On Our Shelves Now
The theft of unpublished papers on asbestos toxicity and a controversy over the meaning of a series of murals are the core of this novel.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 the 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.
About the Author
I started to write fiction after retiring as Emeritus Professor of Pediatrics, Health Policy, and Epidemiology at Johns Hopkins. My novels are based on professional experience, and American history. The Adirondack Mountains, where I still summer after many years, also serve as inspiration. My writing has benefited from workshops and courses at Stanford University, New Mexico State University, The Great Courses, and the Adirondack Center for Writing, of which I was a board member (2015-18). I have taught writing to prisoners at the Adirondack Correctional Facility (NY State) and currently lead a writers group in Menlo Park, CA, where I winter. While at Hopkins, I wrote two books on genetics and public policy, co-edited several others, and published over 150 scientific papers in peer-reviewed journals. I have four children and eight grandchildren. My wife, Dr. Barbara Starfield, died in 2011. Education: B.A. Swarthmore College, 1955 with High Honors M.D. New York University College of Medicine, 1959 M.P.H. (Epidemiology) University of California Berkeley, 1984