Customer Reviews for

The Inventor and the Tycoon: The Murderer Eadweard Muybridge, the Entrepreneur Leland Stanford, and the Birth of Moving Pictures

Average Rating 3.5
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(5)

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

Brilliant and boring

This book is incredibly well written, with phrases like "buxom cheeks" and other poetic vocabulary. It has much too much detail, and it seems to strain at times to make these two men represent two different trends in society. It ends up being boring because of its sheer...
This book is incredibly well written, with phrases like "buxom cheeks" and other poetic vocabulary. It has much too much detail, and it seems to strain at times to make these two men represent two different trends in society. It ends up being boring because of its sheer length. I could only read 2/3 of it before I dropped out. I may come back to it later, though.

posted by PVF on January 27, 2013

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Most Helpful Critical Review

3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

The Inventor and the Tycoon is the story of how moving pictures

The Inventor and the Tycoon is the story of how moving pictures first came to be. It's the story of an a quest by railroad tycoon Leland Stanford and photographer Edward Muybridge trying to answer one question: does a horse ever leave the ground entirely while running. ...
The Inventor and the Tycoon is the story of how moving pictures first came to be. It's the story of an a quest by railroad tycoon Leland Stanford and photographer Edward Muybridge trying to answer one question: does a horse ever leave the ground entirely while running. The book is also largely about Edward Muybridge's trial for murder.

The topic is really interesting. However, I really didn't enjoy Mr Ball's style of writing. He jumps back and forth between the murder and the moving picture. He jumps back and forth between Stanford and Muybridge, and seems to randomly jumps to different points in their lives. In a few passages, Mr. Ball makes an allegation for how Stanford or Muybridge saw an event, and offers no actual evidence of his allegation.

The topic is very interesting, but if you decide to read this book, bring a big bag of patience.

posted by chellandandy on February 7, 2013

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  • Posted February 7, 2013

    The Inventor and the Tycoon is the story of how moving pictures

    The Inventor and the Tycoon is the story of how moving pictures first came to be. It's the story of an a quest by railroad tycoon Leland Stanford and photographer Edward Muybridge trying to answer one question: does a horse ever leave the ground entirely while running. The book is also largely about Edward Muybridge's trial for murder.

    The topic is really interesting. However, I really didn't enjoy Mr Ball's style of writing. He jumps back and forth between the murder and the moving picture. He jumps back and forth between Stanford and Muybridge, and seems to randomly jumps to different points in their lives. In a few passages, Mr. Ball makes an allegation for how Stanford or Muybridge saw an event, and offers no actual evidence of his allegation.

    The topic is very interesting, but if you decide to read this book, bring a big bag of patience.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 27, 2013

    Brilliant and boring

    This book is incredibly well written, with phrases like "buxom cheeks" and other poetic vocabulary. It has much too much detail, and it seems to strain at times to make these two men represent two different trends in society. It ends up being boring because of its sheer length. I could only read 2/3 of it before I dropped out. I may come back to it later, though.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 31, 2013

    Wasted plot

    An interesting idea for a plot but wasted on too much detail. The book should be half the length it is, loses the reader between needless background and observations by the author. Lost my interest about 1/2 way. If you're looking for a book on history of America and what made our country, look elsewhere for the development of the railroad system. Don't buy.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 22, 2013

    Okay book.

    I usually like this type of book, but was disappointed by the lack of editing somewhere along its production. Got tired of reading the same descriptions again and again. If the book was half the pages it is, would have been much better. Sorry, Mr. Ball.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 17, 2013

    In the age of cut and paste, this book should have been about 20

    In the age of cut and paste, this book should have been about 200 pages long.One gets lost in how the story flips around. It's terrible to lose the plot and story by the literary cuteness. It seems as if the publishing editors would have stopped this rambling mass of pointless history. How many times does a scene have to be repeated? I seem as if Ball started and stopped many times, over a great period of time, and forgot what he had written. The history is good, the geography is sound, but I grew tired of reading it and quit. What a waste of money

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 15, 2013

    Not great but historically interesting.

    Very good but too much detail on film production. Too technical.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 6, 2013

    Interesting reading of the history of two men whos lives cross.

