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The end of the line for The Last Train to Hiroshima

As we mentioned in last week’s links round-up, Charles Pellegrino’s The Last Train to Hiroshima has recently come under scrutiny. It was discovered that the author’s main source, the now-deceased Joseph Fuoco, had been lying about being a flight engineer on one of the planes involved in dropping the Hiroshima bomb. Although Pellegrino, who said he had been fooled by Fuoco, promised to correct future editions of the book, it looks like his tangled web has only gotten more twisted.

The Associated Press reported yesterday that several people described in the book were actually fabricated:

The publisher was unable to determine the existence of a Father Mattias (the first name is not given) who supposedly lived in Hiroshima at the time of the bombing, and John MacQuitty, identified as a Jesuit scholar presiding over Mattias’ funeral.

I read a number of books on this period of time and none of them mentioned Mattias or MacQuitty. I knew there was no way those people could have been omitted if they were real, said history professor Barton Bernstein of Stanford University.

Even Pellegrino’s PhD, which he claims to have earned in 1982 at the Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand, appears to be fraudulent “ university officials could find no proof of his degree.

Henry Holt, the book’s publisher, has announced that it will cease printing of Last Train, and will issue full credit to wholesalers and retailers who wish to return the book. The company said this in a statement:

The author of any work of nonfiction 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.

However, Holt publicist Nicole Dewey told the A.P. that 18,000 copies of the book have been printed since its January release. And since yesterday, the book’s Amazon.com sales ranking shot up from 244 to 83, despite full disclosure that the facts in the book are untrue. The contrast between reviews before these facts were discovered (five stars “ nothing is more real than this book) and afterwards (one star “ a falsification of history “ reader beware) is stark.