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

3.77 of 5 stars 3.77  ·  rating details  ·  1,340 ratings  ·  311 reviews
“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...more
Paperback, 344 pages
Published January 13th 2009 by Broadway Books (first published 2008)
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Nov 20, 2008 David rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone!
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 F...more
Nancy Oakes
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...more
Bob Redmond
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...more
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 th...more
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 t...more
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 proba...more
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 pi...more
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 rad...more
J.M. Hushour
"Dr." John Brinkley made a fortune off of "transplanting" goat testicles into the ball-sacs and mind of America's wilting men in the decades prior to World War II. For women, he could offer the insertion of goat ovaries to stimulate fertility. John Brinkley is considered the most notorious, if unsung, serial killers of the modern era. He was shitbaggery incarnate, a greedy, conniving right-wing quack who nearly won the governor's seat in Kansas, thought the Nazis had a good thing going, and he b...more
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 pil...more
Jeffrey Taylor
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 gove...more
Apr 12, 2009 Ciara rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of medical curiosities, kansas historians, AMA historians, modern-day hucksters
Shelves: read-in-2009
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 2...more
Leah K
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 im...more
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...more
Gerald Sinstadt
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 wif...more
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...more
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 mil...more
Just finished up the audiobook version of Charlatan - narrated by Johnny Heller. I've read several books on medical quackery, and was vaguely aware of the main character of this story.

The Charlatan of the title is "Doctor" John R. Brinkley - the "Goat Glands Man" whose charisma and confidence regarding his xeno-tranplantation virility treatments in the early decades of the 20th century turned the small towns of Milford Kansas and Del Rio, Texas into pseudo-medical powerhouses. Along the way, Bri...more
So now everytime I hear some commercial touting some formuala that will raise testerone levels I will think about this book. Everytime I go a doctor's office or the pharmacy I will think about this book. Just the same as I am constantly surprised at some piece of history that never made it to the 12 YEARS of history classes we took in primary and secondary school - how could I have never heard of this Brinkley fellow?! He was one of the more well known people in the world less than a century ago...more
Goat testicles. Yes, you did just read "goat testicles." This book has a lot of goat testicles. Get used to it quickly. And then enjoy this rather incredible (and true) story about a quasi-medical scam artist who made millions of dollars - even during the Great Depression - and who ran for governor of Kansas (and almost won!). His eventual fall from grace is inevitable, but the "doctor" Brinkley managed to flaunt authority and get away with whatever he wanted for many years. His nemesis? An actu...more
Dixie Diamond
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
I kind of enjoyed this book but it paled in comparison to Devil in the White City in some ways (Go read Devil in the White City if you haven't read it, then we'll talk. I couldn't put that book down with the dual story of the Chicago Expo and the murdering doctor. More entertaining that this one!)

I had read so many positive reviews of this book prior to reading it that my hopes were built up perhaps too high. It's a fun read about a Huckster and the early 20th century--be glad you weren't sick a...more
This was a quick read as it is well-written and straightforward. I was surprised how widespread "Dr." Brinkley's influence had been, and the famous names who were associated with him. As much as we poor ignorant patients may complain about the restrictive rules of the AMA with regard to putting enough doctors in business to take care of us all, it's clear the country needed a watchdog organization. There was some stomach-churning bad surgery going on back in the "good old days" when most medicin...more
Ladies, does your husband need "rejuvenation"? How about a goat testicle transplant to give him more pep?
Gentlemen, is your wife a bit lackluster? A transplant of chimpanzee thyroid gland and ovary transplant should do the trick!

These horrific medical practices were the work of the most outrageous charlatan ever, Dr. Brinkley. Forget about serial killers, this quack probably killed more innocent people than anyone else.

During the Depression, most genuine medical doctors made 3,000- 3,500 a ye...more
Go me for writing reviews! Charlatan was awesome nonfiction - fascinating, a bit sensational, and wholly relevant to today, when charlatans abound, the names just sound different. The charlatan in this case is a chronic con artist who stuck people who were worried about their virility. It sounds hilarious - those poor saps who get convinced that surgery to have goat testes put inside them will help - until you realize that people were dying. It has implications for today, when people will strike...more
John Brinkley rose from a bare-foot childhood in a North Carolina log cabin to become a millionaire at the end of the Depression as a doctor and practitioner of a controversial surgical technique. While he wasn't alone in believing that using testes from young mammals (in his case, goats) to enhance male potency and life expectancy, Brinkley pursued the path of money over medicine to become arguably the greatest flim-flam artist and quack the nation has ever known. Along the way, he actually rev...more
A Smith
THIS is why I read non-fiction. Ya just can't beat the "truth is stranger than fiction" factor and this, thus, THIS is another brick in that very solid wall.

This book, besides being about a REAL person had me rolling in all sorts of emotion .. but also my eyes! If one is not familiar with this story, they too will go from nearly being sick to laughing.

In addition to the main "character" there are other threads that all dovetail quite nicely on a touchstone at the end that was for me, delightfu...more
What a crazy bunch of people we are! This is the story of a guy who faked his medical credentials and marketed a series of cures for "male problems", including implanting goat testicles, in the 1920s and 1930s. It also follows the editor of JAMA as he tried to debunk what the "doctor" was doing and shut him down. But thousands of people only want to hear about the cure, not the problems. Sound familiar?
Hilarious, fascinating, and wonderfully informative -- you wouldn't believe half the stuff in this book really happened if Pope Brock didn't include copious notes. Everyone in America has been profoundly affected, one way or another, by the things J.R. Brinkley did during his career in flimflam, but few people know about him now. Do yourself a favor and pick up this book.
Matthew Mccrady
This was an interesting account of a time when our health was protected by the slimmest of warning labels: buyer beware. The FDA and AMA had little authority to defend the public from medical quacks, and men like John Brinkley could become millionaires peddling dangerous goat testicle"transplant" procedures on men. You may think this is a story from another era, entertaining but irrelevant to our age, but any listener of XM radio will tell you, male potency "cures" and prostate remedies, as well...more
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Pope Brock is the author of the critically acclaimed Indiana Gothic: A Story of Adultery and Murder in an American Family, the story of his great-grandfather’s murder in 1908, and Charlatan: America's Most Dangerous Huckster, the Man Who Pursued Him, and the Age of Flimflam.

Brock has written for numerous publications, including Rolling Stone, Esquire, GQ, and the London Sunday Times Magazine.

He li...more
More about Pope Brock...
Indiana Gothic: A Story of Adultery and Murder in an American Family Lawyer's Law: Procedural, Malpractice & Disciplinary Issues

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