In the Matter of Nikola Tesla: A Romance of the Mind

In the Matter of Nikola Tesla: A Romance of the Mind

by Anthony Flacco


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"It is a monumental task, this getting into the mind of a man as complex and extraordinary as Tesla. Anthony Flacco is up to the task. IN THE MATTER OF NIKOLA TESLA: A ROMANCE OF THE MIND reads at times like a psychological exploration worthy of Dostoyevsky, at other times like one of John le Carre's espionage novels, and even sometimes like Joseph Campbell's mythical 'hero's journey.'" —NY JOURNAL OF BOOK REVIEWS

This fictionalized story of the true-life genius Nikola Tesla—arguably the most influential inventor in history—offers a "young-to-old" portrayal in the form of A Romance of the Mind. It reveals his impassioned inner life and his secret love for Karina, the muse no one else can see who brings him life-altering inspirations.

Karina may be invisible to others but she is exquisitely real to him. It is for her, for the life and the work that she shares with him, that this gallant, passionate man maintains a loner's life even when he is working among many others and subject to their constant temptations.

"Anthony Flacco's IN THE MATTER OF NIKOLA TESLA is really fascinating—especially for me as I've been very interested in Nikola Tesla for many years. I believe Tesla was one of the most special characters of last century. I hope that this book will soon become a film!" —Mario Spezi, NEW YORK TIMES bestselling author of THE MONSTER OF FLORENCE

"Flacco does an admirable job of showing us a man who was sometimes the brilliant, prescient Master—the man with an eidetic memory—and sometimes the helpless dupe of lesser, venial men... A beautifully crafted handling of a difficult—and not always sympathetic—subject."—HISTORICAL NOVEL SOCIETY

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781626811607
Publisher: Diversion Books
Publication date: 10/08/2013
Pages: 310
Sales rank: 761,773
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 7.80(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Anthony Flacco was born in Oklahoma and grew up in Colorado Springs, Colorado, one of four brothers. Their father was an Air Force pilot and mother was a talented artist and painter.

His background as a trained stage actor with over 2,000 performances under his Actors Equity membership provides the primary basis for his critically acclaimed ability to empathize with a wide cross-section of personalities. He moved into screenwriting when he was selected for the prestigious American Film Institute fellowship in Screenwriting. He received his MFA in screenwriting after winning AFI's Paramount Studios Fellowship Award and was then selected out of 2,000 entrants for the Walt Disney Studios Screenwriting Fellowship, where he spent a year writing for the Touchstone Pictures division. His screenwriting experience drives narrative stories that are visually compelling, whether for a movie theater or the screen of a reader's imagination.

He previous works include A Checklist for Murder , which was adapted into an NBC movie of the week, The Last Nightengale , The Hidden Man , and The Road Out Of Hell: The True Story of Sanford Clark and the Wineville Murders. Tiny Dancer , originally published in 2005, received international acclaim, being names "one of the 100 Most Noteworthy Books of 2005." It is being released for the first time in eBook format in January 2013.

He is an experienced public speaker and frequently gives seminars on crime writing, and is a featured speaker on writing for writers' conferences and clubs and serves as Editorial Consultant to Martin Literary Management in Seattle, WA.

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Read an Excerpt


1895 Menlo Park, New Jersey

Thomas Alva Edison stood in the deserted laboratory and gazed into a cloudless night, straining to see some distant sign of his rival's burning building. He quickly polished his glasses and slapped them on his nose, squinting toward the distant conurbation of Manhattan Island. He had not wasted a moment; as soon as the young messenger boy rushed in with news of the fire, Edison tossed the lad a copper to send him on his way and immediately turned to the window to scan for any sign of a distant glow.

The snapping cold air was crystalline and brought the pre-dawn horizon closer, but the great New York City sprawled some twenty-five miles away as the crow would fly, and there was no sign of fire. There was nothing out here to dim the glory of the stars and the silver-blue constellations, so clear and sharp they seemed to beam directly down onto this place and onto him.

He reassured himself that the lack of a glow in the sky could simply mean the destruction was over. A fast burn might be the expected thing for a five-story wooden building. Why not?

Why not indeed. Edison choked back the urge to gloat. He was painfully aware that such indulgences belong to people of lesser discipline. Venal people. Still if his worst rival had truly been devastated by fire, then 1895 promised to be most interesting. And the year was still young. He had finally lived to witness the season of the purge.

He smiled when the day's ironic date struck him: March 13 was only two days from the famed Ides of March on the old Roman Calendar. That was when the Romans rid themselves of that tyrant, Julius Caesar. Edison felt a whiff of pride over knowing that fact in spite of his grade school education.

