Read Charlatan: America's Most Dangerous Huckster, the Man Who Pursued Him, and the Age of Flimflam by Pope Brock Online


“An extraordinary saga of the most dangerous quack of all time...entrancing” –USA Today In 1917, John R. Brinkley–America’s most brazen con man–introduced an outlandish surgical method for restoring fading male virility. It was all nonsense, but thousands of eager customers quickly made “Dr.” Brinkley one of America’s richest men–and a national celebrity. The great quack b“An extraordinary saga of the most dangerous quack of all time...entrancing” –USA Today In 1917, John R. Brinkley–America’s most brazen con man–introduced an outlandish surgical method for restoring fading male virility. It was all nonsense, but thousands of eager customers quickly made “Dr.” Brinkley one of America’s richest men–and a national celebrity. The great quack buster Morris Fishbein vowed to put the country’s “most daring and dangerous” charlatan out of business, yet each effort seemed only to spur Brinkley to new heights of ingenuity, and the worlds of advertising, broadcasting, and politics soon proved to be equally fertile grounds for his potent brand of flimflam. Culminating in a decisive courtroom confrontation, Charlatan is a marvelous portrait of a boundlessly audacious rogue on the loose in an America ripe for the bamboozling....

Title : Charlatan: America's Most Dangerous Huckster, the Man Who Pursued Him, and the Age of Flimflam
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780307339898
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 324 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Charlatan: America's Most Dangerous Huckster, the Man Who Pursued Him, and the Age of Flimflam Reviews

  • David
    2018-10-20 16:33

    Oh my God! This arrived from Amazon and I just couldn't stop reading it. It's hilarious, outrageous, informative, entertaining, and Pope Brock, despite his alarmingly ravaged looking jacket photograph, writes like an angel. Or maybe it would be more accurate to say that he has just the right demonic skill as a writer to do justice to his subject. Goat testicles! Monkey glands! A larger than life scoundrel ("Doctor" J.R. Brinkley) with his own personal Inspector Javert (famed quackbuster Morris Fishbein). Dirty campaign tactics! Just what *is* the matter with Kansas anyway? The birth of FM radio. Country music, the Carter Family, and the blues. Will Dr Fishbein, head of the American Medical Association, be able to take down J.R. Brinkley, the consummate charlatan of the age, before the count of the maimed and the dead gets completely out of hand? Follow their astonishing 20-year cat and mouse game to its nailbiting courtroom showdown. You couldn't ask for a better guide than Pope Brock, who captures the outrageousness of this hilarious, horrifying story brilliantly, with just the right kind of sly wit. I cannot avoid the dreaded cliche - it's a freakin' "tour-de-force".Hands down the most entertaining book I've read all year. (With special cameo appearances by W.B. Yeats and H.L. Mencken).

  • Nancy Oakes
    2018-10-19 17:30

    I have to confess that prior to reading this book I'd never heard of Dr. Brinkley, the goat-gland doctor. If you want a book that is interesting, and tells a bizarre story, this is it. I couldn't put this one down. Brock's book focuses on one John R. Brinkley, who made a name for himself by promising to restore the lost vigor of youth to men just after WWI and then during the Depression. His treatment was simple: remove a goat testicle, insert it into a man's scrotum and voila. He used glands to "cure" insanity, and hailed his treatment as curing everything "from emphysema to flatulence." (41) However, he was also a self-assured, arrogant quack, who caught the attention of the AMA early on, and one man, Morris Fishbein, vowed to bring him down. This book is the story of Brinkley, but it is also a look at medical and pseudo-medical practices of the time, as well as out-and-out charlatanism and quackery. It wasn't just Brinkley, although his work is the main focus here...there were clinics offering treatments such as "practical sphincterology," (65) or monkey-gland transplants, the electric fez for hair growth, and a very odd assortment of treatments that promised to change a person's life. And these practitioners got away with it, whatever it was, because of the lack of policing on the part of the government.What struck me (and was later somewhat voiced by the author) was that these sort of practices still exist. People can be wowed by the promise of electric massagers that help you lose weight while you just sit there, or by miracle diet pills or other weight-loss products on the market that you see all the time via the media. Brock also interweaves Brinkley's campaigns for governor of Kansas and how his innovations changed the face of political campaigning; he also delves into Brinkley's opening of the first high-powered radio station in Mexico that helped many a country-and-western singer get his/her start. But none of that (imho) was as interesting as the whole quackery issue. Brinkley may have been a quack, but he was a very rich quack during the Depression, when the rest of the country was suffering. This book held my interest so that I could not stop reading; Brock's writing is often humorous and witty, and he tells a great story. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who a) wants something completely different and b) anyone who is interested in the history of medical quackery. It's an awesome book.

