A book review.
The worst thing about Graham Moore is he only has two books out. I’ll preface the rest of this review with my personal bias up front. Last Days of Night is the best historic fiction I have ever read.
Moore takes us through the ramifications of George Westinghouse and Thomas Edison’s competition to be the first to bring electric light to America. The story follows a young, unassuming attorney Paul Cravath in 1888 New York. Cravath is catapulted into the center of the largest court case in US History when he agrees to represent George Westinghouse’s defense against Thomas Edison who is suing him for $1,000,000,000 (approximately $25,802,100,000 today) for copyright infringement.
The race to ignite New York (then the rest of America) with electric bulbs and rid society of the greasy darkness of smelly gas lamps that currently light the world. Edison claimed he invented the incandescent light bulb and Westinghouse infringed on his product. Westinghouse claimed Edison didn’t have a working bulb and lied to secure his patent. Paul Cravath finds himself wedged between two electrical powerhouses on an anything goes path to victory [or destruction].
Did Thomas Edison lie to secure his patent?
Edison only allowed people to view the bulb for less than a minute at a time, claiming his design would be stolen if they were permitted to observe the groundbreaking technology any longer. Westinghouse argued this was because Edison’s bulb exploded if it stayed on too long. The war was fought through many parameters, but the main query is, “Who got there first, and how?”
Last Days of Night introduces us to a considerably darker Thomas Edison than we met in our grade-school history books. Edison is implicated in a murder-for-hire scheme on Nikola Tesla. He invented the electric chair in an attempt to discredit Westinghouse’s use of “alternating current” electricity. (It backfired and the first person sentenced to death this way suffered horribly.) Edison is called, “The Devil Himself” and is willing to do anything to achieve his goal of lighting the world; lying, cheating, even killing his way to the top.
Moore captures perfectly the uncertainty, bravery, and charisma it took for Cravath, an unknown attorney, to best the most brilliant inventor and entrepreneur in the world. The Last Days of Night is a whirlwind of US history that links Edison to JP Morgan, Grover Cleveland, Henry Ford, and other heavy hitters of the late 1800’s and demands the reader question everything they thought they knew about how America led the way in lighting the future of the world.
Pick up your copy of Last Days of Night here and let Graham Moore illuminate your world with the history of electric light.
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Secret Coran-Stacy is an author, entrepreneur, and artist living the dream as a middle class suburbanite in Central Arkansas. Find out more by visiting www.secretstacy.com