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Publication of LI writer's bestselling book halted

After new questions surfaced about a Long Beach author's credentials and sources, future publication was stopped of a bestselling book on the victims and organizers of the atomic bombing of Japan, the book's publisher said Monday.

"The Last Train from Hiroshima" by Charles R. Pellegrino, had risen to No. 24 on The New York Times bestseller list and had its movie options purchased by James Cameron.

But its credibility came into dispute last week when the claims of a Westbury man who was a key source were proven false.

More questions piled up, including whether two Roman Catholic priests featured in the book were real people. Monday, a spokeswoman for the publisher, Henry Holt, said Pellegrino could not "adequately answer questions" about the priests.

The publisher also could not ascertain whether Pellegrino had received a doctorate in zoology from Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand, said the spokeswoman, Nicole Dewey.

Pellegrino, in an interview, said he mistakenly forgot to disclose that he had changed the names of two priests who wished to remain anonymous to the Rev. John McQuitty and "Father Mattias."

He said he could prove their existence, but Dewey said his explanation was "inadequate."

Pellegrino, of Long Beach, said he received the degree legitimately but had it stripped away by professors with agendas.

"It's not like I made up a story as fiction and presented it as fact," he said.

In a statement, Henry Holt president Stephen Rubin said: "[W]ithout the confidence that we can stand behind the work in its entirety, we cannot continue to sell this product to our customers."

The book was in its fourth printing with 18,000 copies in circulation. Readers who want refunds can return it to stores, the publisher said.

"The Last Train from Hiroshima" first came under fire last week, when military historians questioned Pellegrino's reliance on the claims of Joseph Fuoco, a Westbury man who died in 2008.

Fuoco was Pellegrino's source for an anecdote about a radiation accident with the first atomic bomb that killed a technician and sapped the bomb of much of its strength. Other historians say it never happened.

Pellegrino also wrote that Fuoco was on a plane escorting the bomb to Hiroshima. Military records show he was not.

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