  • Kirsti
    2018-09-29 20:19

    This is the best book I have ever read about goat testicles. As if that weren’t enough to make you want to read it, let me add that it’s about a quack doctor who pioneered advances in advertising, public relations, radio, and modern political campaigning. For many years, his biggest problem was that other, inferior con men would steal the new ideas he came up with. J. R. Brinkley would today be hailed as a genius, except that he was a con man, bigamist, demagogue, and anti-Semite. Also, he had terrible taste in art, and in his free time he enjoyed dressing up like an admiral.“Are You a Manly Man Full of Vigor?” –advertisement Brinkley placed in newspapers in Greenville, South Carolina, in 1913. The actual treatment, for which he charged $25, involved injecting colored water into the patient’s buttocks.“ ‘I have a scheme up my sleeve and the whole world will hear of it.’ ”—Brinkley in 1917. He created “glandular rejuvenation” by transplanting goat testicles into humans.“Do we want some reviewer to say, ‘This book is better than goat glands?’” –Carl Sandburg, trying to promote his work Rootabaga Stories“The harder they hit me, the higher I bounce.” –Brinkley after being hounded out of California“I wear goat glands and am proud of it.” –Senator Wesley Staley, 1922“Every man proposes to me the second he meets me.” –much-married “nonsinging diva” Ganna Walska, the inspiration for Susan Alexander in Citizen Kane“Yes, but what does he propose?”—pretty much every other woman on the planet at that time“Busier than an electric fan”—a Collier’s reporter describing Brinkley’s career in 1922“You accused me of selling diplomas for $200. . . . That is a deadly insult. I never charged less than $500.”—Dr. Date Alexander, the diploma-mill king who sold Brinkley a fake MD degree“We people in Kansas get fat on his medicine. . . . We’re going to keep him here so long as he lives.” –Governor Jonathan Davis, refusing to allow Brinkley to be extradited to California“On Sundays he gave sermons lifted from other people.”—The author, describing Brinkley’s burgeoning radio career.“I DEFY THE AMERICAN MEDICAL ASSOCIATION!”—full-page ad Brinkley took out in several newspapers in 1930“[I can] think of three ways to get rich before breakfast.”—Brinkley after being forced to cancel his show Medical Question Box, which a Johns Hopkins doctor called “the greatest possible danger” to the public health“Your condition is your own fault. . . . Wishing you a merry Christmas.” –Brinkley’s answering letter to a mutilated patient“He was richer than a crème brulée . . . [His estate was] sixteen acres of naked self-regard, part Versailles, part Barnum & Bailey.”—The author, describing Brinkley’s “wallowing in wealth” after the gubernatorial election of Kansas was stolen from him“With the lava of war spreading across Europe, and American involvement probable, the world needed heroes. It also needed a place where the craven and selfish could go till it was all over, and that was what Brinkley hoped to provide. No one had looked out for him like this when he was trying to beat the draft.” –The author, describing Brinkley’s last scamAs if this guy weren’t interesting enough, he also hired June Carter for her first job when she was a child, plus ZZ Top wrote a song that mentions him: I also enjoyed learning about the Hot Girl of Escanaba, Michigan:

  • Bob Redmond
    2018-09-22 22:28

    This book has won a permanent place on my shelf, if just for the joy of seeing it there and being reminded of what an outrageous place is our country, and what roots lie beneath our current, so-called civilization.Pope Brock, in perfect pitch, tells the story of John Brinkley, not just a quack doctor, but a man who had immense and lasting influence on medicine, politics, and radio. Brinkley invented a scam so perfect--no one who got fooled would dare admit it--that he made millions upon millions in the period between the two World Wars. The scam: to restore male virility by inserting a goat testicle into their scrotum. And men paid $750 apiece--many poor farmers mortgaging their homes or giving up life savings!Chapter after chapter tops itself with the believe-it-or-not facts, as Brinkley stays one step ahead of the fledgling AMA, builds his empire and achieves national renown, while the tale culminates with a courtroom drama. Brock could not have invented a more perfect story, or a more outrageous character. What makes it exceptional are the lasting impacts of that character.This is an essential chapter in American history, and a truly great read.WHY I READ THIS BOOK: A fan of what Greil Marcus calls "the old, weird America," I was attracted to the book in an early review. After seeing it in Bailey-Coy's non-fiction table on several visits, I finally picked it up. PS--it was one of those purchases that did NOT sit in my office for months waiting for the right castor-oil hold-your-nose moment. As soon as I started, I could not put it down!

  • Lena
    2018-10-06 14:48

    There are some stories that are so outrageous they simply couldn't have been made up. The saga of "Dr." John Brinkley is one such tale. Brinkley crawled out of North Carolina poverty in the first half of the twentieth century with modest skill as a small time con artist. Eventually, however, he stumbled upon the rejuvenation fad. Science had figured out that the sex glands had something to do with youth and vigor, not to mention sexual potency, but they had not yet discovered testosterone. In the interim, enterprising doctors unconcerned with ethics convinced the public that they had new treatments that could restore lost vigor.Brinkley's particular innovation was transplanting the glands of goats into humans both male and female. After acquiring a medical degree of questionable origins, he opened up a clinic in Milford, Kansas, and proceeded to become a multimillionaire selling new hope to tired farmers.What made Brinkley so astonishingly successful, however, wasn't his questionable medical skills - it was his genius for marketing and promotion. In the process of selling his sketchy treatments to a credulous public, Brinkley pioneered a number of innovations in advertising and public relations. Having a visionary understanding of the potential of radio that others lacked, he also shaped the development of the AM dial and in the process a large part of American musical culture.Along the way, Brinkley fell into the sights of quackbuster Morris Fishbein. Fishbein was a charismatic personality in his own right who had made a name for himself and the AMA exposing medical fraud. Lacking the kinds of legal malpractice tools we have today, however, Fishbein had his work cut out for him as he went after Brinkley, who was as adaptable as Wall Street to any attempt to regulate him.Charlatan is a flat-out great read. Pope Brock is an excellent storyteller, and while this book may go into more detail than some might like, it remains a page-turner from the beginning. In addition to being a kind of medical thriller, it is also a fascinating cultural history of Depression era America. Most importantly, however, it paints a very clear picture of the wishful thinking and human flaws that make all of us susceptible to the false promises of quacks like Brinkley. Though the modern medical world is more regulated than it was in the early days, human beings themselves have not changed all that much, and people are still being harmed by Brinkley's heirs. This book provides key understandings as to why that is and is an important contribution to the literature of alternative medicine.

