Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Last Train From Hiroshima

It's not often that the story behind the writing of a book is worth writing a book about. Here's one that has all the ingredients of a novel, and then a movie.

Author Charles Pellegrino has an impressive CV. Scientific consultant to director James Cameron on the blockbuster movies Avatar and Titanic. Credited with supplying the science recipe for cloning dinosaurs in Jurassic Park. He has authored or co-authored 18 books. What could go wrong, you ask?

Plenty. His latest non fiction book, The Last Train from Hiroshima, was snapped up by publisher Henry Holt & Co, a Macmillan company, for a huge advance. The said James Cameron then bought the film rights. The book delves into the world's first atomic bomb attack on that blighted city in Japan that ended the second world war and killed 140,000 people. The B-29 bomber was named Enola Gay, after the pilot's mother. The pilot was Colonel Paul Tibbetts, considered the best flier in the US Army Airforce. He was Dwight D. Eisenhower's personal pilot.

Ship designer Tsutomo Yamaguchi was one of the few who survived the blast. He fled by train for the safe haven of Nagasaki. And he survived that atomic holocaust, too.

All amazing stuff. Then the bugs blow in. The New York Times hunts Pellegrino's 'source.' A man named Joseph Fuoco who claimed to be on an escort plane with the Enola Gay. But he wasn't. He was an impostor, unmasked by the family of the real escort crewman, James Corliss who even got a medal for it.

Mr Pellegrino, of course, is stunned. Wouldn't we all be? "This book is a Toyota," said atomic historian, Robert S. Norris. Pellegrino's publisher asks the author for more details of a priest he describes in the book allegedly presiding over the funeral of a Hiroshima resident. The answer the author gives doesn't satisfy them. Holt & Co have to respond to a question from AP and say, "author Charles Pellegrino was not able to answer concerns about Last Train to Hiroshima, including whether two men mentioned in the book actually existed."

The inevitable digging into the author's background begins. Allegations surface that his Ph.D, earned in 1982 from Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand, is suspect. The institution tells reporters they have no record of his qualification. The author explains this as political maneuvering by rivals. He offers a re-write of 'Hiroshima' updating the missing details.

Avatar Director James Cameron comes out in support of his friend, Pellegrino. "All I know is that Charlie would not fabricate, so there must be a reason for the misunderstanding."

The publisher states. "It is with deep regret that Henry Holt & Company announces that we will not print, correct or ship copies of Charles Pellegrino's The Last Train from Hiroshima. It is easy to understand how even the most diligent author could be duped by a source, but we also understand that opens that book to very detailed scrutiny."

I don't know the rights or wrongs of it but I'm SO pleased I'm a fiction author. Henrietta Fox and Cass Farraday in my Fox & Farraday Mysteries are just figments of my fevered imagination. Honest!

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