NEW YORK — The days were long and grueling for Dr. Robert Peter Gale as he labored to help save the victims of the Soviet Union's Chernobyl nuclear plant disaster. But every night, following his work with what would ultimately total 500 men and women injured in the explosion on April 26, 1986, the UCLA physician, scientist and bone marrow transplant specialist would sit down at his bedside table at Moscow's Hotel Sovietskaya and record his thoughts on the day's activities.
Gale's bulging diary will form the core of "Chernobyl: The Final Warning," the first book to be written by a participant in the Chernobyl rescue effort. To be co-authored by attorney Tom Hauser, author of "Missing," the book will be published in 1988 by Warner Books.
No financial details were revealed about the transaction that was completed following an auction here last week. But Robert Gottlieb of the William Morris Agency here did say that "it went in a very large auction for a very substantial amount of money."
Gottlieb added that Warner acquired both hardback and soft-cover rights to the book.
Reached by telephone Tuesday afternoon at his office on the UCLA campus, Gale said that "a good half" of the book would deal with the story of the disaster at Chernobyl. Two people died instantly on the site of the explosion near Kiev, and within two months, 29 other fatalities followed in hospitals in Moscow.
But "the story that hasn't been told," Gale said, is "that of the personalities involved: of the Soviet doctors, the victims themselves, the Soviet government leaders--the non-professional side of it."
Internationally renowned for his bone marrow transplant work, Gale left Los Angeles for Moscow on May 1, the first American physician to lend his services to the Soviets after the events at Chernobyl. Since then, Gale has traveled to the Soviet Union at least once a month to continue his efforts with the five Chernobyl victims who remain hospitalized in Moscow.
In addition, Gale has been working closely with Soviet medical authorities on what he termed a "long-term, massive study of 135,000 people who were evacuated from around Chernobyl." Gale said those survivors will be part of a study that "will follow them for the rest of their lives."
Along with the scientific and personal aspects of the Chernobyl story, Gale said he and his co-author intend to offer both a discussion of the future of nuclear energy and an examination of the role of Chernobyl and nuclear energy in Soviet-American relations.
"I guess if we had to liken it to some result we want to achieve, it would maybe be like Rachel Carson's 'Silent Spring,' " Gale said. "Maybe not the conclusion, but certainly the analysis. We would like it to be as profound as that."
A Writing Schedule
Gale said he and Hauser have agreed to a writing schedule "whereby every other week for about a month and a half we spend five hours a day together." To facilitate that program, Gale said of his co-author, "He's going to move into my house."
Soon, Gale said he hopes to have Hauser accompany him on one of his trips to Moscow and Kiev to meet with the Chernobyl victims and the Soviet physicians who have treated them.
While "political complexities" have precluded writing about his experiences at Chernobyl before now, Gale said that "interestingly, the Soviets feel it is important as well. They have encouraged me very strongly to publish."
Gale is the author of 13 medical texts. The Chernobyl book will be his first venture into the popular press.
As to possible film or television treatment of the story, Gottlieb said "I think you can expect" feature or television adaptation of the Gale-Hauser project. He said foreign interest in the book has been particularly strong.
"We've been asked to sell the book abroad before we even have a manuscript," Gottlieb said.