  • K
    2018-10-11 21:30

    Either the iphone is destroying my attention span, or many popular non-fiction books would have worked far better as long magazine articles.The story of "Dr." Brinkley sounds fascinating. A major 1920s-1930s con-artist with minimal medical training successfully passes himself off as a surgeon promising rejuvenation to lots of naive people, who all allow him to cut them open and sew goat glands into their bodies. Far more gifted as a business-minded marketer than as a surgeon, Brinkley ends up pioneering innovations in radio advertising with far-reaching effects. Brinkley is eventually brought down by Morris Fishbein of the AMA, who spends years trying to destroy Brinkley's career and ultimately succeeds in a dramatic court case. It's a story reminiscent of the enjoyable movie "Catch Me If You Can," but unfortunately some of its entertainment value gets weighed down by excessive details and tangents. I enjoyed some of the issues raised by this book. It was interesting to think about society's onetime naivete and gullibility, and whether today's cynicism is a good thing or a bad thing. It was also fascinating to think about alternative vs. traditional medicine, and how distinct they truly are. As Brock asks at one point, is it quackery or is it cutting-edge medicine? Hard to know sometimes. Brinkley must have been some character, and Brock does a good job of painting his colorful nature.All this notwithstanding, I found my attention span flagging and often felt that I was dragging my way through the book rather than feeling eager to pick it up. I don't know whether that says more about me or about the book, but there it is.

  • Colleen
    2018-10-10 22:29

    Amazing, beautifully researched book. I only picked up this book because I loathe the Smiling Bob commercials that are constantly on, and now I realize how lucky we truly are. Did not know that phony male enhancement crap has been forced on people since the dawn of time. And that it used to be much, much worse. Focuses on the terrible career of Dr. Brinkley, who is possibly in the running as the most prolific mass murderer/serial killer in American history. Definitely killed 42 people, but probably death toll was many times that. And he got away with it for almost half a century. In between killing people with inept fake male enhancement goat-gland surgery, he also ran for governor Kansas, and actually had the votes to win, but powers-that-be managed to toss out enough votes to have someone less insane win. He pioneered the roving van that piped out recorded campaign slogans and the hectic populist get out the vote campaigns (Huey Long sent observers to watch him in action). He also was the first person to do commercials on the radio and made so much money doing so, that everyone else started doing commercials as well. And because he couldn't do commercials 24 hours a day, in between he hired country music singers, which at the time were a little known regional form of music. The Carter family among other big names got their start working for him. So his terrible legacy continues to annoy (and apparently the fake gland surgery is making a comeback today).

  • Joy D
    2018-10-03 19:20

    Very entertaining and, at times, humorous book about “Doctor” John Brinkley who made millions during the Depression era by performing operations to insert goat glands into humans. He never earned a degree from an accredited medical school, many of his operations went severely awry, and he sold expensive follow-up “medication” to his patients that consisted of water and food coloring. The author gives us the background on Brinkley, as well as Morris Fishbein, the editor of the Journal of the American Medical Association, whose goal became to ensure Brinkley never practiced medicine again. Far-reaching subject matter includes politics, broadcasting, advertising, roots of country music, deep sea fishing records, and courtroom drama. It includes stories about such notable names as Sinclair Lewis, Eugene Debs, H.L. Mencken, Father Flanagan, and the Carter family. The author has a knack for evoking the feel of the age he excels at storytelling. While he touches on the continuing saga of people being enticed and exploited in pursuit of health and beauty-related goals, I thought he could have gone a bit further and explored the fine line between true medical research and experimental, unconventional remedies.Recommended to readers of non-fiction, especially those interested in history of medical regulation or true tales of flamboyant criminals.

  • Jill Hutchinson
    2018-10-01 14:37

    Men, is your sex life not what it should be? Have you lost that spark? Dr. Brinkley's Goat Gland surgery will turn you into a young man again!!!If we saw that advertisement today, we would laugh but that was not the case in the 1920-30s. John Brinkley who passed himself off as a physician (which he was not) and claimed graduation from various schools of medicine became one of the most famous men during the early 20th century with his "ground breaking" medical practices for everything from impotence to cancer. Thousands of citizens flocked to his "hospital" to have goat glands implantations and many claimed that the surgery was indeed successful. The fact that many people died from gangrene and peritonitis was kept secret from the public. This book follows the career of this charlatan who turned his medical practice into an empire, almost won the governorship of Kansas, and was the first person to put up a broadcasting antenna across the border in Mexico to escape the limitations of signal strength in the US. He blasted his message which was a mixture of pseudo-science and religion across the country and the public fell for it. He really was a brilliant man who could have turned his talents to the good but acquiring a fortune through fraud was more important to him. And then the American Medical Association turned their attention to him and things turned sour very fast. The author has a dry wit which makes this book into an enjoyable read and softens some of the horror of what this man did in the name of "medicine". Highly recommended.

  • Leah K
    2018-10-01 21:44

    Charlatan: America's Most Dangerous Huckster, the Man Who Pursued Him, and the Age of Flimflam by Pope Brock★ ★ ★ Imagine, in today's time, going into a “doctors” office. He has no credentials except the ones he bought at degree mills. Imagine he asks you for $8000 in today's money in exchange for rejuvenation – health wise, sexually, and mentally. You agree and he does the procedure – by implanting a goat gland into your ovarian section or scrotal section (depending on gender obviously). And imagine that once released he would recommend you take his special medication – what it is you don't know, he just tells you to buy it and take it. So you buy half a dozen, coughing up a couple thousand more dollars. Just to find out that the “medication” is...water. And thus is the story of one “Doctor” John R. Brinkley. And that would only be one of his “brilliant” ideas in becoming rich off the gullible in the 1920s and 1930s. In a time before the AMA made the rules and the Food and Drug Admin barely existed, it was all too common to sell what you wanted and claim it did wonderful things (and sadly is still common even with the AMA and Food and Drug Admin around). Brinkley was only one of thousands selling fake miracle in a bottle (radioactive water anyone?) but this story revolved around Brinkley and the man that would try his hardest to stop him.This was a very intriguing book on a part of history I know little about. Reviews have compared it to Erik Larson's writing but I won't go that far. The two stories of the huckster and the man that would catch him is muddled, not a seamless transition like Larson is so good at (in my opinion). There are A LOT of names to remember. In many cases people were mentioned once, only to be brought up 100 pages later with some significance to the story leaving me scrambling to remember who the person was to begin with. It did become more smoother as the book continued. Well researched and definitely interesting.

