New book by Joel Zemel for September 2017

Title: Betrayal of Trust, Commander Wyatt and the Halifax Explosion

Author: Joel Zemel
Subject: History (non-fiction)
Category: Biography
Format: Soft cover, 6" x 9", 192 pages (over 100 photographs)
Publisher: New World Publishing
Publishing Date: 16 September 2017
Book Price: 19.95


Before the Halifax Explosion, F. Evan Wyatt was a recently-married officer with a promising career in the Royal Canadian Navy. He also enjoyed popularity among those in the city's elite society. But little else is known about the only man indicted for allegedly causing the disaster.

The French munitions ship, SS Mont-Blanc, and the Norwegian freighter, SS Imo, collided in Halifax Harbour on the morning of 6 December 1917. The resultant explosion killed nearly 2,000 people, caused 9,000 thousand injuries and left many more homeless and without shelter. Property losses were in the millions of dollars. In the aftermath of the blast, an inquiry was set up to determine the cause of the collision between the two ships in the harbour. However, the proceedings quickly devolved into a search for scapegoats on whom to lay blame for the explosion.

The captain and pilot of the French vessel were arrested along with the Royal Canadian Navy's chief examination officer (CXO), Commander F. Evan Wyatt (ret. R.N.R). Each man faced a charge of manslaughter. Charges of criminal negligence were added at a subsequent preliminary hearing. The captain and pilot were soon released on a writ of habeas corpus, but Commander Wyatt was indicted by a grand jury and put on trial. Although duly acquitted, his personal reputation and professional career in Canada were ruined.

Betrayal of Trust delves into the life and times of F. Evan Wyatt, the circumstances leading up to his being scapegoated, and the failure of the Department of the Naval Service of Canada to protect one of its own.

"If I had known the fascinating and poignant tale of Commander Wyatt's personal life, as related by Joel Zemel, I doubt that the novelist in me could have resisted his compelling story. It gives to the factual literature of the Halifax Explosion, an unusually intimate personal dimension, worthy of a novel."

- Robert MacNeil, author of the novel Burden of Desire

New World Publishing:

Betrayal of Trust, Commander Wyatt and the Halifax Explosion will debut at Word On The Street, 16 September 2017, can be obtained from NWP through its website. The book will also be available in selected bookstores throughout Atlantic Canada at Bookmark and Chapters/Indigo, and online at, and 49th Shelf.

In HRM, Betrayal of Trust will be available from Carrefour Atlantic, Historic Properties.
Map Location

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My John Lyman Book Award and IPPY Bronze Medal


Joel Zemel is a long-time musician/filmmaker turned author/historian and resides in Halifax, Nova Scotia. He is available for lectures on his book and music (jazz). He will also accept private or corporate research projects.

See the List of Professional Researchers on the HRM Archives website.

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