Odin's Castle

      The Herbarium
      Odin's Castle

      Ellis Peters a.k.a. Edith Pargeter
      Drop Cap T

      he delightful lady who penned these jewels of medieval historical fiction was Edith Mary Pargeter. Born in Horsehay in Shropshire in England on September 28, 1913, the daughter of a clerk at a local ironworks. Edith attended Dawley Church of England School and the Coalbrookdale High School for Girls. Through the efforts of her mother Edith grew to love the history and countryside of Shropshire, and lived there for her entire life. After high school, she worked as a chemist's assistant in Dawley between 1933 and 1940. It was during this time that she began to write her first novel, Hortensius, Friend of Nero and and a second one entitled Iron-bound. A third novel, The City Lies Foursquare was published in 1939.

      Edith Pargeter and Derek JacobiShe left her job as a chemist assitant in 1940 to join the Women's Royal Navy Service where she worked as a teleprinter operator in Liverpool. For her service to the Royal Navy, Edith received the British Empire medal in 1944. During this time period, Edith writes and publishes two other novels, one called Ordinary People which is published in 1941, and She Goes to War published in 1942. In 1947, with her brother Ellis (from which she derives her pen name) went to a young worker's school in Czechoslovakia. She immediately fell in love with the place. So much so, in fact, that she taught herself the Czechoslovakian language, and translated many of their literary works into English. For her work she was awarded the Czechoslovak Society for International Relations Gold Medal in 1968.

      Finding her success at general novel writing less than she would like, Edith turned to writing mystery novels with her first effort being the novel Fallen into the Pit, the first of the Felse Family series and the first appearance of Sergeant George Flese. She continued to write a few more novels under the pen name Jolyon Carr, but it was her mystery writing efforts that proved to be her forte. Now using the pen name Ellis Peters (from her brother Ellis' first name and the name Petra from a friend in Czechoslovakia) used to distinguish her mystery writing from her other works, her second Felse Family novel, Death and the Joyful Woman, published in 1962, won the Edgar Allan Poe Award by Mystery Writers of America for the best novel. Her mystery writing career now began in full swing. She would go on to write 12 more novels featuring Sergeant Felse and his son Dominic. It was in 1977, with A Morbid Taste for Bones, that the medieval monk and herbalist Brother Cadfael is born.

      Stain Glass Memorial to Edith Pargeter in Shrewsbury AbbeyFor the next 17 years and 19 more novels, she would work her magic on the medieval monk and his herbarium. While he mixed his herbs and potions, he would continue to solve mystery after mystery over the remainder of her life. Edith won awards for her writing from both the British Crime Writers Association and the Mystery Writers of America. She was also awarded an OBE (Order of the British Empire), an honorary Masters Degree from Birmingham University and the Gold Medal of the Czechoslovak Society for Foreign Relations. Brother Cadafelís Penance written in 1994, was the last novel of Edith Pargeter. She left us on October 14, 1995, at the age of 82. There is a stain glass window in Shrewsbury Abbey as a memorial to this most wonderful and talented lady.

      The Mystery Novels of Edith Pargeter

      General Mystery

      I - Death Mask 1959
      II - The Will and the Deed 1960
      III - Funeral of Figaro 1962
      IV - The Horn of Roland 1974
      V - Never Pick Up Hitch-Hikers! 1976

      The 'Sergeant George Felse' Novels

      I - Fallen Into The Pit 1960
      II - Death and the Joyful Woman (Edgar Allan Poe Award Winner) 1961
      III - Flight of a Witch 1964
      IV - A Nice Derangement of Epitaphs 1965
      V - The Piper on the Mountain 1966
      VI - Black Is the Colour of My True-Love's Heart 1967
      VII - The Grass-Widow's Tale 1968
      VIII - The House of Green Turf 1969
      IX - Mourning Raga 1969
      X - The Knocker on Death's Door 1970
      XI - Death to the Landlords! 1972
      XII - City of Gold and Shadows 1973
      XIII - Rainbow's End 1978

      The Chronicles of Brother Cadfael Novels

      I - A Morbid Taste for Bones 1977
      II - One Corpse to Many 1979
      III - Monk's-Hood (Silver Dagger Award Winner) 1980
      IV - Saint Peter's Fair 1981
      V - The Leper of Saint Giles 1981
      VI - The Virgin in the Ice 1982
      VII - The Sanctuary Sparrow 1983
      VIII - The Devil's Novice 1983
      IX - Dead Man's Ransom 1984
      X - The Pilgrim of Hate 1984
      XI - An Excellent Mystery 1985
      XII - The Raven in the Foregate 1986
      XIII - The Rose Rent 1986
      XIV - The Hermit of Eyton Forest 1987
      XV - The Confession of Brother Haluin 1988
      XVI - The Heretic's Apprentice 1989
      XVII - A Rare Benedictine (3 short stories - series prequel) 1989
      XVIII - The Potter's Field 1989
      XIX - The Summer of the Danes 1991
      XX - The Holy Thief 1992
      XXI - Brother Cadfael's Penance 1994

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      This page last updated on December 31, 2003.