  • Mazola1
    2018-09-25 15:35

    This book tells the incredible story of John Brinkley, a medical fraud who transplanted goat testicles into men to "rejuvenate" them. Brinkley became unimaginably rich, bringing in a million dollar income at a time when most doctors were earning just a few thousand dollars a year. A gifted flim flam artist, he was also a man of great imagination and creativity. He was among the first to use radio to advertise, to campaign for political office using an airplane and to put country music on the radio. As a write-in candidate for Governonr of Kansas, he actually received more votes than his rivals, but lost because they passed a law specifying the exact name that had to be written in to count as a valid vote (shades of Florida, 2000!) Finally undone by filing an ill-advised libel suit(shades of Oscar Wilde!)against the editor of JAMA who called him a charlatan, he died broke with the threat of criminal prosecution hanging over his head. Although much has changed since then (in particular better licensing of doctors, medical devices and broadcast media)much remains the same. To cite some obvious examples, the booming business in "medical" efforts to retard ageing, male potency remedies and the increasingly pervasive presence of drug and political ads on TV. The books is at once a fascinating tale of a larger than life rogue and a cautionary tale about what has always happened (and no doubt will continue to always happen) when the desire to believe outrageous claims intersects with the eagerness to turn a buck by making them. Finally, it sheds light on the charismatic nature of those best described as "snake oil" salesmen. Although he killed dozens, maimed hundred and fleeced thousands, Brinkley nonetheless enjoyed great popularity, attacting legions of devoted followers and grateful patients. Perhaps this mysterious alchemy is best summed up by the man who admitted that he knew Brinkley was flim flamming him, but still "I liked him."

  • Teri
    2018-10-18 22:25

    Charlatan is a book about the "goat gland guy". John R. Brinkley was a self-proclaimed doctor from the 1930s who performed surgeries to implant goat glands into men (and some women) to rejuvenate them. To be completely frank, this man was a "charlatan" or quack doctor who made thousands believe that by inserting goat glands into men's testes they could be young and revitalized, sexually and otherwise. Rather than help them, many left his hospital in worse shape than they started if they even left his hospital at all. He was continually harassed by Morris Fishbein of the American Medical Association, who was able to bring a suit against him for libel. Brinkley moved from Tennessee to Kansas and eventually Del Rio, Texas performing these operations, as well as selling his useless medical potions. His other claim to fame was construction of a "border blaster" radio station over the border in Mexico, so that he can be heard giving medical advice on the airways across the nation. After I got over the shock of what this man did, I thoroughly enjoyed the story. I am constantly amazed at what people are suckered into believing. Author Pope Brock did a great job detailing the life of the goat gland guy and the man who basically destroyed him.

  • David Quinn
    2018-09-24 22:39

    I don’t condone starting a book and not finishing but I’m more vigorously opposed to self-abuse, so I stopped after a mere two chapters. I couldn’t follow the story because something just didn’t seem to be right, kind of like when you’re not sure if you smell or taste something weird. I finally realized the writing style had a choppy, Roaring 20s feel to it. At that point I couldn’t get the sound of Jimmy Cagney out of my head (Yeah, flimflam, see? Dames with nice gams, see?) as I tried to comprehend what I was reading. It was completely distracting and I just couldn’t follow. I hate to give up but I know this just won’t get any better because the style is all wrong for me and I know it won’t change over the course of the book.I will note that I really, really liked two books that I disliked at the beginning: Down By the River (Charles Bowden) and Night Draws Near (Anthony Shadid). So if you find yourself reading either or both books and just not liking them, hang in there and you’ll be rewarded.

  • Mohammad Ali Abedi
    2018-09-22 21:21

    I’ve started to realize I enjoy reading about the lives of charlatans and basically people who are able to acquire money or fame by fooling others. It’s probably because I personally suck at it. I used to think it’s because I’m honest and principled, and maybe there is some hints of that in it, but mainly it is because I am just not good at it. It’s just easier to be honest. Fooling people seems like such hard work. I first heard about John Brinkley on the “Reply All” podcast. It got me interested enough to read the book on it, although, I have to say that he podcast did cover most of it, and I felt like the author had to put a lot of fillers in to stretch the story. Basically, Brinkley was in early last century who was able to insert goat glands in human testicles, claiming it made people younger or solve men’s erectile dysfunction and became super rich because of it, even though it had no scientific basis in it. The lax medical regulation laws in American at that time made it easy for Brinkley to practice his surgeries. Of course, even though there are major strict laws in almost any country related to the medical field, people still find loopholes to sell snake oil schemes. To make the story more engaging, the author tries to frame it as a battle between two sides. Brinkley as the charlatan who is getting richer and more famous by the day, and Morris Fishbein, editor of Journal of the American Medical Association, who is out to stop him. The story is very interesting, although I had issues with the author. He sometimes went on tangents that weren’t that interesting to me, and I felt that, that at times, his use of certain words and phrases were more literally and complicated than a biography on a charlatan needed to be. By the way, they are apparently making a movie on this guy (Brinkley, not the author, haha).

