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The Bethune Murals a novel
Two true events underlie The Bethune Murals: Dr. Norman Bethune drew a mural when he was a patient at the Trudeau tuberculosis Sanatorium in 1927; data on asbestos toxicity were stolen from a research laboratory affiliated with the Sanatorium in 1953. Bethune declared himself a Communist in 1938. In the novel, a central question is whether Bethune, and a student nurse who modeled for the mural, were Communists in 1927. An FBI agent makes several visits to the Sanatorium and attempts to link a scientist’s refusal to sign a government loyalty oath to the presence of a communist cell at the Sanatorium from the 1920s onward. His investigation culminates in a hearing before a Congressional Committee in the fall of 1953 in which the chief inquisitor uses the murals to discredit members of the Trudeau’s Board of Trustees, impairing their ability to retrieve the stolen data. Two deaths result from the investigation. In reality, the data remained hidden even after asbestos was independently shown to cause cancer in the 1960s. If it had been published in 1953, many lives would have been saved.