Thomas McMahon: Loving Little Egypt
This is undoubtedly my favourite of McMahon’s novels, as it has phone-tapping (not long after phones have been invented), robber barons, including William Randolph Hearst, fears of anarchists attacking the USA (well before George W Bush’s War on Terror), rightly has Nikola Tesla as a hero and Thomas Edison as a capitalist stooge and even brings in Sarah Bernhardt. Loosely, very loosely, the plot involves one Mourly Vold, a nearly blind physics genius, who invents a method of tapping into the long-distance phone network (well before phone phreaking) so that the blind can communicate with one another through what he calls the Party Line. Hearst is convinced that it is the work of Bolsheviks and gets Edison to help him crack it. What results is a romp through early twentieth century history and technology, with all sorts of fun and games, odd characters, Mourly and his friends outsmarting the bad guys and finding true happiness at the end. It is a wonderful book and makes you wish that he had lived long enough to write a book about Bush, Cheney, Abu Ghraib and the like.
First published 1987 by Viking Press