Monday, July 17, 2017
Graham Moore, THE LAST DAYS OF NIGHT
If even half of what this book says is true, Edison was one of the most unethical, revolting (no pun intended) men on the planet in the 1880s. Westinghouse wasn't much better; J.P. Morgan and the rest of the businessmen come off as soulless and, at times, petty. The book is told in 3rd person but focalized through Paul Cravath, the young and somewhat idealistic lawyer hired by Westinghouse, out to prove his chops in NYC. The fight was ostensibly about who created the first lightbulb; Edison sued Westinghouse 312 times to assert his claims. I lost track of all the countersuing. The other question was whether Direct Current or Alternating Current would prevail. At one point, Edison fed false facts to newspapers and tested Westinghouse's A/C on dogs, killing them to prove that it was deadly. There are some odd touches; at the heads of chapters, Moore includes quotes from Steve Jobs in this book about 1880s New York; they felt jarring to me. But overall, the historical details are well managed; it's a compelling story, and toward the end I was race-reading, wondering how on earth Cravath was going to manage it all.