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If You Only Read One Book This Year…

August 3, 2020

….let it be this one.

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Harold Brown of Janesville, Wisconsin will play a role in the creation of the electric chair. His involvement with Thomas Edison as they both worked to undermine George Westinghouse regarding A/C electric power is but one of the amazing and intriguing spinoffs from a pure gem of a book.

Edison and Westinghouse are in a titanic struggle in the courts over patent rights. One of the strategies undertaken by Edison, with Brown as a player, is to have the state of New York enact the use of the electric chair as a form of execution, using AC current. In so doing, the aim is to undermine the brand name of Westinghouse and the use of such current in places like Portland, Oregon. After all, the business argument goes, who would want the same type of power used to execute a criminal also being used to light a farmhouse on the other side of the nation? The Last Days Of Night fell into my hands quite by accident, and it is a remarkable find. So much that I feel compelled to promote it on this blog.

Late Friday night, on the one year anniversary of the purchase of our entire Victorian home in Madison, which was constructed in 1892, I desired to find a book about some historical event that took place at that same time. I did a Google search and discovered some good books praised by  newspapers  and critics.  The Washington Post had applauded this book as one of the best the year it was published.

Graham Moore has used a powerful storyline to create a punchy and throughly enjoyable work of historical fiction. The smart pacing of the book moves the story along while the creation of dialogue brings forth laughter and insight, not only for the period in which the story occurs, but also for the scientific inquiries that are underway at that time.

While I am constantly reading books each year, and admittedly find reason to applaud and promote many of them, I wish my readers not to mistake my fervent desire to have this book read as if it is just another volume to have risen to the top of the pile. This book is simply unique in recreating the mood and time of 1888 New York City, and the the scope of the legal battle undertaken by Paul Cravath.  The great personalities come to life, with none other than Nikola Telsa as the most perplexing.  No one can claim being a genius is easy.  What this book allows is for an understanding about people with grand and exquisite ideas.  How ideas are manipulated. And how the means for safekeeping them from the hands of others…through any means…becomes acceptable. 

The book was written and published in 2016 and stumbling upon it has been nothing but a tremendous joy. It does give one pause, however, to wonder about the number of books for whatever reason, that never get onto the radars of most readers.  The 1892 home I own with James gets the thanks for this incredible find.

And so it goes.

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