Synopses & Reviews
From the National Book Award-winning author of Slaves in the Family
, a riveting true life/true crime narrative of the partnership between the murderer who invented the movies and the robber baron who built the railroads.
One hundred and thirty years ago Eadweard Muybridge invented stop-motion photography, anticipating and making possible motion pictures. He was the first to capture time and play it back for an audience, giving birth to visual media and screen entertainments of all kinds. Yet the artist and inventor Muybridge was also a murderer who killed coolly and meticulously, and his trial is one of the early instances of a media sensation. His patron was railroad tycoon (and former California governor) Leland Stanford, whose particular obsession was whether four hooves of a running horse ever left the ground at once. Stanford hired Muybridge and his camera to answer that question. And between them, the murderer and the railroad mogul launched the age of visual media.
Set in California during its frontier decades, The Tycoon and the Inventor interweaves Muybridge's quest to unlock the secrets of motion through photography, an obsessive murder plot, and the peculiar partnership of an eccentric inventor and a driven entrepreneur. A tale from the great American West, this popular history unspools a story of passion, wealth, and sinister ingenuity.
"Uncovering an enigmatic figure whose complicated relationship with a railroad tycoon helped to usher in the proto-motion picture industry, Ball, a National Book Award-winner for 1998's Slaves in the Family, constructs a readable, dual biography rife with ambition, greed, corruption, and murder. Concentrating on each man's ascendance in their respective fields, Ball gracefully guides readers toward the confluence of these two disparate individuals' lives. Leland Stanford, former California governor and president of the Southern Pacific railroad, hired Edward Muybridge, famed photographer and eccentric, to document the former's mansion in Sacramento. However, it was not until 1872, when Muybridge captured Stanford's prized horses in motion (the mogul was interested in whether all four of a horse's legs ever simultaneously left the ground), that their relationship took on any lasting significance. While the author's research and passion for the subject reaffirm Muybridge's place as a pioneer of 19th-century photography and motion pictures, Ball's emphasis on Muybridge's 1874 murder of his wife's lover and his eventual acquittal brought about by a defense team arranged by Stanford falls short of scandalous drama. It is a minor default in an otherwise enlightening tale of power, the wedding of art and technology, and tragedy. Photos & illus. Agent: Kris Dahl, International Creative Management. (Jan.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
“Engrossing....Genius, it seems, is almost always accompanied by eccentricity, if not madness. Those rare instances of genuine brilliance that we find scattered throughout history often appear to have come at great cost to the minds that produced them. The work of Eadweard Muybridge is no exception. While Muybridge’s photographs are widely known, his personal life has been largely neglected, which seems incredible now that, in Edward Ball’s The Inventor and the Tycoon, we have the whole fascinating story, full of strange and surprising details. Although Muybridge was a chameleon-like figure throughout his life, Ball uses exhaustive research and vivid details to pin him down so we can have a good look at him.” Candice Millard, New York Times Book Review
"Fascinating…rich in history. For author Edward Ball, winner of the National Book Award for Slaves in the Family, Muybridge's projections were the beginnings of the media culture that holds us in thrall today.” Matthew Price, Newsday
“Engaging…This story has all the elements of a fascinating HBO drama — wealth, greed, sex, adultery, genius, betrayal, murder, scandal and tragedy. At the center of Edward Ball's compelling yet complicated biographical saga of two formidable men during The Gilded Age of late 19th-century California is an unlikely alliance of invention whose peculiar tale is vividly telling of the place and times." Don Oldenburg, USA Today
“Superb....Ball is an expert himself in kidnapping time and bringing dead men and women back to life. On the surface, Leland Stanford and Eadweard Muybridge were an odd couple. Set securely in the context of the culture of the Gilded Age, The Inventor and the Tycoon provides a beautifully written account of the collaboration of these two ambitious, contentious and ultimately incompatible men.” Glenn C. Altschuler, San Francisco Chronicle
“In The Inventor and the Tycoon, Ball, author of the National Book Award-winning Slaves in the Family, has brilliantly fused the stories of two larger-than-life figures into a single glittering object: part social-cultural history, part melodrama, part chronicle of American self-invention.....[O]ne gallops through this book with undiminished ardor [and] Ball carefully sculpts prose of bright exuberance.” Dan Cryer, Boston Globe
“Ball tells this interesting tale of invention and mayhem in The Inventor and the Tycoon. Ball’s book pairs the stories of Muybridge, gifted photographer and one of the founders of motion pictures, and Stanford, creator of the Central Pacific Railroad and the university that still bears his name. Detailed and thoroughly researched, The Inventor and the Tycoon is at its best describing the milieu of a frontier world where ordinary men like Leland Stanford could amass great fortunes, and where Edward Muybridge could find what genius he possessed (and evade justice in the process).” Tim Brady, Minneapolis Star Tribune
“The Inventor and the Tycoon involves capitalism, money, murder, trains, horse racing, photography and the beginning of moving pictures. Ball has infused the famous and the infamous into a story so large it might as well be fiction.” Seattle Post-Intelligencer
About the Author
Edward Ball is the author of four works of nonfiction, including the bestselling, National Book Award-winning Slaves in the Family. Born and raised in the South, he attended Brown University and received his MFA from the University of Iowa before coming to New York and working as an art critic for the Village Voice. He lives in Connecticut and teaches writing at Yale University.