Virginia Lanier, the South Georgia author of the popular "Bloodhound" series of mystery books, died Monday at her Fargo home following a lengthy illness, according to Carson McLane Funeral Home. She was 72 years old.

Her death comes less than three months after the release of her final book, "A Bloodhound To Die For," and a day shy of her 73rd birthday, which would have been Tuesday.

"She can tell story after story and never tell the same one twice," said Lisa Padgett, a long-time friend and care-giver, in an August interview with The Valdosta Daily Times, of Lanier's storytelling talents. Though she told stories throughout her life, Lanier's career as an author did not begin until she was in her 60s.

Born Oct. 28, 1930, in Madison County, Fla., she was raised in Clearwater, Fla., according to an Internet web site dedicated to her. She married Robert "Hoss" Lanier and they had several sons. Living in several areas throughout the United States, she worked as a bookkeeper, a laundry-mat attendant, a store credit manager. She managed a clothing store and was employed in several other jobs. She read voraciously but did not write.

In the 1970s, the Laniers settled into a home on the edge of the Okefenokee Swamp. In 1978, she was diagnosed with Crohn's disease, and she continued reading.

As she told the story, Virginia Lanier dropped a book in disgust in 1993, telling her husband that she could write a better story than the one she had just finished. Her husband challenged her to do so. For every reason she could think of not to write a book, Mr. Lanier either had a reason why she should or bought her what she needed.

She developed the character of Jo Beth Sidden, a young woman who raised and trained bloodhounds. In Sidden, Lanier created a tough character who is hassled by an abusive husband and solves crimes with help from her trusty bloodhounds in the region of the Okefenokee Swamp.

"Jo Beth is what I would have been if I had not met and married a 100 percent dyed in the wool cracker," Lanier said on several occasions.

Once she created Jo Beth, Lanier quickly wrote the first book. Upon completing the manuscript, she cold-called a small Florida publishing company she'd seen listed in a newspaper's classifieds. Within weeks, she had a publishing contract.

In 1995, a few months short of her 65th birthday, Pineapple Press published the hardback edition of "Death in Bloodhound Red." The book won the Anthony award for best mystery novel in 1995. HarperCollins, a larger publisher, purchased the paperback rights to the book as well as the rights to the entire series. Within a few years, Lanier wrote four more mystery novels about Jo Beth and her bloodhounds' adventures: "The House on Bloodhound Lane," "A Brace of Bloodhounds," "Blind Bloodhound Justice," "Ten Little Bloodhounds."

Following the fifth book in 1999, illness slowed Lanier's ability to write and attend book signings. In November 2001, her husband died.

Finally, she began writing again. Released in August, "A Bloodhound To Die For" resolves several issues within Jo Beth Sidden's fictional life. In an interview with The Valdosta Daily Times' Valdosta Preview that same month, Lanier said that "A Bloodhound To Die For" would be her last book.

"There will be no more," she said.

She is survived by one son, Michael Lanier; three step-sons, Leslie Evan Lanier, Quinn Eugene Lanier, Rex Warren Lanier; eight grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren. Following her wishes, Lanier's remains will be cremated without any services.

To contact Dean Poling, please call 244-3400, ext. 258.

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