The Last Days of Night
By Graham Moore
Graham Moore is making quite a name for himself as a fictionaliser of historical lives. He won an Oscar for the screenplay of The Imitation Game, which reinvented the personal and professional life of British mathematician Alan Turing. His first novel, The Sherlockian, reimagined the personal and professional life of Scottish writer Arthur Conan Doyle. The Last Days of Night treads a similar path, reinventing the personal and professional lives of inventors Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse. The drama centres, as a Steve Jobs-bashing quote from Bill Gates suggests, on a tech rivalry. New York in 1888 was about to go electric. Keen that no one share the glory or money, Edison sued Westinghouse for US$1 billion. This power struggle is essentially a “war of currents”: Edison’s direct versus Westinghouse’s alternating. Mediating the shocks is young lawyer Paul Cravath, hired to defend AC George. The suit attracted some powerful figures, including J.P. Morgan, who sided with Westinghouse against the bullish, bullying Edison. Unmistakably the dark villain of the piece, Edison is magnetic if a little two-dimensional. The inevitable big- or small-screen adaptation will streamline nicely.