The Last Days of Night

This fascinating historical novel by the author of the Oscar-winning screenplay for The Imitation Game begins in 1888, when two great inventors, Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse, are vying to control the spread of electricity across the country. Its protagonist, Paul Cravath, is a young attorney hired by Westinghouse to defend him against Edison’s multiple lawsuits charging patent violations. The immediate battle is over the right to manufacture light bulbs, but the real war, with billions of dollars at stake, is over the kind of electricity that will be used everywhere—Edison’s direct current or Westinghouse’s superior alternating current. If this sounds like a boring business story, it’s not. The so-called “current war” was a truly nasty business; Edison, it turns out, was a remarkably malicious man, and people died because of actions he took. Also figuring prominently in the novel are the mad Serbian genius Nikola Tesla and billionaire financier J. P. Morgan. These characters really existed, as did Anne Huntington, the Metropolitan Opera singer with whom Cravath fell in love.