I grew up on a small farm in Mississippi, an only child who was more interested in books and reading rather than athletics or hunting. Other than a brief infatuation with David Cassidy and the Partridge family when I was about twelve, I didn't think of rock stars or actors as idols. I didn't dream about meeting them or spending time with them, though I did think Lucille Ball and Carol Burnett would be fun to hang out with.
When I was a teenager the famous people I most wanted to meet were writers. I devoured mystery and historical fiction in my teen years, and I was fascinated by the people who wrote the books that I devoted so much time to reading. I wondered what it would be like to meet them and to tell them how much their books meant to me.
One of those writers who meant a lot to me was Barbara Mertz, in her guises as Elizabeth Peters and Barbara Michaels. I never dreamed I would meet her, or that she would become a treasured friend. I knew only that her books enthralled me and took me on fascinating journeys around the world and, in some cases, back into the past. I could escape whatever was going on in my life at the time, and Barbara and her books never failed me. They always pulled me in and gave me respite when I needed it.
I never needed it more than when my father died in 1990. That last night in the hospital, awaiting the inevitable, I took with me The Crocodile on the Sandbank. I had already read it two or three times but I knew it was what I needed. That night, and through the days that followed, I reread my favorite Elizabeth Peters books. They gave me solace when nothing -- and no one else -- could.
Barbara was an extraordinary woman. My friend Elizabeth Foxwell has written about that on her blog, so I won't repeat Barbara's many accomplishments here. Barbara's books will live on and continue to bring joy to her readers around the world. For me they will always be the gifts of a friend who never failed to offer comfort when I need it most.