  • Sue-Lynn Voigt
    2018-09-22 17:29

    Well researched and well written book. Probably not a book I would have normally picked to read, but very glad I read it. This was a book club read and although it takes a bit to get into the book, once you do it is a wild ride. Truth is sometimes stranger than fiction. I learned a lot about not only Dr Brinkley and Dr. Morris Fishbein, but the pop culture and settings of 1920 - 1940. Also the correlation between that times scams and con artist and those of current day are astounding. Humans have not really evolved or changed that much in 100 years. Dr. Brinkley, love him or hate him, was a man of great insight and innovation. Many modern day procedures and cultural aspects can be attributed directly to him. Very glad I read this book.

  • Sarah
    2018-10-02 16:29

    Insanely interesting story I first heard about on the podcast 99% Invisible.

  • James Rada Jr.
    2018-09-25 16:48

    I wasn’t quite sure what I was expecting when I bought Charlatan: America’s Most Dangerous Huckster, the Man Who Pursued Him, and the Age of Flimflam, but the topic caught my attention. I have to say that I loved it. It was a narrative type of non-fiction that I like to read and Pope Brock can tell an intriguing story.Of course, he also found a great subject to write about, which is half of the battle.In the early 20th century, confidence man John Brinkley came up with his ultimate money-making scheme. He would use surgery and goat testicles to restore male virility. It makes most men cringe nowadays, but think about some of the odd things we still do to maintain our youth that involved surgery.Brinkley also developed a sideline of selling potions and pills that turned out not to contain what they claimed to contain. This sort of thing was going on before Brinkley with snake oil salesmen and still continues today.I found myself reading the book and thinking how could people fall for this, but then I thought about the modern equivalents and wondered how many times I’ve been taken in without knowing it.Brinkley made a fortune off his quack theories and inspired a lot of copycat “doctors.” He also left behind dozens of dead and maimed people, all the while claiming success.So, if Brinkley was the antagonist, the protagonist would be Morris Fishbein, the editor of the Journal of the American Medical Association. I’m not sure about other readers, but I just didn’t like Fishbein. I actually found myself hoping that he would fail in his efforts to destroy Brinkley. On the other hand, I found myself cheering for Brinkley at times because he wouldn’t be stopped. He kept reinventing himself to work around the restrictions that were thrown at him. I admired that even though I hated what he was doing.I’ve seen a few movies and read some books lately where I didn’t like either the protagonist or antagonist. Who do you root for then?Besides his gross medical malpractice, Brinkley also had an impact on politics, radio, and country music.One reason why Brinkley was successful with his scams was because he was a master marketer. His initial marketing efforts dealt with newspaper advertising and direct mail. He recognized the marketing potential of the new media of the day, radio, and made the most of it.When the government started to crack down on how the airwaves were used, Brinkley moved south of the border and opened a radio station in Mexico that eventually broadcast more than a million watts. Not only was this more powerful than his Oklahoma radio station had been, it was more powerful than all of the U.S. radio stations combined.Besides pitches for his products and surgeries, Brinkley also presented entertainment. Many of the performers he chose went on to become pioneers in country music.When Fishbein started to have an impact on Brinkley’s goat gland empire, he used his radio popularity to move into politics and very nearly became elected governor of Oklahoma as a third-party candidate.I found Charlatan to be a fascinating story. I kept guessing at what Brinkley would do next to outwit Fishbein and his other detractors.

  • Luke
    2018-10-18 16:47

    If you ever planned on reading a book on goat testicles, it should probably be this one. It tells the story of John Brinkley, a master manipulator who made millions from the mania for manually mixing your own tired testicles with the most succulent slices of goat gonad for the bedroom-blastin' revivification of your lacking lovelife, ladies and lethargic Lotharios!Basically, the book is the less effective surgical version of this: Brinkley's story is a proper rags-to-riches tale, built on the back of a lot of nutsacks and a cavalier disregard for the health of his patients. A con-man through-and-through, the book follows him all the way up... and down, thanks to his nemesis Morris Fishbein of the AMA. It's really a Holmes-and-Moriarty affair, where truth and advertising wrestle for the bucks of those with nowhere else to go. There's a lot of legal wrangling, false degrees, flirtations with Nazism and enough broadcasting wattage to blow people off the map in fifteen countries. Brock writes engagingly on the topic, with obvious bemusement. There's enough transcript and quotation in the work to assure us the work's well researched, but not enough to bog down in stultifying clerkdom. (Also, the author's first name is "Pope", which seems to fit nicely with the razzle-dazzle surrounds.) The age - a freewheeling time, medically speaking - is as well-evoked as is the Kellogg sanitorium in Boyle's The Road to Wellville. The horrors of some of the treatment offered are best encapsulated in a quoted newspaper headline: The Radium Water Worked Fine Until His Jaw Came Off. You can imagine the rest. The level of trust placed in hucksters is absolutely terrifying. Although I must admit, the picture of the electric hair-growing fez is pretty boss. Is it a guilty pleasure? Certainly. But there's a lot to be learned here. For example, did you know medical negligence didn't result in any US jailings until 1964? Or that it wasn't until 1976 that quack gadgetry was officially banned? The fears preyed upon then are still with us, though, as Brock points out in the concluding chapter: we're as beholden to the quick fix today as ever we were. By book's end, everything's tied (sutured?) together nicely. Brinkley ends dead, his wife ends up with young studs, the world's a little more watchful for chicanery (though not much), and the effect of the Doctor's broadcasting stronghold in Mexico on popular music (Hillbilly, including the Carter family during his time, then blues and rock afterwards) is traced, all the way to ZZ Top. It's a wild ride, but I'm sure I can find a potion here to offset any queasiness. Right this way, ladies and gents!