He pressed his gaze toward the horizon again and strained to see any faint reddish colors, reminding himself that even if the fire still burned, it was hardly possible for the flames to be visible at this distance. Waste of time. Still ...

He belched for the second time since hearing of the blaze. Absorbing this news was like digesting a spicy meal. He fought to keep the hot sensation packed under his ample belly, though as a gentleman, he made no display of it. At the age of forty-eight, Edison believed in a successful man's need to maintain his dignity.

He accepted the tenet that it is never good for the soul to gloat over the suffering of others. Not even that of a certain ungrateful former employee who has eclipsed your accomplishments and set about to shatter your plans for a power system covering all of America — an employee who actually showed the gall and the sheer temerity to tell some popular magazine interviewer in words that burned themselves into Edison's memory the first time he read them: Thomas Edison "never discovered any basic science behind the universe's elemental forces," and he "merely constructs devices which rely upon the raw creativity of others."

The man had actually called Thomas Alva Edison, builder of the first practical light bulb, a mere tinkerer in the field of generated energy.

A tinkerer.

Edison's stomach lurched. The pain stabbed through his midsection the same way that it did back when he was a young boy chasing the plow horse too soon after dinner. In those long gone days, his mother's cure for a stomachache was a mixture of buttermilk and cornbread, but tonight the deep burn ate at him with a power no home remedy could quell.

It came from the gloating. He knew that. One particularly nasty little sin struggled to take control of his behavior. This gloating sought to make Edison sneer, chuckle, maybe laugh outright, perhaps even dance with glee and shout like a rambunctious schoolboy. The gloating assured him that any reasonable person would understand and condone an expression of joy from him.

But no. He had already resolved that no one would ever be able to say Thomas Edison was swept away by this news like some giddy miser who has cornered another man's gold. No need for that. Edison's reputation was established; his place in history was secure.

He turned in reaction to the thought and ran his gaze around the main laboratory: a long row of neat lab tables, each one a tableau of an ongoing experiment. Assistants toiled every working day, pounding out solutions to the challenges endlessly presented by Edison's designs.

"The Devil really is in the details," he liked to tell the boys in the lab. He also took it on faith that the Devil could be hammered right back out of the damned details if enough trained assistants were put to the task — each one a relentless perfectionist. Each one hungry to be noticed by the Boss.

The Boss, that would be him: Mother Edison's oversized, hard-of-hearing, semi-educated farm boy. For the humble lad who still lived inside the famous man, this silent workshop was a reassuring sight. All the more so on this night. Edison's electrical research laboratory was now the finest in all of America — no longer merely the biggest or the most expensive. From this night on, he could trust his army of inventions to march forth unopposed, hungry soldiers sacking the world's cities on his behalf. They would send back ever more fortune to him, ever more fame. And benefit humanity.

Alone inside that silvery moment, Edison silently affirmed that no matter how tempted he might be, he would never be so crude as to pay a visit to the blackened remains at the first crack of daylight. He would not stroll by and casually look out of the corner of his eye to see if thatman would be on his knees, filthy from sifting the ashes.

And even if he did decide to go and the two men's paths should happen to cross, Edison would never stoop to snubbing the arrogant bastard the way Edison got it from him back at the Chicago World's Fair. Why, the fool actually walked straight past him and a group of reporters with his head up in the clouds! Too preoccupied to merely tip his hat like any ordinary gentleman of the trade. Too "pure" for all of them.

Right there in front of the nosy journalists.

"Arrogant bastard" was the right term for him, sure enough. And so Edison repeated his position again, just to fix it in his mind — to engage in mockery now would be unseemly, beneath my station (even if no one could blame a man for being human, for suffering certain jealousies). The first Mrs. Edison liked to say the measure of your refinement isn't whether or not you feel temptation, it's in how you handle the urge. He figured she usually got such things right.

He took a deep breath and belched like a sailor. That's it, then, he thought. Time well spent. It was good to work the news down through his innards, chew it into cud, consider the many implications.

At last, when he was ready, he squared up his shoulders, took a deep breath, and issued himself a standing order: In the face of extreme temptation, the thing that matters most is to just hold everything inside. Use a battering ram if you have to, but stuff it fast and stuff it hard.

He knew the order was good, understood it with his own combination of horse sense and quick thinking. He vowed to live up to it.

