“The Last Days of Night” by Graham Moore

Publisher: Penguin Random House

Pub. Date: Aug. 16, 2016last-days-of-night

Where to begin?  This historical fiction regarding (for some) the often yawn causing subject of science is a; legal thriller, mystery, moral vs. immoral, honesty vs. corruption,  genius vs. insanity tale that even manages to get a bit of a romance into the story-line.   The novel is based on actual events and real people.  At the end of the book Graham Moore has so many pages of documented research in author’s notes that it becomes difficult to identify how he was able to spin these fact based non-fiction truths into an engaging novel.

In New York City during 1888 gas lamps still lit the city streets.  The miracle of electric light had just begun and was nowhere near perfected.  The novel opens with a young lawyer, Paul Cravath, watching in horror as a utility man, in the process of wiring electric lights, is fried to death before his and other New Yorkers’ eyes.  I had never heard of Cravath before, but it appears that in his later life he founded the basics for the modern law firm.  I also had never heard of the over-looked Serbian-American inventor Nikola Tesla who possessed an Einstein type of brilliance.  Telsa was instrumental in the development of electric light.  He went on to become the inventor of the x-ray.   He had the unfortunate nickname of “the mad-scientist”.  Still, he was decades ahead of his times.  All the other characters are well known to just about all in present day.

Famous men such as Alexander Gramham Bell, Thomas Edison, George Westinghouse, and J.P. Morgan are the other main characters.  The gist of the story is how Cravath somehow finds himself in the position of being Westinghouse’s lawyer against Edison on what at the time was the battle of the titans, known in history books as the “War of the Currents”.    The story was intense as well as exciting filled with tidbits of information on the famous men’s dispositions and moral fiber.  I confess I was shocked, more than once, on just how far each went to gain what they needed, no amount of backstabbing was considered off limits. And, they each knew this and proudly boasted of trusting no one.  Who knew that so much drama went into the invention of the light bulb?

Moore is a winner of a Best Screenplay Oscar, so I would not be too surprised if the book becomes a film.  I hope the soon-to-be viewers of the movie will choose to read the book first for you will not be able to put it down.   There is absolutely nothing to yawn about inside the pages of The Last Days of Night.   And, I for one will never again turn on a light-switch in the same thoughtless way.

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