PRAISE FOR A PUBLISHER – AT 7:49 P.M. ET: At a time when some book publishing houses overdose on cynicism, and often defend the indefensible, Henry Holt and Company is to be praised for taking a financially painful step that maintains high publishing standards.
NEW YORK (AP) -- Publication has been halted for a disputed book about the atomic bombing of Japan in 1945, The Associated Press has learned.
Charles Pellegrino's ''The Last Train from Hiroshima'' had received strong reviews and had been optioned for a possible film by ''Avatar'' director James Cameron. But publisher Henry Holt and Company, responding to questions from the AP, said Monday that Pellegrino ''was not able to answer'' several concerns, including whether two men mentioned in the text actually existed.
When a publisher pulls a book that has been optioned by Hollywood's hottest director, that is news.
''It is with deep regret that Henry Holt and Company announces that we will not print, correct or ship copies of Charles Pellegrino's `The Last Train from Hiroshima,''' the publisher said in a statement issued to the AP.
Many "publishers" today are just marketing operations, with few real editors or interest in editorial quality. Often, authors have to hire their own editors to polish their texts. At least Holt is showing some respect for the profession.
Doubts were first raised about the book a week ago after Pellegrino acknowledged that one of his interview subjects had falsely claimed to be on one of the planes accompanying the Enola Gay, from which an atom bomb was dropped by the United States on Hiroshima in 1945. Holt had initially promised to send a corrected edition.
But further doubts about the book emerged. 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.
Bernstein has, over the years, been a pain in the neck, but he's gotten this one right.
Pellegrino's own background was also questioned. He sometimes refers to himself as Dr. Pellegrino, and his Web site, http://www.charlespellegrino.com, lists him as receiving a Ph.D. in 1982 from Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. But in response to a query from the AP, the school said it had no proof that Pellegrino had such a degree.
COMMENT: Let us hope that Dr. Pellegrino, or Mr. Pellegrino, isn't now invited to make the rounds of talk shows as a "victim" of a "witch-hunt."
Let us also hope that no other publisher, believing it can benefit from the publicity, picks up the book.
And let us hope that James Cameron abandons the film project.
March 1, 2010