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Cover of Brilliance

Anthony McCarten


  • fiction / history
  • ISBN 978-0-9860007-5-1

Thomas Edison holds over 1,000 patents including the light bulb and the phonograph, but he is broke. To the rescue rides the “world’s banker,” J. P. Morgan, with his offer of almost unlimited cash if the two men will join forces to illuminate America and bring about a revolution in the way the world does business. Captivated by Morgan’s glittering vision Edison accepts, only to find the two men embroiled in the War of the Currents, which pits their direct current electrical system against the alternating current system promoted by George Westinghouse and the brainchild of Edison’s former assistant, Nikola Tesla.  Ever more enmeshed in Morgan’s personal life, Edison becomes infatuated by a world of privilege and power, where duty and desire, faith and immorality are thrown into conflict, ultimately threatening his own spiritual and creative survival. As a result, Edison descends from being the godlike inventor of electric light to being complicit in the invention of the electric chair. Brilliance brings to life the birth of the modern era, providing an indelible portrait of the times in which we now live.

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15 January 2015

Congratulations, Anthony McCarten!

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Everything that can wait until tomorrow.

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When I realized that a congenial monotony is the best anyone can hope for. I’m not sure how old I was or what I was doing — perhaps I was 13 and...Forward

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Praise for Brilliance

Anthony McCarten’s sharp, dazzling novel about the inventors and millionaires who colluded to bring electric light to the world is more than a great, entertaining read — it’s also a sly, contemporary take on the complicated often corrupting effect of money, marketing, and hype on creativity. 

Karen Karbo
Author of The Gospel According to Coco Chanel

“The inventor poured himself a glass of milk and listened for the twentieth century.” So begins Anthony McCarten’s Brilliance, an alchemy of a novel that mixes history, aphorism, myth and heart to shed a mordantly funny light on the Faustian bargain Thomas Edison strikes with banker J.P. Morgan. This is a telling of history, yes, and of the larger than life personas who shaped the great and terrible socio-political landscape that was and remains America. But at its incandescent core lies a lovely contemplation of our impermanence, the mysterious current that the heart conducts from us to others. “The human force, magnetized into human shape, did not bear our names for long.” A striking and original work.

David Rocklin
Author of The Luminist

A great tale, well written and…dare I say it, illuminating.

New Zealand Listener

Did inventor Thomas Edison and banker J.P. Morgan first meet in a bath in Saratoga Springs? Did Morgan possess, indeed cultivate ‘a postulated, bulbous magma of warty tissue with the texture of a cauliflower’ instead of a nose? Yes and yes if New Zealand novelist, playwright and film director Anthony McCarten’s affably ironic new novel is to be believed. His use of such eloquent details and imaginings add pleasing texture to the story – a parable on Wall Street’s tendency to co-opt and corrupt idealism – notably in the case of Edison, whose wives used Morse Code to counter his deafness; who existed on a mono-diet of milk; and who often appeared blind to the creative flair of others.”

Book Oxygen

McCarten’s Lively prose style is a pleasure to read.

The Times Literary Supplement

You can be sure that Brilliance will appear at a screen near you. In the meantime, read.

E&T Magazine

McCarten’s stylish prose propels forward a narrative
of one of the most enthralling stories of modern
science. Readers who love the drama of history will find McCarten’s Brilliance utterly compelling.

Monica Carter, Foreword Reviews

Brilliance is exactly what fans of historical fiction love to read.

River City Reading

Entertaining and enjoyable.

Historical Novel Society