  • Peggy
    2018-10-05 20:24

    In February, 2008, Crown will publish a book called Charlatan: America's Most Dangerous Huckster, The Man Who Pursued Him, And the Age of Flimflam. I wanted to read it from the moment I saw the cover, which I swear they must have cooked up just for me, because my picking up the book was a foregone conclusion once I saw the goat.The huckster in question, John Romulus Brinkley, pioneered the implantation of goat naughty bits into both men and women to reinvigorate them (both generally and sexually). Morris Fishbein, head of the nascent AMA, waged a 25-year war against Brinkley to try to stop him. Brinkley was unrepentant and all but unstoppable because he was always at least a step ahead.When there was no mass media, being denounced by one newspaper was no big deal. Brinkley bought himself a radio station and was the first person to use the airwaves as advertising and promotion, creating in the process the first radio variety show. The show featured singers and musicians and storytellers and preachers and Brinkley himself and everything was a not-so-subtle plug for Brinkley, his clinic, and his elixirs. He had a knack for convincing the common folk that he was one of them.When Fishbein had him before an AMA board and very publically revoked both of Brinkley's medical licenses, Brinkley's response was a late entry into the Kansas governor's race. He proved so popular with the people that it took a last minute finagling of election laws to keep him out of office.While waiting to run again, he became disenchanted with the restrictions on broadcasting power for his radio station, so he convinced the Mexican government to give him free land and build him the most powerful radio station on the planet across the border from Del Rio, Texas. He used the same format, so people like Gene Autrey and The Carter Family went from regional acts to national treasures. (Long after Brinkley was no longer involved, XERA hired a DJ named Wolfman Jack.)The book's got a little bit of everything, including world travel, H.L. Mencken, a courtroom showdown, and Nazis. Yeah, that's right, I said Nazis.The tone of the book is wildly uneven, with Fishbein mostly absent and Brinkley so larger-than-life that you have to admire the chutzpah, if not the man. This makes the epilogue, where Brinkley is suddenly America's worst mass murderer a bit jarring.But the book is worth the read, and a great jumping off point for further reading like Border Radio by Gene Fowler and Bill Crawford.

  • Ryan
    2018-09-22 17:34

    Nonfiction - Biography, True Crime. Audiobook. Discovered from Reply All podcast episode “Man of the People”.It’s all been done before. This book has given me more insight into Trumpism and Trump’s American more than any other book and it describes events that happened 100 years ago. The more things change, the more they stay the same, and the American distrust of experts remains stronger than ever.John R. Brinkley was a man who earned his fortune by sewing goat testicles into men, claiming that they cured impotence at first, then a variety of ailments and eventually performed a similar procedure on women. In the early 20th century, experts were at best ignore but more often commonly derided as impeding progress and preventing action by good men. Brinkley was not a doctor, could provide no evidence that his procedure worked, and even caused the deaths of many of his patients who walked into his hospital healthy.More than just this one procedure, Brinkley revolutionized many industries and politics. His radio station broadcast his call-in medical question show around the country. When he wasn’t on the air, he broadcast the Carter Sisters Hank Williams, making them country music stars and popularizing the genre. He was a populist politician and ran for governor flying around the state on his private plane and wooing voters with his radio broadcasts, campaign tactics that had never been done before. He would have won if two days before the election, the legislature didn’t pass a law regarding write-in votes must spell his name correctly or they wouldn’t be counted.His lies and deceptions didn’t dissuade the public, who wanted him to become President to remove regulations and unnecessary restrictions on innovation. The charlatan would have continued with his deceptions if not for Morris Fishbein, a doctor with the American Medical Association, who relentlessly pursued Brinkley.Brinkley is mostly a forgotten figure who at his height could have become president, reached the level of celebrity of Charles Lindbergh, and had amassed a fortune that permitted him to do whatever he pleased. His life is intertwined with so many things we take for granted: radio talk shows, country-wide popular music broadcasts, guerrilla politics, medical licensing and liability and many more popular culture events.Charlatan is at once a biography, manhunt, historic text and racy tabloid.

  • Jeff Jellets
    2018-10-05 18:47

    “This book is better than goat glands!”Charlatan is a wonderful historical masterpiece that pulls from obscurity the larger-than-life battle between flimflam artiste extraordinaire 'Dr.' J.R. Brinkley and Morris Fishbein, ‘quack-buster-in-chief’ of the fledgling American Medical Association (AMA). Brinkley, a medical huckster of epic proportions, rose from impoverished obscurity in the early decades of the 20th century to become one of the most well-known (and richest) ‘doctors’ in all America . The bedrock of the good ‘doctor’s ‘ success was a revolutionary, new medical treatment that cut the balls off of billy goats and surgically implanted the animal’s testicular glands into scrotums of average men – promising the restoration of virility, vigor, youth … even curing madness, cancer … or whatever else ailed you. Brinkley’s goat glands cured just about anything.Of course, the treatment is pure hokum, and the body count from Brinkley’s Frankenstein-like tinkering makes him one of the more prolific serial killers in U.S. history (if of course he had killed anyone illegally … which he hadn’t … since few standards for medical practice existed). But Brinkley’s life-story doesn’t stop there as the ‘doctor’s’ entrepreneurial nose leads him into commercial radio, advertising, direct mail marketing, astrology, and politics. In a romp that would make Kevin Trudeau, Bernie Madoff, and Miss Cleo all jealous, Brinkley becomes a godfather of the AM radio station, revolutionizes the advertising industry, becomes America’s first, on-air celebrity ‘doc’, nearly the wins the gubernatorial election in Kansas (transfiguring the political campaigning along the way), and … oh yeah ... paves the way for rock ‘n roll?Charlatan is an out-of-this world story, wryly told – with a few laugh out loud moments -- by author Pope Brock, whose one peccadillo seems to be slipping the occasional obscure reference into the text. More importantly, Charlatan is more than just old history; it is a story just as relevant today as ‘back then’ -- our televisions, magazines, and computers still filled by missives from celebrity health gurus; flamboyant politicians; diet, skin, and aging fads; and ‘magic pills’ that promise cures to all life’s ills. Highly recommended!P.S. “Remember, Del Rio for the prostate and San Juan for the colon!” – J.R. Brinkley

