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The Last Train from Hiroshima: The Survivors Look Back (John MacRae Books) Hardcover – January 19, 2010
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From Henry Holt and Company and Macmillan Books
It is with deep regret that Henry Holt and Company announces that we will no longer print, correct or ship copies of Charles Pellegrino's The Last Train from Hiroshima due to the discovery of a dishonest sources of information for the book.
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. The author of any work of non-fiction must stand behind its content. We must rely on our authors to answer questions that may arise as to the accuracy of their work and reliability of their sources. Unfortunately, Mr. Pellegrino was not able to answer the additional questions that have arisen about his book to our satisfaction.
Mr. Pellegrino has a long history in the publishing world, and we were very proud and honored to publish his history of such an important historical event. But without the confidence that we can stand behind the work in its entirety, we cannot continue to sell this product to our customers.
From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Using a combination of firsthand accounts of Japanese A-bomb survivors, American aviators, and classified documents of government officials, Pellegrino (The Jesus Family Tomb) reconstructs two horrifying days and their aftermath when the age of atomic warfare was introduced over Japan. He is fascinated with the strange alchemy of these cruel weapons (One ten-millionth of a second later, a sphere of gamma rays escap[ed] the core at light speed) as the bomb fell on Mrs. Aoyam tending her garden at Point Zero, literally before she could see it coming. Pellegrino is equally interested in the grotesque effects the blasts in Hiroshima and Nagasaki inflicted on the human body with its gamma rays, neutron spray and poisonous black rain. 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. 16 pages of b&w photos, maps. (Jan.)
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Top customer reviews
This book turned my faceless ancestors into real people and this book gave me back
my history. Pellegrino's incredible presentation with his talent for descriptive writing, is a must
read so we who speak of wanting a war-free world for our children, will do more than wishing them in
poetry and song.
Until we are able to personalize that part of our history that is destructive and inhumane, we will repeat history. This book does
that for us, putting faces and real people into that part of history that cannot be forgotten and cannot be repeated.
For writers out there, read this book, not only for the content, but for the structure of how the story is presented. Pellegrino's books have become my source on "How to Improve your Own Writing."
Alas, these absorbing accounts are not supported by meticulous research and factual accuracy as has now been amply demonstrated. There are many important omissions and errors. Most importantly I was astonished to see that Pellegrino does not at all mention Capt. William "Deke" Parsons who was instrumental in arming the Hiroshima bomb in flight and designing its gun assembly. Similarly he erroneously says that Harold Urey and his student Stanley Miller won Nobel Prizes for their work on the origins of life (Urey won an unrelated Nobel for his discovery of deuterium). Recently the New York Times (February 20, 2010 issue) had an article about how an entire account of the Hiroshima bomb in Mr. Pellegrino's book by one Joseph Fuoco was essentially fabricated, for a simple reason; Mr. Fuoco was almost certainly not on the plane, and his name does not appear in any of the other mainstream accounts. Instead the relevant man on the plane was a James Corliss who is never mentioned in the book. The fact-checking in this book seems to have fallen short on many accounts.
To Mr. Pellegrino's credit, he has immediately owned up to his mistake and claims that he was "duped" by Mr. Fuoco. But given the other errors in the book including those cited above, one simply cannot take this otherwise seemingly absorbing book seriously until there is evidence that the material has been thoroughly vetted. A real shame.
March 2, 2010: Update- The publisher has decided to stop printing and shipping this book until concerns have been resolved.
One example: He claims that the USS Indianapolis, the cruiser that delivered the atomic bombs to Saipan, was sunk by a manned torpedo -- a kaiten -- launched from a Japansese submarine. Sorry, but I'll take the testimony of the sub's akipper over Pellegrino's. The skipper testified that he used a standard unmanned torpedo. Just google "USS Indianapolis" and see for yourself.
No doubt one could make a sport out of beating dead horses by exposing dozens of falsehoods in this book, but I'll be happy enough to see it correctly cataloged as fiction.