Blaize Clement, creator of the Dixie Hemingway Mysteries, died July 20, 2011 after an ongoing battle with cancer. The 78-year-old writer, who resided in Sarasota Fla., had just completed the final edits for The Cat Sitter’s Pajamas, her seventh series title.
“That was the most important thing for her,” said her son, John Clement, in an obituary published July 27 in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Clement plans to continue his mother’s series, having signed a contract with St. Martin’s Minotaur to complete at least two additional books.
Blaize Clement began her fiction writing career late in life, publishing her first Dixie Hemingway book, Curiosity Killed the Cat Sitter, in 2006. With the tropical beauty of Florida’s Siesta Key as its backdrop, the series centers on the adventures of pet-sitter Dixie Hemingway, a former sheriff’s deputy who resigned after the death of her husband and young daughter in a senseless traffic accident.
Clement’s own life was difficult as well. An encounter with polio after the birth of her first son, Don, left her unable to walk without assistance. Nevertheless, she went on to become a successful clinical psychologist, a profession which she believed assisted her writing career.
“I also did a lot of psychological testing for criminal and civil courts,” she told Julie Compton in Dec. 31, 2008 Big Thrill article. “My job was to cut through all the extraneous stuff and present a coherent personality to the court. People’s futures depended on me doing it well. Now, when I’m writing about fictional crimes, my experience in preparing those reports is as helpful as the answers I got to ‘And how did that make you feel?'”
After spending several years in France while recuperating from additional injuries, Clement moved to Sarasota in 1997. She became involved with a writer’s group there.
“People just loved her,” Terry Griffin, a writing colleague and former president of Mystery Florida, commented in Clement’s obituary. “I think that people who read her books were always surprised to find that a lady of her age, in a wheelchair, or on a scooter … She handled her disability with aplomb. And to start writing late in life and to do it so well was fantastic. It’s a big loss to our community as well as to the mystery community.”