On the heels of that decision came a larger realization — it carried a message from the tiny part of him that would always be a barefoot farm boy, running like the wind to catch a freight train and praying on his knees with a full heart. It chilled the bone marrow of the man he had become. He could not risk a single witness to any rejoicing, not here in the privacy of his darkened lab, not even in the silence of his heart of hearts. Otherwise trouble would descend upon him. It would surely find him whether his sin of gloating was witnessed here in this world or from the next.

You must do this, he assured himself, hold it all inside. This remained true even though the early gossip brought by the newsboy hinted neither the building nor the contents were insured against fire. That was such a spectacular turn of events it begged the question, did Holy Angels sing while everything burned?

Toss in the ancient Roman season for doing away with a tyrant, and a perfect picture came into view. Why deny it? Wouldn't any blathering fool understand that such sweet irony could never be a mere coincidence?

That part was a touch of the Divine. It made everything Perfect.



Twenty-one years earlier

Smiljan, Lika, Austria-Hungary

Reverend Milutin Tesla held out the teapot toward the town doctor, offering another refill. The scowling physician made no move to accept. "Please Doctor," Reverend Tesla urged in his softest tones, "wait until the storm eases up a little before you leave."

"No," the doctor growled. "This rain is too cold for midsummer. There will be others taking sick. Even those not known for delicate health." He did not need to add, like your son.

"Then let me apologize once more for his behavior," the Reverend continued. "Surely the fever caused his outburst tonight."

"Perhaps," the doctor sniffed. He rose to don his coat and offered them no relief from guilt over the indignities he suffered inside their home.

Reverend Tesla pressed harder, tagging close behind his guest. "Doctor, at least–what can you tell us about his health? What should be done to pull him through this crisis?"

The doctor smiled. "What can I tell you that your son does not know better than I do?"

"Doctor!" Reverend Tesla cried in alarm. "Surely you forgive the lad for his outcry —"

"Throwing leeches in my face? After I come five miles in driving rain to help him?" The doctor was at the exit, turning the latch, opening the door; now it was safe to let his full outrage show.

"I am not of your faith, Reverend, and yet I minister to you and all of your flock just as I would to any others."

"And we appreciate —"

"But you may have risen in your church ranks so fast that your family has forgotten simple manners many people hold dear."

"Doctor, my family is always on the best possible behavior!"

"Really, Reverend? Even if we forget about tonight, can that excuse Nikola's behavior this afternoon at the cemetery?"

"He was that young lady's tutor for nearly a year. He was exceptionally fond of her, and —"

"She was the daughter of the town's most powerful family; he had no place in her life except teaching! By showing up uninvited at her funeral he created a humiliation that you will work long and hard to live down! And even so ... I came here tonight to help him fight back a fever that no doubt comes from standing in the rain at the cemetery all afternoon!"

With only a glance toward the upstairs bedroom to make his point, the doctor raised his rain hood and prepared to step out the door. "Your son has attracted the wrong kind of attention since you took over this parish, Reverend. No one questions his intellect; it's the nature of his thinking that people find troubling."

Djouka, the Reverend's wife, had remained aloof from the two men up until this point. But with this talk about her son, she spun to them and brought her dark gaze to rest on the Doctor. If he had been paying attention he might have taken warning.

"Please Doctor," Reverend Tesla persisted, "let's not end this with anger."

"Reverend, if the rumors that I hear on my rounds were to take on any real weight, people might begin to seriously wonder why the parish pastor doesn't discipline his boy to be more normal." He glanced at Djouka. "And keep his wife from reading dreams and telling fortunes." Reverend Tesla knew that he had to hold back any further objections. This angry visitor spent his days circulating among the homes of the populace; the power of gossip rested in his hands.

It was Djouka who advanced on the doctor. She held her eyes fixed on him while she reached out and yanked his hand away from the door latch. His mouth opened uselessly while she pulled the door back wide in front of him.

"Get out." She nearly whispered it.

Milutin gasped and shouted, "Djouka!"

She ignored him and continued to the doctor, "Get out right now." She smiled and added, "Or you don't know what I might do, what spell I might cast." She riveted her gaze to the doctor's eyes. Before the stunned physician could object, she pressed her hand against his chest, pushing him out the doorway and into the rain. She banged the door closed and locked it hard behind him, then glared at Milutin as if daring him to scold her.

The Reverend remained silent, shaking his head. The background din of the driving rain was too strong for the couple to hear the doctor's buggy while it slogged away. But after the next peal of thunder rolled past, they both heard their son softly laughing upstairs. The long laugh ended in a rasping cough.

