The theft of unpublished papers on asbestos toxicity and a controversy over the meaning of a series of murals are at the core of this novel. Dr. Norman Bethune drew the murals while he was a patient at the Trudeau tuberculosis Sanatorium in Saranac Lake NY in 1927. The asbestos papers were stolen from a research laboratory affiliated with the Sanatorium in 1953.
The novel begins with the director of the laboratory telling the FBI that Communists at Trudeau are demanding that he publish the papers as part of a plot to bankrupt American asbestos manufacturers. While searching for communists, the FBI learns that Bethune declared himself a Communist ten years after he drew the murals. The murals are subpoenaed by the House Un-American Activities Committee for its hearing on subversion at Trudeau in the fall of 1953. Its major witness, an art historian, insists that the contents of the murals prove Bethune was a Communist when he drew them. This charge is flatly denied by those who knew Bethune when he was a patient at the Sanatorium. In an obscure old journal, Bethune wrote that the murals were about his struggle against tuberculosis; they had nothing to do with communism. The Committee harasses a Trudeau scientist, trying to get him to admit that the woman who became his wife was a Communist when she modeled for the murals before they were married. As a result of the FBI investigation and the subsequent hearings, two people die tragically, others lose their jobs, and the Trudeau facilities are threatened with closure.
Norman Bethune’s murals can be viewed at HSL localwiki
ISBN 978-09984893 (paper) The Bethune Murals: $17.95 Kindle: $3.95