Wisconsin author Margot Peters dies at 89 as book goes on sale

Wisconsin author Margot Peters had a sense of urgency as she penned her latest book.

She started it a few years ago, writing it after being diagnosed with breast cancer. She continued to write through the loss of her husband, Peter Jordan, who died August 27. His passing hit Peters hard. The writing distracted and focused her, and she wanted to make sure she had finished it. It was the Peters way, really with all his books. Once she started, she drove hard to do them.

“I always finish what I start, or at least try,” she told the Wisconsin State Journal in December 2020.

The book is a self-published who-dun-it called “Murder Among Friends”. It’s been written for months now, but technical challenges have delayed its publication and brought it to the point where readers could buy it. These issues were recently resolved and “Murder Among Friends” can now be purchased on Amazon.

But just as he came out, Peters passed away. Her son, Marc Peters, had said she was being treated in a hospice and her daughter, Claire Peters, told the State Journal she died on Saturday.

The 89-year-old author grew up in Wausau during World War II, and the book delves into small-town life and lasting relationships. The book is set at the 30th reunion of the Wausau High School Class of 1970 and, according to a promotional text for the book, “it doesn’t take long for classmates to realize that this won’t be your average high school reunion. The animosity, rivalry, jealousy and revenge reach a climax which can only lead to…murder.”

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“Murder Among Friends” began a few years ago with a real reunion of the Peters Class of 1951 at Wausau High School. There were less than 20 people present, but it was a close-knit group. They grew up together, broke up and reconnected after they retired and their children grew up.

Combined Locks class member Ron Hoffman, a retired pharmacist, suggested that Peters write another book, a murder mystery set in a reunion.

“And I said, ‘Yeah, why not? ‘” Peters said in a November interview from his home in Lake Mills. “I was half kidding.”

But once she started, she worked at it with professionalism and drive, the hallmark of her writing career.

She wanted to see the book finished out of loyalty to Hoffman. Although Peters did all the writing, the two collaborated closely on the work, with Hoffman contributing his thoughts on plot and description and creating a fictional world.

Hoffman said the whole experience was fun, and Peters once told her he was “like a cloud” over her head, urging her to finish the book.

“It’s another job done,” Peters said in November. “It’s something I wanted to do and I did it.”

"Murder between friends" was self-published and is available on Amazon.

“Murder Among Friends” is the crowning achievement of Peters’ long, extensive and productive career. She wrote dozens of books and poems ranging from scholarly to fun, including work that was featured on Wisconsin Public Radio. She is best known for her acclaimed books detailing the lives of literary and theatrical titans, including ‘Unquiet Soul: A Biography of Charlotte Bronte’, ‘Bernard Shaw and the Actresses’, ‘The House of Barrymore’ and ‘Design for Living: Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne.

While writing, Peters also taught English, linguistics, and women’s studies at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.

Along the way, she’s received numerous accolades and awards for her work, including the American Writers Best Work of Prose award, a Banta Award (given by the Wisconsin Library Association), and a George Freedley Award for Best Drama Book, according to the Wisconsin website. Literary card from the Wisconsin Council of Teachers of English.

The Wisconsin Library Association also gave her five awards for “Outstanding Achievement by a Wisconsin Author” and she is inducted into the Milwaukee Library Wall of Fame.

Contact Keith Uhlig at 715-845-0651 or [email protected] Follow him @UhligK on Twitter and Instagram or on Facebook.

Lola R. McClure