Each avoided looking at the other. It was not the first time he had been embarrassed by her pagan spirituality. But she was a headstrong woman and he was a married man of God. He could not raise his hand to her and she tended to laugh at any other form of threat. The pastor finally sighed, walked over to the fireplace, and dropped into his favorite chair.

"It was only the fever," he muttered. "The fever made him behave that way."

Djouka didn't want to fight either. She made sure Milu never heard her whispered reply while she moved toward the stairs. "It was not from the fever."

She stopped at the first step and stared upward toward her son's room. The last words did not leave her lips.

There is something else.

* * *

Eighteen-year-old Nikola Tesla lay alone in the darkness of his bedroom and trembled on sheets damp with perspiration. His reedy body was a mass of cramping muscles. Nevertheless he held himself perfectly still while he attempted to slip out from under his pain by creating a great challenge of distraction for his imagination. The effort was the only defense he could conjure against his tormented condition.

His central question for the last few hours had been how to handle the challenge. He was convinced that he must not allow local doctors and their cut-and-bleed pseudoscience to come near him, but the fever's symptoms were baffling. His hearing had somehow been sharpened by the illness so that even though the storm pounded away outside, he could still hear his father's tall clock downstairs, tolling the midnight hour.

Midnight. Nikola let out another weak laugh when he realized midnight was probably the right time to start his experiment. He knew by using the last of his strength to rip the leeches off his arm and throw them into the face of the village's only doctor, he had crushed all hope of conventional medical help for the pneumonia gnawing at his chest.

It seemed plain enough that if he was going to force his illness to be useful, he needed the fever at full strength. It was time to see how much visualization power his fevered hallucinations might deliver. He lay back on the bed and prepared to completely give himself over, drinking up the symptoms like a willing victim. Time slithered by while the ringing in his head and the ache in his chest assaulted him in waves.

Nikola began to sense that his rage and frustration were somehow giving him a form of strength. Inside of that strength, an inspiration formed. It felt as if he had waited all of his life for it to appear. The challenge was to use his visualization powers to raise up the complete and detailed image of a human being.

Years ago, with his very first secret urge to turn his visualization power onto a nearby woman, a frightening gush of sexual pleasure flashed through him with such force that it shocked him away from ever tampering with such adventures. Not while he lived in the Reverend's house.

But now, in his pain, he resolved to raise up the solid image of one specific human being. The continual overflow from his gushing imagination was about to be harnessed. Its task would be to bring him as close as possible to the experience of what it would be like to have a last visit with Karina–a chance to reveal his feelings to her before saying goodbye.

He turned a deaf ear to the persistent voice in the back of his head, jabbering about forbidden things and Satan's territory. Nikola's real concern was that he was going to have to create this thing without a living model. He intended to raise the image of someone already dead. If that didn't use up his mental energy sufficiently to ease the internal fire of his grief over Karina's passing, nothing would.

He reasoned that as long as his father never found out what he was doing, then the internal voice would just have to remain in its mental corner and talk to itself. He laughed at the thought, which set off another series of racking coughs.

This time he didn't care.

"What is he doing up there?" Milutin bolted up from his chair at the fireplace and started for the stairs. "For the love of God, he sounds like a madman!"

As if to punctuate the Reverend's words, rasping laughter came again from Nikola's room, followed by another round of deep coughing.


Excerpted from "In the Matter of Nikola Tesla"
by .
Copyright © 2013 Anthony Flacco.
Excerpted by permission of Diversion Publishing Corp..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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In the Matter of Nikola Tesla: A Romance of the Mind 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
MariaGayton More than 1 year ago
Worth reading the historical novel “In The Matter of Nikola Tesla” that takes us on a journey back in the time of Edison, Westinghouse and J.P. Morgan.  The men in power - the investors, were the cause of Tesla's rise and downfall.  The politics of money is an unending driving force.  The story has spies and intrigue to keep us involved.  Flacco cleverly blends in Katrina, Tesla's Muse to inspire him and give him a sense of peace as well as a form of escape.  Tesla lives in two worlds -  the hard world and the other in his imagination that brings out his genius as well as his demons.
DarkAngelCT More than 1 year ago
This was definitely a different kind of book it follows young Nikola Tesla who's ill in bed with a severe fever and with this able to draw the ghost or image of a girl he loved Karina. When he first does he thinks he's mad. He goes through his life with Karina by his side even though no one can see her but him. Making you think there was more to Karina then what is mentioned it is a great story for those who are interested in Tesla, electricity, and the mysteriousness of his relationship with Karina and Tesla's life. I really enjoyed this story and think others will as well!