  • Steve Chaput
    2018-09-20 20:49

    If Pope Brock had simply written about "Doctor" John R. Brinkley, his book on this medical huckster would have been interesting enough. Brinkly made millions during a time in the early to mid-twentieth century when his countrymen were unemployed and loosing everything they had. Fortunately, Brock puts Brinkley and the real doctor who spent decades trying to expose him, Dr. Morris Fishbein, into their proper place im the medical history of the U.S.Long before Bob Dole was peddling little blue pills and couples were finding bliss in adjoining bathtubs watching the sunset, the American public (and much of the rest of the world) was already looking for 'rejuvination' and 'sexual vitality'. Our grandparents never heard the term 'erectile dysfunction' but they were still concerned that some things were not working the same at 50 as they were when they were younger. Over a hundred years ago John Brinkley began promoting his 'discovery' that youth and vigor could be regained by the simple procedure of inserting goat testicles into impotent men. Leaving behind a number of deaths from infections and botched surgeries, Brinkley moved about the country, and later the world, making a fortune with first this technique and later others. All the while the still new American Medical Association spearheaded by Fishbein were trying to show that men like Brinkley were more harmful than helpful.Along the way Brock shows us how the medical establishment of the time was in some ways as bad as Brinkley and willing in some cases to turn a blind eye to quakes selling all sorts of bogus medicines and procedures. He also reveals how Brinkley, in trying to promote himself and his wares, helped shape the way politicians run for office, the airwaves became the new method to sell products and how semi-legal megawatt radio stations in Mexico brought about country music and eventually rock 'n' roll. This book is amazing and an eye-opener for anyone interested in the rise of consumer protection and advertising in the last century.

  • Juanita
    2018-09-20 22:29

    Review: Charlatan by Pope Brock.This is a book I enjoyed and found interesting bizarre. There were a few slow pages to navigate through but the book was worth the read. The book was well written, fun to read, and the fall of one of America 19s most fascinating con men that I have never heard of. John Brinkley was considered, 1CAmerica 19s Most Dangerous Huckster 1D. Brock focuses the setting after WWI and during the depression when Dr. Brinkley was a goat-gland doctor promising to restore the lost vigor of youth to men. How? His treatment was simple. He would remove a goat testicle than insert it into a man 19s scrotum. (Ouch) 26The exploits of Dr. Brinkley, a self-labeled doctor, while amusing at times, persuaded many people to lose their money, their health and even life itself in some cases. He used combinations of admiral grabbing marketing ploys, pseudoscience, and we can 19t forget religion to reel in his victims to make himself rich. Back than people would travel for miles to obtain untested drugs and questionable operations just as people do in today 19s world. This isn 19t only a book of Dr. Brinkley 19s medical procedures, although his work and raising goats was the main focus. It 19s also about some other pseudo-medical practices of that time in history and the skepticism of charlatanism and quackery. There were clinics offering treatments of monkey-gland transplants, the electric treatment for hair growth, and many odd assortments of treatments that promised to change a person 19s life. Not just men but also trusting women wanted their youth back their sexual desire enhanced. Reading about the treatments or herbal medicines that Dr. Brinkley was offering never surprised me. His attitude and procedures made me laugh and kept me interested because it 19s happening now all around us. The only difference is the treatments and medicine cost more and doctors don 19t do house calls 26.

  • Gerald Sinstadt
    2018-10-11 19:45

    For a while in the last Century John Brinkley was the most famous medical man in the world. Whether he was actually a doctor is dubious. What is undeniable is that his glorious rise and infamous fall has become the subject of a brilliant book, authoritative, widely researched, eminently readable and consistently funny. Brinkley first made his name by offering "rejuvenating" procedures for the male inhabitants of Kansas who had lost their zest for life - or more precisely their zest for their wife. The "Doctor's" technique involved implanting goats' testicles into human testicles. There were successes - one patient went on to father a son who was named Billy. But there were failures and it was not long before he acquired an implacable opponent in a Dr Fishbein of the American Medical Association. Their duel over decades involved Brinkley running for Governor of Kansas (foiled by a Fishbein stratagem), pioneering sales by radio and progressing from glands to potions. A 5000 watt transmitter in Kansas eventually led to broadcasts from a million watt transmitter based in Mexico. Medical huckstering was interspersed with religious sermons on Sundays and vaudevile entertainers on weekdays. Author Pope Brock makes a persuasive case for Brinkley having been the father of Country and Western music. While Brinkley claimed a mission to benefit mankind, his principle aim was to enrich John Brinkley. So successful was he that he was able to sail the oceans in his own luxury yacht - which he loaned at one time to the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. If one of his schemes was thwarted, it only spurred him to another more ambitious, more audacious campaign. His downfall was to institute a libel action against Fishbein. The courtroom exchanges provide a dramatic finale, part sad, part hilaroius, to an enthralling tale superbly told.

