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Runaway train

Publisher recalls Charles Pellegrino’s book


 

Publisher Henry Holt & Co. today announced the withdrawal of the book The Last Train From Hiroshima: The Survivors Look Back by Charles Pellegrino, 18,000 copies of which have already been sent to booksellers. Parts of the book, which had received strong positive attention from numerous media outlets, have come under question. Last week, after Pellegrino said he was duped by one source, the now-deceased Joseph Fuoco, Henry Holt was going to issue corrected versions of the book. Fuoco claimed he was a flight engineer on one of the planes accompanying the Enola Gay, serving as a last-minute substitute for James R. Corliss. Veterans of the 509th Composite Group, which was formed to conduct the two atomic bombings against Japan, have produced evidence to the contrary and disputed many other elements in the book. Speaking to the New York Times, Pellegrino said he was “stunned” that Fuoco, who died in 2008, had been an imposter. “I liked and admired the guy. He had loads and loads of papers, and photographs of everything.” But Henry Holt decided to take a hard look at the entire contents of the book— and at Pellegrino. “Questions about other sources and the author’s credentials arose,” the publisher wrote in today’s press release. There is no evidence that one person who appears in the book actually existed; Pellegrino says that he knew that already because he’d invented a pseudonym but forgot to mention it to the publishers. And there are concerns over his C.V.: Pellegrino’s website says that he earned a PhD from Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand, in 1982, a detail that has not been confirmed. In the wake of the memoir scandals of James Frey, J.T. Leroy and Margaret B. Jones, and the recent recall of Herman Rosenblat’s Holocaust memoir Angel at the Fence, Holt decided to shelve Last Train. According to a Henry Holt statement, “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.”

LA Times


 
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