I Want to Be as Brave as Amelia Peabody


Spring 2011. I was in Egypt to attend a conference on The Role of Nonviolence in the January 25th Egyptian Revolution.

This was my first air raid, and I hated it – not only the feeling of helplessness, but the remoteness of the business. If someone is going to kill me I want him to take a personal interest.
Amelia Peabody Emerson, Lord of the Silent, by Elizabeth Peters

When I need courage, and I confess I needed a lot of courage to say yes to that invitation to come to Cairo, Egypt shortly after the Jan. 25 revolution, I try to channel Amelia Peabody.

Amelia Peabody is the hero created by mystery author Elizabeth Peters (Barbara Mertz) for her beloved  series featuring an intrepid 19th century woman Egyptologist and archeologist. Amelia (or Peabody! as her husband Radcliffe Emerson likes to call her) is clearly based on real life characters such as Gertrude Bell who was not only an archeologist but also a spy, as is true for Amelia.

My detective character, Kristin Ginelli, is modeled on Amelia Peabody to a great degree, though they occupy different centuries and have different occupations. What they have in common is that they are very courageous, even to the point of risking their own lives in order to see justice done. And they are both excellent academic researchers!

Let me be frank. I find my own store of courage is being depleted in these stressful political times. Fragile global alliances are being frayed, and the specter of nuclear war has emerged yet again. Racial, gender and faith minorities are threatened, the environment is being sold to the highest corporate bidder, and budgets and tax policies blatantly favor billionaires over hungry children and struggling families.

I need to steel myself even to check the morning news.

That’s why I need fiction and I need heroes like Amelia Peabody to get me through. When I write about Kristin facing down a potential murder suspect (as I did yesterday), I find my imagination helps me better face the need for real courage in our times.

Others, I find, feel much the same way. I am doing a Writers’ Retreat October 13-17 by the shores of Wisconsin’s Green Lake and the theme for this year is “Courage.”

When I finish this post, I will go back to writing on my second mystery, “Every Wickedness.” What ghastly situation will test Kristin’s own store of courage?

I’m always open to suggestion! Susan

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