Alas Babylon: Biography: Pat Frank

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Pat Frank is the pseudonym of Harry Hart Frank, an American journalist and government consultant. He is best known for his 1959 novel Alas, Babylon, which depicts the consequences of a global thermonuclear war.

Frank was born in Chicago on May 5, 1908, but lived in Florida as an adult. He began his career as a journalist, writing for newspapers, magazines, and government agencies. He served overseas with the Office of War Information during World War II and acted as a correspondent. He also worked as a correspondent during the Korean War.

When he began writing novels in the 1940s, Frank drew upon his experience working with the government and the military. Of primary concern to Frank, as to many at the time, was the ever-present threat of nuclear war and the horrific effects of radiation poisoning. In Frank’s first novel, the satirical Mr. Adam (1946), an accident at a nuclear power plant releases radiation into the earth’s atmosphere, leaving all men sterile but one. Frank’s novel Forbidden Area, published in 1956, depicts the fighting of a nuclear war some time in the future. Frank’s other novels include Hold Back the Night and An Affair of State.

When he began writing Alas, Babylon, Frank had recently completed a magazine assignment that took him to the headquarters of the Strategic Air Command, and was thinking seriously about how America would survive a nuclear war. He set the novel in the fictional town of Fort Repose, based on the real-life community of Mount Dora. The realism of the book is what makes it so chillingly immediate to readers then and today.

Although he is most famous for his novels, Frank’s expertise was grounded in real life, not fiction. In 1961, Frank received the American Heritage Foundation Award and acted as an advisor for NASA. In 1962, Frank published a nonfiction book on how to survive a nuclear attack, entitled How to Survive the H-Bomb—and Why, and from 1963 to 1964, he worked as a consultant for the Department of Defense.

Frank died on October 12, 1964, of acute pancreatitis.

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