The Last Days of Night
by Graham Moore


West Maui Book Club Discussion Questions

Please feel free to use them, online or off, with attribution. Aloha and mahalo for visiting our site!
Any page numbers refer to iPad edition.


1 Consider the inventions by Edison, Westinghouse, Tesla, Bell, and Ford ~ from the lightbulb and telephone to Roentengology and the automobile. How do they influence our lives today?

2 From these inventions, is it any wonder that lawsuits abounded? Edison issued more than 300 lawsuits against Westginhouse and over 600 against Bell. Which do you think was the greater impetus for legal action - ego or greed?

3 Atty. Paul Cravath believed Westinghouse created objects. Tesla created ideas. While Edison…was buy creating an empire. (Pg 105) Ie: Edison invented a system of invention. (Pg 172) How different did you see these men?

4 The foundation of Paul Cravath’s council topic centered on the question: Who invented the lightbulb? In particular, who was the “who,” what was invented, and what was the definition relating to “the” versus “a” lightbulb? (Pgs 30-33) Did he succeed in proving Westinghouse innocent? What happened at the Supreme Court level, which by then Westinghouse had invented the “double-stopper” filament.

5 What do you believe connected Nikola Tesla so thoroughly to Agnes Huntington? What was it that they needed from each other or shared with each other?

6 Discuss the military term “reverse salient” defined by Bell as “a point of such obvious weakness that its enemy cannot help but take advantage.” (Pg 282-283). What was Edison’s? Agnes was the one to announce it: “The lawsuit!” He was running his business into the red to beat Westinghouse. Undercutting his prices so severely that he’s barely eking out a profit.” Enter JP Morgan with his 60% share of the company. Enter Charles Coffin of the Thomas-Huston Electric Company to become General Electric’s first CEO after the Edison-Westinghouse merger.

7 Edison died at his home. His last breath contained in a test tube that Henry Ford encouraged him to entrap. Westinghouse died resigned from business three years after the financial panic of 1907. Tesla died penniless and alone in room 3327 of The New Yorker Hotel. Bell died at his private Nova Scotia estate. Discuss how for some wealth comes and goes, but for others its spared.

8 How did each person get away with their crimes? Or did they? Paul Cravath broke into Harold Brown’s office (inventor of the electrical chair) and convinced Tesla to give up his Westinghouse royalties to the company could survive. Westinghouse’s men burned down Tesla’s laboratory. Edison and JP Morgan installed a spy, Reginald Fessenden, inside Westinghouse’s business. Agnes Huntington and mother created false identities after stealing an expensive dress from Mary Endicott at the home where Fannie cleaned.
Discussion Questions

We'll add publisher questions if and when they're available; in the meantime, use these LitLovers talking points to help start a discussion for The Last Days of Night…then take off on your own:

1. Talk about the role of the lightbulb, that small pear-shaped device, in changing the face of civilization. Can you imagine life without it?

2. What do you think about the two great giants of American science and manufacturing: Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse? Are you surprised at the manner in which Moore portrays Edison, an American icon? How do the two men differ?

3. Can you explain the legal suit that Edison initiated against Westinghouse? In what way did Westinghouse's bulb differ from Edison's?

4. Does Graham Moore do a credible job in breaking down the science of electricity, especially the differences between AC and DC current?

5. How did Nikola Tesla revolutionize AC current? Do you think it possible/probable in real life that Edison might have made an attempt on Tesla's life? Or did Graham add that plot point to build fictional suspense?

6. How was Nikola Tesla different from the two rivals at the heart of this story? In what way was his "genius" different from that of Edison or Westinghouse? What drove Tesla, as opposed to the other two men?

7. Talk about the role of J.P. Morgan and his insistence that the two men settle their differences. Was his "coup" of Edison's General Electric fair?

8. In the end, is it possible to actually say who invented the light bulb? What role did each of the three men—Edison, Tesla, and Westinghouse—play in its development? Consider this passage from the book:
For Edison who loved the audience it was the performance. Westinghouse was different as he loved the products themselves and he made them better than anyone else. Westinghouse did not want to sell the most but wanted to make the best. Tesla, the third leg, only cared for the ideas themselves. Once he had an idea, he was done, he knew he had solved the problem and moved on.

(Questions by LitLovers. Please feel free to use them, online or off, with attribution. Thanks.)

WMBC Questions compiled by: Elaine Gallant
West Maui Book Club
Aug. 2020