THE AGE OF EDISON: ELECTRIC LIGHT AND

THE INVENTION OF MODERN AMERICA

By Ernest Freeberg

Penguin Press, 2013

368 pages, $27.95

ISBN 978-1-59420-426-5

 

In the early 1880s the development of the incandescent lightbulb was “one of the signal achievements of our technological age,” according to historian Ernest Freeberg, sparking a widespread wave of invention that dramatically affected every aspect of American society — and all from the simple lightbulb taken for granted today.

“The Age of Edison” is a fascinating history of Thomas Edison, the creation and development of the lightbulb and the visionary American inventors who created the electrical grid that powers the nation. Freeberg is a former journalist at Maine Public Radio. This clever and insightful book is part of Penguin Press’ award-winning “Penguin History of American Life” series.

Part biography, part scientific explanation and part social commentary, this smart story explores how American inventor Thomas Alva Edison (1847-1931) improved the efficiency of the incandescent lightbulb in the 1880s, also inventing a unique system of electricity-generating dynamos, wiring, switches, underground conduits and fixtures to illuminate factories, farms, homes, entire cities and towns, both rural and urban.

Freeberg reveals that Edison did not invent the incandescent lightbulb, but perfected it, and his name is most often associated with the electric light. He wisely includes the contributions of other American inventors, the thousands whose contributions added to the improvement and expansion of electric light use in industry, business, recreation and leisure, crime prevention, government, medicine and military operations.

Learn how shysters and quacks used electric light to scam customers, how forward-thinking entrepreneurs made millions, how and why national safety standards were established, how the famous Underwriters Laboratory was begun, how the inventor of Kellogg’s corn flake cereal promoted the health benefits of “light therapeutics” at his luxurious spas and how an Arctic explorer used a wind-powered electric light at the North Pole in 1893.

 

UNLEASHED

By David Rosenfelt

Minotaur, 2013

368 pages, $25.99

ISBN 978-1-2500-2472-5

 

Some folks would believe that lawyers actually have little to do with right or wrong, less to do with the truth of what happened and nothing at all to do with justice. That must be why criminal defense attorney Andy Carpenter is so rich, and why so many of his clients are in jail.

“Unleashed” is the 11th book in award-winning Maine author David Rosenfelt’s popular Andy Carpenter mystery series, following “Leader of the Pack” (Minotaur, 2012). As with all Rosenfelt’s excellent mysteries, this one is a keeper. Using vivid action and gripping suspense, Rosenfelt always surprises readers with clever plot twists and abrupt changes of direction, keeping them happily on their toes.

Wise-cracking Andy is wealthy and bored. He doesn’t even want another client. Work just gets in the way of fun. His accountant buddy, Sam, suddenly needs Andy’s help when he is arrested for murdering the husband of his old high-school sweetheart. Andy is puzzled because the wife was originally charged with the murder and Andy is her defense attorney. Complicating things is the fact that, but for an unexpected delay in travel, Sam would have been killed in the same plane crash that killed the husband.

The wife’s courtroom trial takes a very strange turn with wild accusations getting Andy into trouble with the judge (despite Andy’s witty courtroom banter). Every witness Andy goes to interview ends up dead. Before long, Andy, his investigator, bodyguard (yes, even a smart-aleck lawyer needs a bodyguard) and a group of elderly computer hackers find themselves uncovering a widespread conspiracy of death and destruction.

The husband’s murder ties it all together, but someone somehow knows Andy’s every move. Maybe the wife really is innocent.

– Bill Bushnell lives and writes in Harpswell.