Charles W. Calhoun. –Until Proven Guilty (1917) 277 pp.
San Francisco book publisher John Temple receives a frantic message from Mildred Webb, a young woman he has known since they were both children. John, who is in love with Mildred and plans to ask her to marry him, rushes to the Webb mansion in the Berkeley hills north of The Circle. When he arrives, he learns that Mildreds father, banker Anson Webb, is insisting that Mildred marry Mr. Westland, a wealthy Englishman who lives next door and has business dealings with Webb. Desperate to escape her fathers plan, Mildred asks John to marry her, instead. Of course, he agrees, much to the extreme displeasure of Webb. While they are arguing about it, two gunshots are fired into Webbs study from outside. Later, John is waiting for the chauffeur to bring the car around to take him back to the streetcar when Mildred screams that her father has been killed, stabbed in the chest with a jeweled paper knife. They summon the Berkeley police and John is quickly identified as the prime suspect. Realizing that if he is arrested, the police will stop looking for the real killer, he escapes and goes into hiding, which only strengthens the police officers’ belief in his guilt. But, he manages to get a message to his private secretary, Alma Norman, who quickly comes to Berkeley, where she soon teams up with Arthur Gilman, the smartest man of the West Coast Detective Agency, who has been hired by Mildred to solve the crime. With John still in hiding, but making random, unexpected appearances—usually to attack Westland while he is verbally molesting a woman—Gilman takes over the investigation of the case, with able assistance by Alma. They piece together the clues, outwit the police, uncover the killer, and end up happily ever after (with John marrying Mildred and Arthur marrying Alma). This is the only known novel by Calhoun and provides an interesting glimpse of early 20th century Berkeley, especially the transportation system, with descriptions of the Key Route system and Tunnel Road, which was opened to automobile traffic in 1915.
Another question is this, resumed Alma. How did you know that the chauffeur had taken the auto out on Tunnel Road last night? He had not even hinted at it before you spoke.
That’s easy, Gilman replied. So easy, that I had forgotten about it as another piece of scientific deduction. You probably know that there are very few main roads leading out of Berkeley or Oakland, where one could go on a trip taking that length of time. The Foothill Boulevard to Haywards [sic] and San Jose is paved, and consequently is not muddy. The road through Dublin Pass to Livermore is likewise paved. The Tunnel Road is oiled macadam up to the summit where the tunnel is, and on the other side, in Contra Costa County, is probably the worst stretch of road in California. The Orinda Park Road is in the same condition, but it is only a longer route joining the Tunnel Road at Bryant, a few miles beyond the Tunnel. San Pablo Avenue also goes into Contra Costa County, leading to Martinez through Franklin Canyon. Therefore, in view of all the muddy roads leading into Contra Costa County, they evidently went there, and, of course, by the shortest route, which is the Tunnel Road.
Smith, G.D. Amer. fiction, 1901-1925, C-37