My departed friend Barbara Mertz (a.k.a. Elizabeth Peters/Barbara Michaels) had told how wonderful it was. Why had I not gone […]

  6. […] Mysteries…she wrote two. Only one was in this group. I searched under her pseudonym—March Evermay. Up came a review from Bill Deeck. I knew him long ago. He was noted and popular fan of mysteries and mystery writers. He was a friend of my pal—mystery author Barbara Mertz a.k.a. Elizabeth Peters and Barbara Michaels. […]

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