    Interesting reading of the history of two men whos lives cross. The book bounces around a little too much so you have to pay close attention to the details.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 5, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    The InvenĀ­tor and the Tycoon by Edward Ball is a non-fiction boo

    The Inven­tor and the Tycoon by Edward Ball is a non-fiction book about two pio­neers, a mur­der and motion pic­tures. The author is a National Book Award win­ner for his pre­vi­ous book Slaves in the Family.

    The book is divided into three parts:
    Part one goes back in tome from the 1880s to the 1860s when Stan­ford became a rich man from his hum­ble begin­nings as a shop owner. At the same time Ead­weard Muy­bridge becomes a photographer.

    The sec­ond part is less orga­nized and takes place dur­ing Stanford’s youth (1830s – 1870s not nec­es­sar­ily in order) and skips to Muybridge’s 1876 mur­der trial.

    Two years into his mar­riage, Muy­bridge dis­cov­ered that his wife Flora was cheat­ing on him with her friend Harry Larkyns. Dur­ing this time, Muy­bridge also found out that his son Flo­rado might have been fathered by his wife’s lover. In Octo­ber of that year, Muy­bridge tracked down Larkyns and shot him point blank. Later that evening Larkyns died and Muy­bridge was arrested.

    Dur­ing the trial the defense pleaded insan­ity even though the defen­dant fully admit­ted that his actions were delib­er­ate and planned. How­ever, the jury still found Muy­bridge not guilty on the grounds of jus­ti­fi­able homicide.

    Part two then jumps back to Muybridge’s youth (1830s) and ends in the 1850s and 1860s.

    The third part of the book is more straight­for­ward, start­ing where part 2 ended to Muybridge’s death at the begin­ning of the 20th Century.

    In The Inven­tor and the Tycoon, author Edward Ball has infused the famous and the infa­mous into a story so large it might as well be fic­tion. The story involves cap­i­tal­ism, money, mur­der, trains, horse rac­ing ,pho­tog­ra­phy and the begin­ning of mov­ing pictures.

    Leland Stan­ford, “the rich­est man west of the Mis­sis­sippi”, rail­road tycoon, rob­ber baron, patron of the arts and a hip­pophile had one ques­tion on his mind: do horses’ hooves leave the ground when they gal­lop. Enter pho­tog­ra­pher Ead­weard Muy­bridge who will try to prove Mr. Stan­ford right and, unbe­knownst to the two of them, usher the world into the age of movies.

    Mr. Ball teases the reader by not telling the story in a chrono­log­i­cal order, we start with Muy­bridge shock­ing a bunch of rich folks with his horse-in-motion dis­play, move on to a chap­ter about mur­der, to a his­tory of Stan­ford (for which Stan­ford Uni­ver­sity is named after), his rail­roads, Muybridge’s trial, Stanford’s fas­ci­na­tion with horses, pho­tog­ra­phy, the trial’s ver­dict and more. As you can see, the author plants a seed and leaves it alone by mov­ing on to another sub­ject which might or might not be related only to come back to the sub­ject later on. While I am not a fan of this style, Mr. Ball made it work and the sev­eral cliffhang­ers kept me hun­gry for more.

    Due to the struc­ture of the book, the author repeats sev­eral key facts which, if were told in order, the reader might have been able to keep in their heads. The struc­ture is odd, but it tells the story of two odd peo­ple (even though I have to admit that Muy­bridge is cer­tainly the one who is more strange) and some­how seems fit­ting. Muy­bridge dressed down, smoked a corn­cob pipe, changed the spelling of his name sev­eral time and mar­ries a woman half his age. Stan­ford headed a large com­pany build­ing the west­ern half of the transcon­ti­nen­tal rail­road, becom­ing a US Sen­a­tor and California’s governor.

    One of the more inter­est­ing aspects of the book was a short part at the end where Muy­bridge, who invented a “mov­ing pic­ture” met super-inventor Thomas Edi­son. The Wiz­ard of Menlo Park is not por­trayed very kindly in the book, he “had a habit of bor­row­ing the work of oth­ers and not return­ing it”, tak­ing Muybridge’s idea and basi­cally mak­ing it his own while throw­ing the pho­tog­ra­pher out and tak­ing credit for the ages.

