The last few days have been rough ones for Charles Pellegrino, author of "The Last Train from Hiroshima," a nonfiction account of the 1945 atomic bombing of Japan. The veracity of a major source used in Pellegrino's book, which was published in January and had been receiving warm reviews, was suddenly called into question. Today, amid a widening scrutiny of the book – and Pellegrino's background – publisher Henry Holt and Company announced that they have halted publication.
But it seems that adversity has been good for sales. While the book's ranking at Amazon.com was in the 200s yesterday, today that number is 80.
As long as they still have copies, booksellers will be able to sell the book. But as of today, Henry Holt and Company have announced that they will not print or ship any additional copies.
Pellegrino's troubles began last month when an article in The New York Times raised questions about one of the book's most important sources. Former flight engineer Joseph Fuoco told Pellegrino that he was in one of the planes that escorted the Enola Gay, the plane that dropped an atom bomb on Hiroshima in 1945. Fuoco provided detailed information for Pellegrino's book. But Pellegrino now says that Fuoco may have deceived him and most likely was not on that flight.
This week problems with the book further compounded when the AP raised questions about the existence of two other sources in "The Last Train from Hiroshima." (Pellegrino responded to an e-mail from the AP saying that he used pseudonyms in the book to protect the two sources, both of whom are elderly men.)
At the same time, questions have now surfaced about Pellegrino's background, raising doubts about his claims that he has a PhD from Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand, and that he was a "founding member" of the Challenger Center for Space Science Education.
Pellegrino is a science writer who also served as a scientific consultant on James Cameron's movie "Avatar." Cameron, who wrote introductions for two of Pellegrino's earlier books, had purchased the film rights to "The Last Train from Hiroshima."
Cameron has yet to comment on the future of the film project, but as MTV puts it, "it's a safe bet that we won't be seeing any 'Last Train' movie now."
Marjorie Kehe is the Monitor's book editor.