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Charlatan: America's Most Dangerous Huckster, the Man Who Pursued Him, and the Age of Flimflam Paperback – January 13, 2009
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Top Customer Reviews
By today's standards, the operations were eye-popping in terms of the lack of attention to asepsis/antisepsis. Gangrene and lockjaw were among the perils one too often faced. Brinkley got very rich, and very famous: he twice ran for governor of Kansas and was narrowly defeated both times. When the Kansas Medical Board came down hard on him (at last), Brinkley moved to Del Rio, Texas, and set up the most powerful radio station in the world just across the border. This staion was used to broadcast the program Medical Question Box which would answer questions for a fee and which promoted quack medicine available through mail order. Pulling in a million dollars a year (in 1930s dollars, not 2008 dollars) was no mean feat.
Nemesis, in the form of Dr Morris Fishbein, finally proved to be Brinkley's undoing. Fishbein spent his life fighting and exposing medical quackery, and regularly wrote articles for the JAMA. It took Fishbein 10 years to bring down Brinkley: the climax of the book is a magnificently described court case where Brinkley was a disaster on the stand.Read more ›
I don't want to give away too many details, but it was amazing, fun, and yet sad, to learn that an American in the 20th century could earn millions, win popular acclaim, hobnob with the rich and famous, and nearly win election as a governor - all because people believed that, er, goat glands could bring them renewed life and, er, virility.
There are many other odd twists to the story, from popular music to media history to the rise of the American Medical Association.
It's an oddball slice of history told with the wry wit the story deserves.
This book will rejuvenate your reading.
Brinkley was a farm boy who fiddled with "electric medicine" and injecting colored water into the buttocks of patients, which got him jailed in South Carolina in 1913 for practicing without a license. Once sprung, he headed to Chicago, and in 1915 he paid $150 for a degree from the Eclectic Medical University of Kansas City, and he was in business. He set up a clinic in Milford, Kansas, and began implanting goat testicles into men who had lost their pep. He became a pioneer in radio advertising, and also in broadcasting country music.Read more ›
If you find that statement intriguing, get ready for an enlightening, disturbing and thoroughly enjoyable romp through the Land of Flimflam, emceed by writer Pope Brock, author of INDIANA GOTHIC. In CHARLATAN he forensically disinters the remains of a portion of America's past that we might wish to disavow --- the heyday of the quack.
Arguably, it is a phenomenon that has never completely faded, because as long as there are gullible people there will be medical quackery, no matter how cleverly disguised as --- and these are Brock's designations --- "bogus cancer and weight-loss treatments, biological dentistry, ear candling (putting a candle in your ear), Wild Yam Cream, chelation therapy" etc. But in the early part of the 20th century, shameless shamanism reached its zenith in the nefarious person of mad genius John R. Brinkley, generally known as "Doctor" Brinkley --- though no one ever had less right to that title.
Brinkley was a product of the hardscrabble hills of North Carolina who got his start selling "patent remedies" but soon graduated to far more sophisticated forms of chicanery, in the grip of a brilliant entrepreneurial mentality gone horribly askew. He became known as "the goat gland doctor" after he and his wife Minnie developed a "technique" for grafting animal testicles onto human ones. Every time he had to demonstrate or defend this notorious surgery for conventional medical people, he lost his license to practice medicine.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
It's a good book, especially if you like reading about non-fiction scam artists, or are a fan of the patent medicine days. I read it for a masters class, and am glad I did.Published 2 months ago by braingamer47
This a great book - an interesting and well written account of the doings of a major rascal who profited enormously selling totally bogus medical procedures in the early parts of... Read morePublished 2 months ago by Fredrick Upchurch
Super weird and is not the most accurate account of the time from other sources I've read.Published 4 months ago by BigBuyer
This was hilariously interesting. Bought another copy as a gift.Published 4 months ago by M. Skinner
This is one of the most entertaining books I've ever read. If you love learning about history in a fun way and/or are interested in medical stuff, this book is sure to please.Published 6 months ago by Andrea Kelliher
It’s a great book that keeps you enthralled from start to finish. If I could, I would make it required reading in school in order to teach our kids the power and danger of biased... Read morePublished 8 months ago by Roger D. Leahey
This book I read on the recommendation of another book about Dr. Brinkley "Making Them Believe: How One of America's Legendary Rogues Marketed ''The Goat Testicles Solution''... Read morePublished 9 months ago by Tim Olson