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Charlatan: America's Most Dangerous…
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Charlatan: America's Most Dangerous Huckster, the Man Who Pursued… (original 2008; edition 2008)

by Pope Brock

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4212625,173 (3.78)33
Member:eswnr
Title:Charlatan: America's Most Dangerous Huckster, the Man Who Pursued Him, and the Age of Flimflam
Authors:Pope Brock
Info:Crown (2008), Edition: 1, Hardcover, 336 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:
Tags:junk store, history, U.S. history, crime, storage

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Charlatan : America's most dangerous huckster, the man who pursued him, and the age of flimflam by Pope Brock (2008)

  1. 00
    Catch Me If You Can: The True Story of a Real Fake by Frank W. Abagnale (BookshelfMonstrosity)
    BookshelfMonstrosity: Readers who enjoy dramatic tales of swindlers chased by the FBI may like both Charlatan and Catch Me If You Can, which chronicle the lives of men who successfully deceived everyone around them for years, amassing fortunes along the way.… (more)
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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. ( )
  Mrs_McGreevy | Nov 17, 2016 |
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’s most fascinating con men that I have never heard of. John Brinkley was considered, “America’s Most Dangerous Huckster”.

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’s scrotum. (Ouch)…

The 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’t 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’s world.

This isn’t only a book of Dr. Brinkley’s medical procedures, although his work and raising goats was the main focus. It’s 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’s 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’s happening now all around us. The only difference is the treatments and medicine cost more and doctors don’t do house calls….
( )
  Juan-banjo | May 31, 2016 |
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. ( )
  UberButter | Feb 9, 2016 |
Moderately interesting story, decently written and entertaining. Not really a life changer but something nice to read as light non-fiction. Interesting in the juxtaposition of the AMA knew that big pharma has and was making drugs that were fake, that were hurting people etc. but chose to crush this guy because he didn't play by the rules. Also interesting is that you never get the sense that anyone wants to stop him because he is killing/harming people but only because he is loud and hurting "doctors" images. ( )
  statmonkey | Feb 6, 2016 |
Interesting story of a historical account of the life of a quack. I found that at times you felt sympathy for this dangerous crook. I recommend the book freely as the story would be of general interest. It also provides some insight into the variable quality of medicine at the time. ( )
  GlennBell | Sep 13, 2014 |
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Truth, sir, is a cow that will yield such people no more milk, and so they are gone to milk the bull. ---Samuel Johnson
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For my daughters, Molly and Hannah.
Molly Pope
Hannah Pope
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Every member of the panel showed up for the demonstration, but the carload traveling from Kansas City was delayed by bad roads.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0307339882, Hardcover)

In 1917, after years of selling worthless patent remedies throughout the Southeast, John R. Brinkley–America’s most brazen young con man–arrived in the tiny town of Milford, Kansas. He set up a medical practice and introduced an outlandish surgical method using goat glands to restore the fading virility of local farmers.

It was all nonsense, of course, but thousands of paying customers quickly turned “Dr.” Brinkley into America’s richest and most famous surgeon. His notoriety captured the attention of the great quackbuster Morris Fishbein, who vowed to put the country’s “most daring and dangerous” charlatan out of business.

Their cat-and-mouse game lasted throughout the 1920s and ’30s, but despite Fishbein’s efforts Brinkley prospered wildly. When he ran for governor of Kansas, he invented campaigning techniques still used in modern politics. Thumbing his nose at American regulators, he built the world’s most powerful radio transmitter just across the Rio Grande to offer sundry cures, and killed or maimed patients by the score, yet his warped genius produced innovations in broadcasting that endure to this day. By introducing country music and blues to the nation, Brinkley also became a seminal force in rock ’n’ roll. In short, he is the most creative criminal this country has ever produced.

Culminating in a decisive courtroom confrontation that pit Brinkley against his nemesis Fishbein, Charlatan is a marvelous portrait of a boundlessly audacious rogue on the loose in an America that was ripe for the bamboozling.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:24:58 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Tells the story of the little-known Dr. John Brinkley and his unquenchable thirst for fame and fortune and Morris Fishbein, a quackbuster extraordinaire who relentlessly pursued the greatest charlatan of the 1920s and 1930s.

(summary from another edition)

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