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Alas, Babylon

Pat Frank

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Pat Frank was a pen name adopted by the author Harry Hart, who was born on May 5, 1907 in Chicago. After attending the University of Florida in Gainesville for two years, Hart went to work as a reporter for the Jacksonville Journal. His career in journalism lasted through World War II, when he served as the chief of the Washington bureau of the Overseas News Agency, and then as a war correspondent in Eruope from 1944–46, where his work earned him a War Department commendation.

After the end of the war, Frank gave up journalism to become a novelist. Drawing on his experience as a chronicler of politics and world affairs, he concentrated his writings on what were then the pressing issues in international relations, particularly the proliferation of nuclear weapons. In his first novel, Mr. Adam, an accident at a nuclear power plant leaves every male in the United States sterilized. The novel tells the story of the only man who escapes this fate, whose subsequent adventures provide a satire of American culture and politics. After the success of this novel, he wrote extensively on the Korean War (1950–53), and was appointed as a member of the U.N. mission to Korea in 1952. In 1956, he returned to the subject of nuclear weapons, this time with Forbidden Area, a novel dealing with U.S. governmental and bureacratic incompetence in the face of an imminent Soviet attack, which is only averted at the last moment.

In 1959, at the height of tensions between America and the Soviet Union, Frank published Alas, Babylon, his most famous novel. The portrait of a small Florida town's efforts to cope with the aftermath of an all-out nuclear war is a work of science fiction, but at the time, with the arms race escalating into space, it seemed all too realistic. Harry Hart lived to see the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, when his vision of nuclear conflict almost became a terrible reality. After the publication of Alas, Babylon, he continued to work as a writer, publishing countless articles and essays, and taking time to write How to Survive the H-Bomb, and Why, a book of advice for post-holocaust survival. From 1963–1964, he served as a consultant for the Department of Defense. He died on October 12, 1964, in Atlantic Beach, Florida.

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