Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Historical novel explores the Radium Dial painters

Hard to to believe, but starting in 1920s, an Illinois company called the Radium Dial Co. encouraged its workers to lick the tips of their paint brushes, which were dipped in radium, to create perfectly pointed lines on the watch and clock dials they painted. As years passed, scores of women died of radiation poisoning and related cancers as a result of ingesting the glow-in-the-dark paint.

When Charlotte's Shelley Stout learned about these women years ago through a documentary, she remembers being "stunned and horrified," but also fascinated.

Stout's recent novel "Radium Halos" (LibriFiles Publishing; $9.99) is a fictional take on this sad piece of history. Her story begins in Belmont in 1923, where two sisters convince their father to let them travel to Illinois to take jobs with the well-paying Radium Dial company.

Stout, who describes herself as mostly self-taught, works by day in a sales job. But she's obviously a born writer, as her engrossing first novel shows. She'll sign copies at Joseph Beth Booksellers at SouthPark 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday, July 10.


jenny milchman said...

I am not usually a reader of historical fiction, but I found Shelley Stout's novel to be gripping and poignant. It had almost a "Silkwood" feel to it. You can't believe this once was done.