    The book is fun to read, Mr. Ball cre­ates scenes which seemed to be taken out of a novel and make the read­ing move fast. Pep­pered through­out the book are pho­tographs demon­strat­ing Muybridge’s skill and evolv­ing exper­i­ments of early cin­e­matic magic.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 3, 2013

    a different era.

    author kept repeating himself many times, could, nor did i wish to further read this book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 25, 2013

    Interesting story

    Very interesting. Not boring at all

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 9, 2013

    Not sure I can keep plodding on

    I thought this was going to be a true crime- not! On page 101 and have already started skimming. I rarely give up on a book but i might have to with this one. Way too much detail on photography - too much detail on everything. Where is the STORY?

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  • Posted March 9, 2013

    Flicker of Interest

    I became interested in Eadweard Muybridge (his spellings varied) when I was looking into the career of Leland Stanford and the railroad barons. Anyone who has an interest in the settlement of the American West, the remarkable development of applied technologies during the second half of the Nineteenth Century, or the social developments of the era (including the Gilded Age) may have an interest in this book.

    That said, readers should be skeptical about the author's suggestions that Muybridge is essentially responsible for movies, computer screens, and video displays (who knows? — even the Internet?!).

    Muybridge and Stanford are sufficiently interesting that the author, Edward Ball, had no need to spice up his narrative (and curious readers may be better served by Walter R. Borneman's _Rival Rails_).

    What is worse, the author writes as if readers in the Internet Age have attention spans of roughly 3 minutes or 3 pages, whichever comes first. Perhaps he hopes to turn this book into a motion picture (thank you Mr Muybridge) with artful flashbacks, colorful changes of scene (Sacramento! London! Yosemite! Paris! San Francisco!), and breathless you-are-there reportage.

    Unfortunately, the author's chopped-up narrative devices make only a hash of an interesting and important period and some of the colorful characters who deserve to be remembered with less blur.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 23, 2013

    Wonderful!

    Wonderful book, fabulously written. E. Ball jumps around just enough to where you don't get bored with one person and you can picture it all in your mind. Great pictures were added. Also nice to read about the happenings of the west during this time period. When is Mr. Ball coming out with his next?

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  • Posted February 23, 2013

    Disappointed

    It seemed there was alot of supposition and littel substance. This book could have been written in 50 pages or less including the table of contents. While the story was interesting it had little to due with the murder and more to do with the backgrounds of both men. I will admit it is nice to know how Stanford University came to be named.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 17, 2013

    Highly recommended

    Excellent account of the Gilded Age and of the collaboration and friendship between two men of vastly different social start, who come together to create what has become the modern film industry. Interning account of a little known occurrence.

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  • Posted February 15, 2013

    The Inventor and the Tycoon

    Rather dry , but a lot of CA. history I had never heard before. The history on Leland Stanford is really an eye opener. Greed has been a motivator in CA for eons!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 15, 2013

    Good story - could have been better

    I love history in general and enjoyed the facts of this book. However, I thought the author would have done us all a favor by not jumping around so much. I like to learn how two stories develop in their own spheres and understand how they combine to create the story the author wants to tell. This author seemed to jump ahead, telling the reader the end before the reader even understood how it all began.
    It was a bit hard to follow. The characters themselves and the historical context of the story were both very interesting. Out of the five stars, I'd give it two or three at the most.

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  • Posted February 15, 2013

    Recommend

    I am enjoying reading this book. I lived in San Francisco for many years and remember the names of the streets. It is fun getting the 1800 view of the city.

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  • Posted February 15, 2013

    Interesting historical story

    I have not finished the book but so far have found it to be very interesing about this period in our history. While the Civil War was going on on the East Coast, the West Coast was dealing with other issues of growth. I have enjoyed learning more about this time of our history, especially after having lived in Calitfornia and hearing some of these names attached to various public institutions.

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  • Posted February 15, 2013

    Not "The Devil in the White City"!

    Thought this book would be more exciting like "The Devil in the White City". Much of this book is dry exposition. I found I did not like the characters in the book. No one was sympathetic. I was disappointed in this book.

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