  • Ciara
    2018-10-03 16:49

    definitely very engaging. i read the whole thing start to finish in like six hours, including the source notes. it tells the joint tale of john brinkley, a quack doctor who made a fortune sewing goat tasticles into the testicles of men seeking "rejuvenation" (a cure for impotence, aging, dementia, retardation, general ill feeling, etc), & morris fishbein, editor of the "journal of american medical association," a devoted quack-buster who considered brinkley his everest. the book charts the 25 years from brinkley's shady beginnings injecting the men of greenville SC with colored water & claiming it would achieve medicinal effect, to fishbein finally successfully luring brinkley into suing for libel & destroying his own career in the process. there are side tangents along the way, like how brinkley revolutionized political campaigning with his 1930 bid to be governnor of kansas, his border blaster mexican radio station, which could be heard all over north america & 14 other countries, exposing huge swathes of the population to country & hillbilly music which paved the way for rock & roll, eugene debs's untimely death at the hands of a quack sanitarium specializing in pathologically controlled diet, & the consolidation of licensing power in the hands of the AMA. not to mention, flappers, the grest depression, the rise of nazism, the literary legacy of sinclair lewis, the beginning of carter family's rise to national prominence, quack treaments for prostate troubles, & more. i covered a lot of ground, but in a satisfying manner. oh, & it was chock-full of really goofy analogies that i rather enjoyed, like, "he was richer than a creme brulee". yum, creme brulee (sorry for the lack of appropriate french accents on that--damn these imperialistic american keyboards!).

  • Rhlibrary
    2018-10-14 15:47

    I related to this book immediately. I assumed before I saw the advance reader's edition, that it had something to do with Hadacol. Invented in New Orleans, this was the product of choice when I was growing up. It was a cure-all, good for everything from colds to depression—and no wonder, as it contained 12% alcohol! The proponent of this 'miracle' cure (Senator Dudley J. LeBlanc) had much in common with John R. Brinkley of Charlatan in that neither were medical doctors and both were attracted to public office. Brinkley went on to gain such fame that he almost became governor of Kansas and was the most popular American radio broadcaster. And all because he pioneered an outlandish and highly dangerous method for restoring male virility. (The goat on the cover is a major clue!) He actually became one of America's largest mass murderers, leaving dozens and dozens of butchered patients behind him. The book also provides a highly informative look at Brinkley's nemesis, Morris Fishbein, editor of a little-read publication, the Journal of the American Medical Association, and his decades-long battle which culminated in a riveting trial. Narrative non-fiction at its best and for everyone who has been tempted to 'doctor' themselves. “Of course quacks have flourished in all ages and cultures, for nothing shows reason the door like cures for things. Unlike most scams, which target greed, quackery fires deeper into Jungian universals: our fear of death, our craving for miracles. When we see night approaching, nearly all of us are rubes." —Pope Brock

  • Marti
    2018-10-17 18:37

    This might be one of the funniest books ever written. Dr. Brinkley was a guy with no medical training who became the nation's premier Goat Gland Specialist (which promised a specific type of youthful rejuvenation for middle-aged men). What he lacked in skill he more than made up for with a slick sales pitch and a 500,000 watt radio station. After amassing a fortune, he almost became the Governor of the State of Kansas (actually would have been except that as a write-in candidate, many of his followers could not spell his name exactly right thus the votes did not count). Although many people died or were seriously maimed, it was years before the newly-formed AMA was able to shut him down in his home state. So what did he do? He moved to Texas and set up a 1 million watt "Border Blaster" radio station in Mexico which could be heard as far away as New York, and on a clear day, Alaska.But rest assured, mutilating patients was not what destroyed the famous Doctor. He was undone by folks who tuned in to hear Amos and Andy and were quite dismayed when their program was drowned out by a spiel about goat testicles.There is so much more to this story that it should become a standard text in American History classes.*Incidentally, this million-watt border blaster was the same station that launched the Carter Family and later Wolfman Jack.

  • Asa Wilder
    2018-10-07 14:43

    This book is so fun. It's written a bit sensationally, but then again how else do you tell the story of a psycho con man fake doctor who became one of the richest men America by surgically inserting diced goat balls into old men's scrotums, was cheated out of the Governorship of Kansas, basically invented modern day campaigning, revolutionized marketing, started and ran the most powerful and popular radio station in the country (from mexico) that featured astrologists and psychics, introduced America to "hillbilly" music (including the Carter Family), caught the largest tuna ever recorded in the western hemisphere from his yacht, sold millions of dollars worth of colored water and diluted poisons all around the country during the great depression, was a Nazi sympathizer, and likely killed around 100 people. More than almost any "scholarly" history I've ever read, this book accurately portrays something very real about the character of America: if you are good enough at selling, it doesn't matter what you do or know or make or believe. Especially in Kansas.

  • Joshua
    2018-09-21 22:47

    This was fascinating stuff that involves a lot of early medical flim flam done by "doctors" (that term could be used very loosely in the early parts of the 20th century)--particularly one doctor in particular: Dr. Brinkley. This guy pioneered the technique of goat gland surgery (sort of the viagra of its day) and spun his empire off to include made up phony prescription drugs (what cost him 10 cents he charged 10 bucks a pill--in the 1930s!) and the strongest radio signal in the world at one million watts. Brinkley made MILLIONS! Kind of crazy to read about how people supported and believed in him even though he'd open up their scrotum, mess about for a while, maybe shoot in a little bit of goat testicle juice (and maybe do nothing at all), give them a little iodine to urinate out like they'd been cleansed and then charge thme a thousand dollars or more. People came in droves. Some died soon after; few were healed. Brinkley is probably responsible for hundreds and hundreds of deaths due to his greedy quackery. Poor people--makes for great reading though, ha.

  • Jeffrey Taylor
    2018-10-14 14:32

    This is an amazing history of a subject I knew nothing about. It deals with medical fraud, false advertising not to mention the influence of money on politics and corruption. How this man could fleece millions from trusting victims, kill hundreds and escape punishment while living the lush life, tells of the kind of things which were wrong in our country and still are problems. It is an object lesion showing how hard it is for professional organizations to self regulate, the consequences of governmental failure to regulate and the dangers of laissez faire capitalism.I would highly recommend it for any general reader.