H. Vernor Dixon (1908-1984) grew up in Sacramento and started writing professionally in his early twenties. He first concentrated on short stories, a collection of which appeared in 1944. He then turned to novels, producing fourteen between 1950 and 1966. Only the first and last came out in hard cover. The rest were paperback originals. The nine written in the 1950s were published by Fawcett Gold Medal. Unfortunately, the lurid covers of the paperbacks, wonderful though they may be as popular art, give a only general sense of what the books are about and no idea of Dixon's approach to the material.
Cry Blood by H. Vernor Dixon. Fawcett Gold Medal (1956), 192 pp.
Gary Malone is a successful and popular young Morales (Monterey) County real estate salesman. Like others in Bayside, a small town on the coast, he's lost interest in the shocking story of Diana Halloran, the girl who mysteriously disappeared on her way home from high school three months before. Then, unaccountably, his wife finds the girl's gym shoes in their garage. The police renew their investigation. In a matter of hours Malone becomes a suspect in what was probably a horrible murder. Though the public is likely to demand quick justice, police chief Bill Kraft is determined to build a solid case before making an arrest. Which would suit Malone fine if he were not the putative killer.
This novel differs from the usual story of an average guy getting into trouble. Ordinarily, the protagonist would make a make a minor but disastrous misjudgment. Here he bears no responsibility at all for the mess he's in. Don’t feel safe, the author says. This could happen to you. But Dixon goes beyond telling a story of an innocent man wrongly accused. He casts a dark eye at the eagerness of the press to raise public fury through sensationalized reports. He throws doubt on a legal system that tries to convict the obvious suspect rather than conduct a thorough investigation. And he wonders how many friends and family members would stand by an average guy who faced condemnation by the press, public and police. So while this story has a mystery to be solved, it's much more than a mystery story. Dixon pulls all this off without a major hitch. The book deserves a wide audience and should perhaps be mandatory reading for fans of police procedurals.