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.)
Praise for The Inventor and the Tycoon:
“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
"Amusing and informative.... [The] two lead characters were clearly enough of a literary beguilement for the author to embark with enthusiasm on this project. What lifts The Inventor and the Tycoon...is that both of the principals can lay claim to achievements of national, and one might even say global, significance.... Mr. Ball details the story of the two men's long association with sympathy and flair."
—Simon Winchester, Wall Street Journal
"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
“[A] remarkable story of the alliance between the eccentric inventor of the motion picture and the mogul who built the nation’s rails. It is a story that, for all its whirling parts and divagations, tells us a great deal about the crossroads of money and art in America. What is most interesting about this book is the making of an astonishing artist, the marvelous photographs that attest to his genius, the rousing good yarn at the nexus of industry and art.”
—Marie Arana, Washington Post
“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. one gallops through this book with undiminished ardor [and] Ball carefully sculpts prose of bright exuberance.”
—Dan Cryer, Boston Globe
“Fascinating…Ball's The Inventor and the Tycoon [is] a beefy and rambunctious history that is both a Victorian-age saga and true crime mystery, complete with a court trial that suggests the current-day obsession with celebrities gone bad. Inventor dwell[s] in a similar sinister underbelly as Erik Larson's The Devil in the White City."
—Mark Guarino, Chicago Tribune
“Sprawling and richly detailed…reads like a Hollywood-style thriller. The Inventor and the Tycoon tells the story of how wealthy mogul Leland Stanford and photographic wizard Edward Muybridge joined forces to create the moving picture, the technology that now dominates our image-flooded age. This nonfiction book, which reads like a Hollywood-style thriller, is set mainly in the City by the Bay, with a raucous history of westward railroad expansion (with Stanford as lead) thrown in for added depth. Fans of both early photography and the history of the West will be rewarded by the story Ball weaves together.”
—Tyrone Beason, Seattle Times
“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.”
“The Inventor and the Tycoon displays Ball’s particular ability to mine history and create a compelling narrative that includes larger-than-life characters and reveals something about our inheritance.”
—Adam Parker, Charleston Post & Courier
"National Book Award winner Ball (Writing/Yale Univ.; The Genetic Strand: Exploring a Family History Through DNA, 2007, etc.) returns with a complex story about railroad tycoon Leland Stanford and the murdering man who for a time was his protégé, pioneering photographer Eadweard Muybridge.... A skillfully written tale of technology and wealth, celebrity and murder and the nativity of today’s dominant art and entertainment medium.”—Kirkus
National Book Award winner Ball (Writing/Yale Univ.; The Genetic Strand: Exploring a Family History Through DNA, 2007, etc.) returns with a complex story about railroad tycoon Leland Stanford and the murdering man who for a time was his protégé, pioneering photographer Eadweard Muybridge. Muybridge, as he writes, altered the spelling of his name about as often as a bored high school student. He sometimes went by "Helios." (One name he didn't use, but would have fit, was Edweird.) Ball fractures conventional chronology like a dry twig, rearranging the pieces into an appealing display. He begins on January 16, 1880, the day that Muybridge first displayed for Stanford and his guests the moving pictures of a running horse on a device Muybridge called a zoogyroscope, a device that projected images on a revolving disc. Ball tells the stories of Stanford (who rose from grocer to railroad magnate), the multiple careers of Muybridge, the technology of moving images--and, of course, the murder. Muybridge married Flora Downs in 1870, but his photography business took him away for lengthy periods, and Flora, back home, had needs--which she satisfied with Harry Larkyns (whose story Ball also relates), a handsome womanizer whom the jealous husband shot in 1874. Muybridge went on trial, but a sympathetic jury found him not guilty--despite witnesses and his confession. Ball charts Muybridge's subsequent return to favor with Stanford, who hired him to photograph his new San Francisco mansion and who endowed his research into the science of the motion picture. But they eventually fell out (two large egos), and Muybridge tumbled into obscurity after Thomas Edison's technology eclipsed his own. A skillfully written tale of technology and wealth, celebrity and murder and the nativity of today's dominant art and entertainment medium.