Thursday, March 04, 2010

The Last Train Departs

On January 19, Henry Holt and Co. released a non-fiction book titled Last Train From Hiroshima by author Charles Pellegrino.

The Publishers Weekly review on the book said:
Using a combination of firsthand accounts of Japanese A-bomb survivors, American aviators, and classified documents of government officials, Pellegrino...
reconstructs two horrifying days and their aftermath when the age of atomic warfare was introduced over Japan. The stories of the few Japanese survivors includes a group of 30 civilians fleeing from Hiroshima to Nagasaki where they arrived to endure the second bomb, are heart-stopping. Pellegrino dissects the complex political and military strategies that went into the atomic detonations and the untold suffering heaped on countless Japanese civilians, weaving all of the book's many elements into a wise, informed protest against any further use of these terrible weapons.
Director James Cameron had used Pellegrino, who claimed to have a PhD in Zoology from Victoria University of New Zealand, as an advisor on Avatar. According to The Huffington Post, "Cameron said he has long sought to do a movie on the 1945 bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki..." In January, prior to the book's release, the director optioned The Last Train From Hiroshima.

But a month after the book's release, rumors were circulating about the book's authenticity. On February 20th, The New York Times (NYT) published an article titled "Doubts Raised On Book's Tale of Atom Bomb" here.

The book described an accident with the atomic bomb that supposedly killed an American. This incident plus "other technical details of the mission are based on the recollections of Joseph Fuoco, who is described as a last-minute substitute on one of the two observation planes that escorted the Enola Gay." (NYT).

However, many historians and veterans insisted Mr. Fuoco was an imposter, and Pellegrino acknowledged in the article that "he was probably duped."

Atomic historian Robert S. Norris told The NYT, “The publisher should recall it, issue an apology and fix the parts that endanger the historical record.”

On Monday of this week, the Associated Press reported on a statement from the publisher:
"It is with deep regret that Henry Holt and Company announces that we will not print, correct or ship copies of Charles Pellegrino's `The Last Train from Hiroshima..."
In the ten days since that first New York Times story, more doubts had surfaced about the book. In a second article dated March 1 here, The New York Times reported:
Nicole Dewey, a Holt spokeswoman, said it questioned whether the Rev. John MacQuitty, a priest quoted in the book, and another priest, a Father Mattias, named by Mr. Pellegrino, actually existed. Ms. Dewey said the publisher also had questions about Mr. Pellegrino’s doctorate.
Pellegrino's response was that he used pseudonyms to protect the priests and that Victoria University had stripped him of his PhD "because of a disagreement over evolutionary theory." here reports: "But in response to a query from the AP, the school said it had no proof that Pellegrino had such a degree." continued: "The book's fate not only means the likely demise of the film deal with Cameron, who provided a blurb for "Last Train," but complicates the long history of collaboration between the director and Pellegrino..."

The Associated Press reported:
Holt publicist Nicole Dewey said 18,000 copies of the book, published in January, were in print...

As of Monday afternoon, 'Last Train' was ranked at 244 on the best-seller list. According to Nielsen BookScan, which tracks around 75 percent of industry sales, the book has sold 7,000 copies.
But as I write this, the book is now #93 on Amazon, which also has the book ranked as #1 in the following categories:

#1 in Books > History > World > 20th Century
#1 in Books > History > Asia > Japan
#1 in Books > History > Military > Weapons & Warfare > Nuclear

No comments: