West Midlands Literary Heritage website biography
Novelist. Born September 1913 at Horsehay, Shropshire. Her father was a clerk at a local ironworks. Edith attended Dawley Church of England School and the Coalbrookdale High School for Girls. Through her mother, she grew to love the history and countryside of Shropshire, her home for all of her life.
Before World War II she worked as a chemist's assistant at Dawley. During this time she started writing seriously for publication while gathering useful information on medicines that she would draw upon later when tackling crime stories. Her first published novel was Hortensius, friend of Nero (1936), a rather dry tale of martyrdom that was not a great success but she persevered and The city lies foursquare (1939) was much more warmly received.
During the war she worked in an administrative role with the Women's Royal Navy Service in Liverpool, a relatively brief period away from Shropshire, and for her devotion to duty she received the British Empire Medal. Many more novels appeared at this time, including Ordinary people (1941) and She goes to war (1942), the latter based on her own wartime experiences. The eighth champion of Christendom appeared in 1945 and from now on she was able to devote all her time to writing. She was particularly proud of her Heaven tree trilogy, which appeared between 1961 and 1963, which had as a backdrop the English Welsh borderlands in the twelfth century.
It was not until 1951 that she tackled a mystery story with Fallen into the pit, the first appearance of Sergeant George Felse as the investigating police officer. Her other great character, and the one for which the author will continue to be known the world over, Brother Cadfael, was to follow many years later. The first appearance of this monk at Shrewsbury Abbey was in A morbid taste for bones (1977) and he mixed his herbs and unravelled mysteries in this atmospheric setting for a further nineteen novels. This kept the author very busy for the remaining 18 years of her life, to the virtual exclusion of all other work.
The name "Ellis Peters" was adopted by Edith Pargeter to clearly mark a division between her mystery stories and her other work. Her brother was Ellis and Petra was a friend from Czechoslovakia. A frequent visitor to the country, Edith Pargeter had begun her association and deep interest in their culture after meeting Czechoslovakian soldiers during the war. This was to lead to her learning the language translating several books into English.
She 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. There is a memorial to her in Shrewsbury Abbey.
After her death in October 1995, The Times published a full obituary that declared that here was "a deeply sensitive and perceptive woman....an intensely private and modest person " whose writing was "direct, even a little stilted, matching a self-contained personality".
eBook The Dragon at Noonday (Brothers of Gwynedd, #2)