Barbara Michaels was born in 1927, and spent her early years in a small idyllic town in Illinois that had no library. She, however, felt most fortunate in that both her parents and a great-aunt encouraged her reading of the classics (including Shakespeare, Twain, Edgar Rice Burroughs) and mysteries. Ms. Michaels feels that her introduction to a diverse range of literature at an early age made her a compulsive reader and perhaps even a writer.
The author’s family moved to Oak Park as she entered fourth grade. It was here that she discovered a wonderful public library, though she did not begin writing until her desire to write was sparked by an English/Creative Writing Class at Oak Park High School. Michaels claims, however, that she really dreamed of becoming an archaeologist. She continued her studies at the University of Chicago, not because of its famous Egyptology school, but because the school was close to home and she had won a scholarship. Money was tight for the family, so the author’s mother returned to teaching and Barbara herself prepared for this nice, safe, practical career. After a few education courses, she admitted to herself that this was not the life for her. She enrolled at the Oriental Institute and at the tender age of twenty-three received a doctorate in Egyptology.
With the end of World War II, jobs for women in many fields were not available. In 1950 Ms. Michaels married Richard Mertz and the couple had two children. She describes this period of her life as “the most challenging, tiring, rewarding, demanding job in the world---and, I still wanted to be an archaeologist.” Her husband’s job transferred the family to Germany, and it was there that she began to write to fill her leisure time. She describes these early mysteries as “awful” but liked the idea of writing and continued “scribbling” with two nonfiction titles: Temples, Tombs, and Hieroglyphs, A Popular History of Egyptology and Red Land, Black Land, Daily Egypt Life in Ancient. With their successful publication, she felt that her degree finally “paid off.” (More than thirty years later, these book are still in print).
In 1966, Ms. Michael’s was able to publish her first mystery novel, The Master of the Blacktower, and subsequently has written twenty-eight mystery suspense novels.
She loves writing and believes this vocation should have been her focus from the beginning. The research skills mastered during her years at the Oriental Institute have aided her in discovering information on vintage clothing, archaeology, gemology and other subjects. Her readers, Ms. Michaels believes, are as knowledgeable as she is about historical accuracy.
Currently, Ms. Michaels lives in an old farmhouse in Maryland. Her children are grown and she has four granddaughters and two grandsons. She believes the world is full of wonderful, interesting people, and she loves her work so much that she will probably continue to write until she “drops dead at the age of 99.” Her hobbies include reading, sewing, gardening, music, embroidery and conversing with other mystery writers.
Awards and Honors
- Past President: American Crime Writers League
- Editorial Advisory Board of KMT, Modern Journal of Ancient Egypt
- Member of the Board of Governors of The American Research Center in Egypt
- Member of the Egypt Exploration Society
- Member of the James Henry Breasted Circle of the Oriental Institute
- Agatha Award
- Anthony Award
P.S. Under the pseudonym of Elizabeth Peters, Ms. Michaels has written three separate mystery series featuring Victorian archaeologist Amelia Peabody, art historian Vicky Bliss and librarian Jacqueline Kirby. Ms. Michaels feels that readers need to distinguish various works of an author; Ms. Mertz writes nonfiction, Michaels writes thrillers, and Peters writes suspenseful mysteries.
- Prince of Darkness (2005, 1969)
- Other Worlds (1999) **, LP
- The Dancing Floor (1997) **
- Wings of the Falcon (1995, 1977)
- The Crying Child (1995, 1971) *, LP
- Sons of the Wolf (1994, 1967) **
- Stitches in Time (1995), LP
- Patriot's Dream (1994, 1976) **
- Houses of Stone (1993) **, LP
- The Master Of Blacktower (1993, 1966) *, LP
- Vanish with the Rose (1992) **
- Into the Darkness (1990), LP
- Smoke and Mirrors (1989)
- Witch (1989, 1973)
- Someone in the House (1989, 1981) **
- The Sea King's Daughter (1989, 1975)
- Search the Shadows (1987) LP
- Shattered Silk (1986)
- Be Buried in the Rain (1985) *, **
- Here I Stay (1983)
- Black Rainbow (1982) **
- Wait for What Will Come (1978) **
- House of Many Shadows (1974)
- Prince of Darkness (1969) *
** Also available as a cassette audio book
*** Also available as a CD audio book
LP Also available in Large Print